Armenian mass at church in Turkey

Armenian
worshippers have held a service in a church in eastern Turkey for the first
time in nearly 100 years. Armenian worshippers
have held a service in a church in eastern Turkey for the first time in nearly
100 years.

The church, on an island
in Lake Van, was damaged during the mass killing of Armenians during the First
World War.

It was restored by the
government in 2007 and turned into a museum.

Turkey has allowed the
Mass to take place in the hope that it will be seen as a gesture of
reconciliation, but some have denounced the move as a publicity stunt.

Hundreds have travelled
from around the world to listen to the ancient Armenian Gregorian liturgy in
the tiny 10th-century church of the Holy Cross on Akdamar island.

However, numbers are
much smaller than the local government had predicted.

Concession

Many Armenians chose not
to come, seeing this as an inadequate step from a government which still
refuses to acknowledge the mass killings of Armenians in this area as a
genocide, says the BBC’s Jonathan Head at the church.

This region of Turkey
was once mainly populated by Armenians.

Turkey is still tightly
controlling all forms of religious expression and the government is only taking
timid steps, fearing a nationalist backlash if it is seen to be making too big
a concession towards the Armenians.

Hundreds of thousands of
Armenians died in mass killings and deportations by Ottoman Turk forces in
1915-16.

Armenia says 1.5m people
were killed in a genocide, but Turkey strongly rejects the charge, saying the
number of deaths has been inflated and that the people died as a result of the
strife of
World War I.

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