Falling Down?

If not for the fog, I would never have seen the orphanage. The building reconciled me to missing a day in Cappadocia. 

With our flight canceled due to weather conditions we spent the day instead on the Princes’ Islands. There was a big wodden structure at the top of Buyukada Island that we just had to investigate.

It was disturbing to read in the Turkish press recently that Buyukada Orphanage has been deteriorating since I saw it a decade ago. I gather it is just about at the point where the building might have to be torn down for safety reasons.

That isn’t surprising given the political climate in Turkey. The current administration is, I think, hoping to wipe out almost two thousand years of Christian history in the area. 

Which is real shame. Whether President Erdogan likes it or not, there were Christians in the country a thousand years before Islam became dominant there. It is an inconvenient truth.

How a country addresses its history can be fascinating. In Afghanistan the Taliban blew up cultural treasures. In the American South they fight over whether the Confederacy should be remembered or obliterated. In Canada we don’t like to talk about the fact the country is in essence stolen land. (That may be an extreme way of describing colonization.)

My guess is the average Turkish citizen might be completely unaware of the country’s heritage as the center of Christianity after the fall of Rome. In a country that is now 98 per cent Muslim, such a fact might be unbelievable.

Heritage is important, even if what our ancestors did or thought is no longer acceptable. Like it or not, history helps us to better understand the present – and ourselves.

Maybe the Turkish government wants the Buyukada Orphanage torn down because it is a reminder that Christians are required to provide for the widows and orphans, a call to charity that arguably goes deeper than what is found in Islam. Its continued existence is an unpleasant reminder of the importance of the Church in Turkish society.

The building is supposed ot be restored at some point. It is a heritage site after all. But given the political climate in today’s Turkey, I don’t expect to see it happening soon.

If the place collapses completely it will be a pity.

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