Turkey Okays Construction of First Church in 90 Years

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Seagull flies over Bosphorus against the backdrop of the Ottoman-era New mosque in Istanbul January 2, 2015.Credit: Reuters

Turkey will permit the construction of the first Christian church since the foundation of the modern republic in 1923, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said at a meeting of religious representatives in Istanbul.

The Syrian Christian church will be built on state-owned land in the Istanbul district of Yesilkoy, Davutoglu said at the meeting which took place on Friday evening, according to the state-run news agency Anadolu.

Previously only renovations of existing churches had been allowed in Turkey.

There are only around 100,000 Christians in Turkey among an almost exclusively Muslim population of 80 million.

Christians and other religious minorities are allowed to practice their religion, but they face restrictions: the Orthodox Church may not train its priests, for example, and foreign clerics find it difficult to obtain work permits.

Another example is the Allevi sect of Islam which has been fighting to have its places of worship, known as cemevi, recognized as equivalent to mosques.

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