A Christian family were attacked in a village in Mardin province, south-eastern Turkey, shortly before a church service on Sunday, June 5.
The service in Mor Gevargis Assyrian Church, Brahîmîye village, was the first held in the building in almost 100 years, after renovation work which began in 2015.
The Yilmaz family – the only Assyrian family who live in the village – were attacked at their home by a group of around 50 Muslims. The family were at the time entertaining visiting clergy who had come to officiate at the service.
The attackers were led by a Muslim family with whom the Yilmaz family have had a long-standing dispute over land.
The mob attacked the home with stones, sticks and other weapons. They then set fire to wheat being grown by the Yilmaz family. None of the family were injured, and the fire was eventually extinguished after witnesses alerted the police.
Some members of the Muslim family were arrested in connection with the incident.
“They threatened us,” said Cengiz Yilmaz, “saying that they would not let us live in the village … But we are not afraid. We will continue to stay here.” He accused the attackers of specifically choosing the day of the church ceremony to re-open the land dispute.
The tiny remnant Christian community in Turkey is mainly historic Christian ethnic groups such as Assyrians (like the Yilmaz family) and Armenians; they still bear the trauma of the Armenian, Assyrian, Syriac and Greek genocides of the early twentieth century. During these genocides, at least 3.75 million believers were killed by Ottoman Turks, with many attacks occurring in south-eastern Turkey.
There are also a small number of Turkish converts from Islam.
In August 2021 an Assyrian Christian village in northern Syria was bombed by the Turkish air force in a campaign against Kurdish militants.