Another blow for Christian minorities in the Middle East: last week, Turkey’s highest court ruled against the Mor Gabriel Syriac Orthodox monastery (left), the oldest functioning Christian monastery in the world, in a long-running lawsuit brought by local villagers. The lawsuit accused the monastery of “anti-Turkish activities,” including the illegal occupation of land that allegedly belongs to the government. Most commentators have dismissed the merits of the lawsuit — among other things, the suit claims the monastery occupies the site of a pre-existing mosque, even though the monastery predates Islam by centuries — and the high court’s behavior during the litigation has not reassured people. At one point, for example, the court apparently “lost” the documents the monastery submitted in support of its claim. The monastery will now appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, which ruled against Turkey in a similar case involving the Greek Orthodox a while ago. The EU, meanwhile, has expressed “serious concern” about the decision.
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