Current Issue
Summer, 2015
Volume 41, Number 2
8 October 2015
Michael J.L. La Civita

Indian Orthodox women bearing candles return home after attending an evening Divine Liturgy in Akkaparambu, Kerala. (photo: Sean Sprague)

Until the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama arrived on the shores of southwest India at the close of the 15th century, India’s Christians flourished in a unified church. Referred to as Thomas Christians, they traced their faith to St. Thomas the Apostle, who evangelized the south of India after his arrival in the year 52.

India’s Thomas Christians were joined by 72 Christian families from Mesopotamia, who according to tradition, arrived in the southwestern Indian port of Cranganore in 345. Led by Thomas Knaniya — a merchant who belonged to the Church of the East, a community in Mesopotamia also founded by St. Thomas — these families brought with them a bishop, Mar (a Syriac honorific for “Lord”) Joseph of Edessa, four priests and several deacons.

While Thomas Knaniya’s Mesopotamian community prohibited intermarriage, thus forming a closed community, their priests strengthened relations between the Church of the East and India’s Thomas Christians. The catholicos-patriarch of the Church of the East — which adhered to the most ancient rites of the church, known as East Syriac — regularly dispatched bishops to India to ordain priests and deacons and regulate ecclesial life for both communities. Common commercial interests also deepened the relationship between the two.

Two Indian Orthodox women greet visitors in front of their church in Akkaparambu, India. (photo: Sean Sprague)

In the eighth century, the Church of the East’s catholicos appointed a Mesopotamian cleric as “metropolitan and Gate of All India.” Though exercising considerable authority within the church in India, he typically did not speak the language of the people. Consequently, real power resided with an “archdeacon of All India,” a dynastic office for native Indian clergy.

For nearly 1,500 years, India’s Thomas Christians were fully integrated into south Indian society. While their traditions and liturgical practices reflected their East Syriac roots, other elements of the spirituality and culture of the Thomas Christians — such as their method of praying for the dead, avoidance rituals associated with the caste system and eating customs — revealed their Hindu cultural heritage.

Portuguese colonization of south India, which also included efforts to bind the Thomas Christians to the Church of Rome, shattered their unity. Today, the spiritual sons and daughters of St. Thomas include more than ten million believers divided among seven jurisdictions — Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant. The Indian Orthodox Church is divided into two groups sharing the same Syriac rites and traditions. The largest, the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, includes some 2.5 million members. Another 1.2 million Orthodox Indians belong to the Malankara Syriac Orthodox Church. Most live on the subcontinent. But recently, thousands of families have settled in North America, Oceania and the Persian Gulf.

To learn more about the Thomas Christians, and the Indian Orthodox Church, click here.

Tags: India Indian Christians Eastern Churches

6 October 2015
Michael J.L. La Civita

Thomas Christians light votive candles at an outdoor shrine in Valliapally, Kaduthuruthy.
(photo: Sean Sprague)

In the deep south of India, an Eastern Christian community has flourished since ancient times. Originally a distinctive people united in faith, customs and caste, they are named for the Apostle Thomas, who according to tradition brought the Christian faith to the Malabar Coast of southwestern India after the ascension of Jesus. Today these Christians, all of whom belong to the Syriac Christian tradition, are fragmented into seven churches. The largest, the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, each year exports priests and religious to northern India, Europe and North America, as it grows and flourishes.

Though Indian Christianity has often been described as rooted in Western colonization, its presence dates almost 2,000 years. According to the “Ramban Song,” an ancient Indian poem, St. Thomas arrived on the shores of the Malabar Coast (present-day Kerala) in A.D. 52. He preached the Gospel, baptized 32 Hindu Brahmin families, founded seven churches and, in the year 72, died a martyr’s death. His tomb, in Mylapore, Madras, remains an important site of veneration today.

Christians and Hindus kept alive the memory of the “holy man,” chronicling the apostle’s deeds and the sites associated with his life and work. Scholars have long debated whether or not Thomas the Apostle founded the church of India. But sufficient historical evidence — including archaeological finds validating the existence of first-century Jewish communities on the Malabar Coast — as well as the existence of contemporary accounts passed from generation to generation by Christians and Hindus indicate the likeliness of Thomas’s travels and deeds.

For more than 1,500 years, the Thomas Christians were fully integrated into South Indian society. While their traditions and liturgical practices reflected their Eastern Syriac roots, other elements of their spirituality and culture, such as the method of praying for the dead, revealed their Hindu cultural heritage.

Retreatants participate in a prayer service in the Archeparchy of Changanacherry. (photo: John E. Kozar)

The arrival of the Portuguese in May 1498 dramatically changed the lives of all on the subcontinent. To support his commercial interests and consolidate his real estate gains, the Portuguese king utilized the missionary zeal of several religious communities of the Latin (Roman) Church, especially the Dominicans, Franciscans and Jesuits. The erection of the Latin Catholic Diocese of Goa in 1533 — which claimed jurisdiction over all of India’s Christians, denying the authentic authority, rights and privileges accorded to the leaders of the Thomas Christians — ushered in an age of turmoil.

In 1599, Latin usages were formally adopted by a diocesan synod held in Diamper. The Thomas Christians reluctantly signed the synod’s directives, though most church historians question the legality of the synod. The impositions of Diamper radically changed the nature of the Syriac church of India. Thomas Christians retained a few elements of their tradition, but authority, customs and law rested with the Portuguese hierarchy.

Diamper polarized the Thomas Christian community, culminating with the historic Coonan Cross Oath in January 1653. There, representatives of prominent Thomas Christian communities formally severed their ties to Rome. Eventually, those Thomas Christians independent of the Portuguese pledged fidelity to the Syriac Orthodox patriarch of Antioch and today make up the two communities which form the Indian Orthodox Church.

Pope Alexander VII sent Carmelite friars to India to restore calm and church unity. And by 1662 most Thomas Christians returned to full communion with the Catholic Church, forming the core of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church.

Read a full account of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church from ONE magazine here.

1 October 2015
Michael J.L. La Civita

Ethiopian Catholic priests celebrate the Divine Liturgy at St. Anthony of Padua Cathedral in Emdibir, Ethiopia. (photo: John E. Kozar)

Widely celebrated for its coffee and long-distance runners, but notorious for its poverty, Ethiopia is the only sub-Saharan nation with a Christian culture dating to the earliest days of the church — a little known fact that it shares with Eritrea, its former province and northern neighbor. About 43 percent of Ethiopia’s estimated 100 million people belong to the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, a dominant force that, with Ethiopia’s monarchy, had defined this ancient land and its people for more than 16 centuries.

But the entrenched church is losing ground to a burgeoning Sunni Muslim population in the country’s south and southwest — who now account for almost half of the nation’s people — and to successful proselytizing efforts among the Orthodox by evangelical Christians from the West.

Some 500 years ago, Ethiopia’s distinctive Orthodox Christian community faced the Counter Reformation zeal of the Jesuits, who worked to restore full communion between the Catholic and Ethiopian Orthodox churches. The Jesuits failed and Ethiopia slipped into civil war. Once the dust settled, hundreds of Catholic missionaries were expelled or put to death. Europeans were forbidden to enter this “African Zion,” which, more than any other factor, may have preserved Ethiopia’s independence during Europe’s empire-building land grab centuries later.

In the early morning, parishioners gather to celebrate the liturgy with prayer and intricate chant, according to their ancient faith tradition. (photo: John E. Kozar)

Modern Ethiopia’s small Ethiopian Catholic Church, led by its metropolitan archbishop of Addis Ababa, Cardinal Berhaneyesus D. Souraphiel, C.M., is often perceived as an affront to the dominant church. And while relations among some bishops of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church with their Catholic peers are warm, the Orthodox leadership remains guarded.

The Ethiopian Catholic Church includes some 88,000 members in four eparchies in the country. (A separate Eritrean Catholic Church, which, along with the Ethiopian Catholic Church, adheres to the same traditional rites and liturgical language — known as Ge’ez — as its Orthodox counterpart, was erected by Pope Francis in January 2015.) Although tiny, the Ethiopian Catholic Church plays a disproportionately influential role in the lives of all Ethiopians through its schools, clinics and other social service institutions.

Click here for more on the Ethiopian Catholic Church from the pages of ONE magazine.

Tags: Ethiopia Eastern Churches Ethiopian Christianity Ethiopian Catholic Church

29 September 2015
Michael J.L. La Civita

Deacons celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Zion in the ancient capital of Axum.
(photo: Sean Sprague)

Ethiopia, from the Greek meaning “land of burned faces,” possesses one of the world’s oldest cultures. Though it has survived the tumultuous 20th century intact, this ancient Judeo-Christian culture has entered the new millennium weakened by the encroaching forces of modernity, especially globalization and secularization.

More than 43 percent of the nation’s 100 million people belong to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, a dominant force that has shaped Ethiopia’s people and defined its culture for more than 17 centuries. Yet, this church is losing ground to the proselytization among its members by evangelical Christians from the West — whose numbers have tripled in less than 15 years — and to a burgeoning Sunni Muslim population in the country’s south and southwest, who now account for more than a third of Ethiopia’s people.

Ethiopia is celebrated for its many ancient monasteries, foundations established by men who, in the footsteps of the early desert fathers, fled the world to fast, pray and celebrate the Qeddase, the eucharistic liturgy of the Ethiopian church. These monasteries also played a significant role in shaping the development of the Ethiopian nation, culture and identity. Monks even participated in the nation’s volatile political life.

In Addis Ababa, Ethiopian Orthodox raise an illuminated cross to mark the observance of Meskel, a feast day celebrating the discovery of the True Cross by St. Helena. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)

In the 19th century, as Ethiopia’s emperors and nobles waged war to defend or extend the nation’s borders, large monastic estates provided entire communities with education, employment, security and social assistance. With their vast landholdings, significant social prominence and influence with the court, monasteries wielded considerable power and eventually earned the enmity of jealous rivals.

In 1974, a group of military officers overthrew the aged emperor and, in a 17-year period, instituted a number of harsh, Marxist-inspired economic and social reforms. Known as the Derg, the revolutionaries eliminated the monarchy and the nobility and stripped the monasteries of their land and their traditional privileges and rights, “thus depriving them of the resources and rights necessary to look after orphans, support the underprivileged, supply emergency aid and provide leadership in community affairs,” writes one scholar of the period, Joachim Persoons.

“In many cases,” he continues, the “monasteries’ role as protectors of the nation’s tangible and intangible cultural heritage was seriously affected as well.

“Within one generation, the general public has taken for granted that monasteries are impoverished and regard monks as alien to society, which is not historically correct.”

Because of this Marxist rupture, tensions are now developing between the Ethiopian Orthodox clergy and its faithful. In the past, the priest or monk functioned as the community’s leader and adviser. Today, Ethiopia’s young Orthodox Christians no longer perceive the priest as the only source of wisdom. Often better educated than the clergy, they turn to their own experiences to find answers to life’s complexities. Meanwhile, as in the rest of Africa, evangelical Christians are succeeding in winning new converts.

To read more about the church, the guardian of the Ark of the Covenant, click here.

24 September 2015
Michael J.L. La Civita

The Divine Liturgy is celebrated in Ayia Zoni Orthodox Church in the Kipseli neighborhood
of Athens. (photo: Don Duncan)

Greece’s constitution opens with an invocation to the Holy Trinity and identifies the Orthodox Church of Greece as the “prevailing” faith community of the nation. This provision acknowledges the role of the church in the formation of the modern Greek state and its influence among the republic’s 10.7 million people, 98 percent of whom profess membership in the church.

Global calls for the elimination of this provision have intensified, especially since Greece joined the European Union in 1981. The statute has remained unaltered, however, despite two emendations since 1975.

While Orthodox Christianity assisted at the birth of modern Greece and has parented it for nearly two centuries, the Greek state actually created the Orthodox Church of Greece, thereby creating inherent church and state issues.

Christianity took root in the Greek-speaking world as the Roman Empire consolidated its hold on Greece and the Eastern Mediterranean. The Romans imposed their own code of law, but permitted the vanquished Greeks a large degree of autonomy, eventually adopting the Greek culture as their own. “Captive Greece,” wrote the Roman poet Horace, “took captive her savage conqueror.”

Interior of the Orthodox cathedral in Phira, the capital of the Greek island of Santorini. (photo: George Martin)

The Apostle Paul’s work among the Athenians, Colossians, Corinthians, Ephesians, Galatians, Philippians and Thessalonians is well documented. Whether in the Roman provinces of Achaea, Epirus and Macedonia or in the diaspora of greater Greece, these Greek-speaking Christians formed urban communities that evolved into important centers of the Christian faith.

Paul’s churches embraced the culture of the Hellenistic world, which provided the philosophical and theological vocabulary necessary to help them define and interpret the teachings of Jesus Christ. As the church grew throughout the empire, a distinctly Greek school of theology developed alongside a Syriac school that was dominant among learned Semitic Christians.

Often understood as cosmopolitan, the Greek school eventually asserted its preeminence when the Roman emperor, Constantine I, moved his government east, from Rome to the small Greek port of Byzantion on the Bosporus in the year 330. Officially christened “New Rome,” the imperial capital of Constantinople (today known as Istanbul) took on a distinct Christian identity after Theodosius I established Christianity as the state religion of the Eastern Roman Empire (or Byzantium) in 394. And though the inhabitants of Constantinople would proudly retain their Roman identity for more than 1,000 years, they would also understand themselves to be the heirs of the ancient Greeks.

Click here to read more.

22 September 2015
Michael J.L. La Civita

Iraqi, Syrian and Ukrainian Catholics join Athens’ small Byzantine Catholic community for the Divine Liturgy at the neo-Byzantine Cathedral of the Holy Trinity. (photo: Marilyn Raschka)

At least one legacy remains in modern Greece of the Crusaders’ sack of the city of Constantinople in 1204 and their subsequent occupation of Greece: Most Catholics in Greece — some 50,000 people — are Greek-speakers who worship following the Latin rite of the Catholic communion of churches. However, as many as 6,000 people share the Byzantine rites of the dominant Orthodox Church and are in full communion with the pope.

Overwhelmed by the needs of refugees flooding Constantinople in the early 1920’s, Greek Catholic Bishop George Calavassy appealed to his friend, Father Paul Wattson, S.A., to raise awareness and funds in the United States on their behalf. Together, they helped found CNEWA. (photo: CNEWA)

No larger than a typical North American suburban parish, this church is sui juris, or autonomous, within the Catholic communion and is led by two apostolic exarchs, based in Athens and Istanbul, respectively.

If not for the humanitarian and pastoral works of one of its leaders, Bishop George Calavassy (1920-57), this church would barely merit a footnote in the annals of church history. For after the horrors in Asia Minor after World War I, this church and its bishop figured prominently in the care of Armenian, Assyro-Chaldean, Greek and Russian refugees then flooding the Turkish capital of Istanbul, prompting the foundation of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association.

Read a full account of this fascinating history here.

18 September 2015
Michael J.L. La Civita

Assyro-Chaldean Christians attend a liturgy at the cathedral of St. John in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan, to commemorate the election of a new catholicos-patriarch.
(photo: Safin Hamed/AFP/Getty Images)

Today, in the Iraqi Kurdistan capital of Erbil, the synod of the Church of the East elected Mar Gewargis Sliwa as the new catholicos-patriarch. The patriarch-elect has served as metropolitan of Iraq since 1981 and succeeds Mar Dinkha IV, who died in March. One of the oldest churches in Christendom, the Church of the East has been centered between the Tigres and Euphrates rivers since receiving the faith from the Apostle Thomas.

After his consecration in Erbil on 27 September, Mar Gewargis III will return the see of the patriarchate to Iraq after a period of exile in the United States.

17 September 2015
Michael J.L. La Civita

An overflow crowd of Ukrainian Orthodox believers gathers for the Christmas liturgy in
Kosmach, Ukraine. (photo: Petro Didula)

Confusion characterizes Orthodox Christianity in Ukraine. Not one but three groups claim legitimacy as the national church of a land that traditionally identifies with Eastern Christianity.

Led by Metropolitan Onophry Berezovsky, the “Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Moscow Patriarchate” is an autonomous jurisdiction of the Orthodox Church of Russia. Canonically, it is the only Orthodox jurisdiction recognized by the rest of the Orthodox world, maintaining the largest number of parishes in Ukraine (perhaps some 11,300). It prevails, however, in the country’s Russian-speaking areas in the central, southern and eastern portions of Ukraine, where religious identity is weakest. Church Slavonic is the predominant language used in the celebration of the sacraments.

The “Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Kiev Patriarchate” is led by Patriarch Filaret. Once a rising star of the Moscow patriarchate, he was excommunicated for advocating a national and independent Orthodox church in Ukraine. According to the 2006 findings of the Razumkov Centre — a Ukrainian think tank — about half of the Ukrainians who claim a religious affiliation belong to this community, which uses both Church Slavonic and modern Ukrainian in the celebration of the sacraments. Since the outbreak of war in eastern Ukraine, the Kiev Patriarchate has grown at the expense of the church associated with the Moscow Patriarchate, which is considered pro-Russian.

Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko, his wife Maryna and son Mykhailo, light candles on 23 August as they attend a service in the mother church of Ukraine, the Cathedral of Hagia Sophia in Kiev, commemorating Ukrainian Independence Day. (photo: CNS/Mikhail Palinchak, pool via EPA)

The “Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church” is the smallest of the three Orthodox bodies. It is led by Metropolitan Makariy Maletych, who formerly led an eparchy in the western city of Lviv, which is the epicenter of Ukrainian nationalism and where the church of three million is strongest. This community, which also uses Church Slavonic and modern Ukrainian in the liturgy, is in active dialogue with the Kiev Patriarchate seeking unification.

In its well-regarded survey on religious affiliation in Ukraine, the Razumkov Centre found more than 62 percent of the country’s 44 million people did not declare any membership in any of the churches listed above. The authors report that, while many who did not self-identify with any group were Orthodox Christian, most were unaware either of the issues or of the divisions embroiling Ukrainian Orthodoxy.

Why then this schism among Ukraine’s Orthodox Christians? In short, the polarization of the Ukrainian church reflects questions of Ukrainian identity and of Ukraine’s relationship to its domineering neighbor to the east, Russia, with which it now finds itself at war.

Click here to read more.

15 September 2015
Michael J.L. La Civita

Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, major archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, greets the mother of a deceased soldier in July 2015. (photo: John E. Kozar)

“Reborn” and “renascent” are frequently used to describe the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. While such adjectives may describe correctly the situation of the church in Ukraine since it resurfaced from the catacombs of the Soviet Union, they fail to describe the circumstances for the entire church, which has flourished in the Americas, Oceania and Western Europe for up to a century. No longer the faith community of a central European people, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church is a worldwide body bonded by tradition and perseverance.

Modern Ukrainians share the same origins as Belarussians, Carpatho-Rusyns and Russians, all of whom regard the realm of the Kievan Rus’ as their own.

In the ninth century, the Varangians — a Scandinavian tribe known for their ferocity and piracy — swept into central Europe, settling among and intermarrying with the Eastern Slavic natives. Collectively called the Rus’, they established towns along the Dnieper, Dniester and Don rivers, asserted control of the trade routes from the Baltic to the Black seas and developed uneasy commercial relations with Constantinople, the capital of the Christian Eastern Roman Empire, commonly known as Byzantium.

A young man is ordained a priest in the Church of the Transfiguration in Kolomyja, Ukraine. (photo: Petro Didula)

One such town, Kiev, became dominant and its leader took on the title of grand prince. The grand prince controlled the city and its surroundings, while Rusyn relatives scattered from Novgorod (a city near modern St. Petersburg) to Halych (now a town in southwestern Ukraine) swore him allegiance.

According to the 12th-century Rus’ Chronicles, Grand Prince Vladimir I (956-1015), eager to abandon the polytheistic beliefs of his people, sent out emissaries to learn about Christianity, Judaism and Islam. But Christianity as practiced in Byzantium had the edge: Olga (879-969), Vladimir’s grandmother, had embraced Christianity while in Constantinople. But Olga had failed to instruct her son or her people in the Byzantine Christian faith.

Another likely source for Vladimir’s interest in Byzantine Christianity was the work of two missionary brothers, Cyril and Methodius. Charged by the patriarch of Constantinople to work among the Slavs of Moravia (862), the brothers created a Slavonic alphabet, translated scriptural works into Slavonic and introduced a Slavonic liturgy based on the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. While the disciples of Sts. Cyril and Methodius were later banished from Moravia, they established Byzantine Christianity among the Southern Slavs and Bulgars of the Bulgarian kingdom. Buttressed by this church, the Bulgarian state developed into a powerful empire that rivaled Byzantium and Kiev.

Ultimately, it may have been Vladimir’s interest in an alliance with Byzantium that led to his baptism in the Byzantine tradition. Yet the Rus’ Chronicles credit the Divine Liturgy, as celebrated in Constantinople’s Church of Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom), as the inspiration for Vladimir’s acceptance in 988 of Byzantine Christianity: “We knew not whether we were in heaven or on earth,” the annals record the emissaries as saying, “surely God dwells with the Greeks [as the Byzantines were known].”

Click here to read more.

10 September 2015
Michael J.L. La Civita

Steeped in legend, Etchmiadzin Cathedral in Armenia is the mother church of the
Armenian people. (photo: Armineh Johannes)

Thousands of tribes and peoples litter the pages of world history. Most have distinguished themselves as conquerors or settlers, eventually passing from the scene and leaving behind as their legacy a tablet, a ruin or a reputation. The Armenians, whose ancient homeland now encompasses eastern Turkey, parts of the Caucasus and northwestern Iran, have endured for more than 3,000 years — despite the challenges of living along the East-West trade routes. Squeezed between Asia and Europe, Armenians have outlived more powerful neighbors, who repeatedly and relentlessly sought to subjugate and even obliterate them.

How have the Armenians survived, when far more powerful peoples — Romans and Parthians, Byzantines and Ottomans — vanished? Most historians would credit the resolve and resourcefulness of the Armenian Apostolic Church, a powerful faith community that has either defined or impacted all aspects of Armenian society, language and culture.

Incontestably, Armenia was the first nation to adopt the Christian faith. A Roman scribe, known to history as Agathangelos, recorded the events of St. Gregory the Illuminator’s conversion of King Tiridates III based on contemporary sources more than a century after the deaths of the principals. What is not documented, however, is the origin of Armenian Christianity. Ancient tradition credits the apostles Bartholomew and Thaddeus as the source of the Christian faith in Armenia. Armenian Christian familiarity with Syriac and Greek Christian customs — before the era of Gregory — point to Armenia’s links to the ancient churches of the eastern Mediterranean.

Sunday morning liturgy is celebrated at St. James Monastery in the Armenian Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem. (photo: Ilene Perlman)

Armenian Christianity prospered, charting its own course as it navigated the troubled waters of neighboring Byzantium and Persia. This quest for independence did not, however, require the severance of commercial or cultural relationships with the Christian Byzantines or the Muslim world. For centuries, trade flourished. Byzantine emperors and Muslim leaders employed Armenian scribes. Armenians engineered defense systems and restored the dome of Haghia Sophia, the Great Church of Eastern Christendom. The medieval Armenian capital city of Ani — now a ghostly ruin just inside Turkey’s border with Armenia — demonstrates the architectural sophistication and artistic wealth of medieval Armenia. Described in contemporary chronicles as the “city of a 1001 churches,” Ani’s surviving churches are technical wonders, utilizing architectural devices — such as blind arcades and ribbed vaults — that would later support Europe’s Gothic cathedrals. Surviving frescoes and sculpted panels depicting kings and catholicoi, saints and angels, birds and crosses, reveal Arab, Byzantine, classical Greek and Persian influences.

Even after the Ottoman Turks supplanted the Byzantines, capturing Constantinople in 1453, the Armenians of the Ottoman Empire thrived well into the modern era. Armenian catholicoi, patriarchs and bishops guided their eparchies, which until the eve of World War I numbered 52. But the rise of national movements throughout 19th-century Europe, which began in Ottoman provinces in the Balkans, significantly altered the position of the empire’s Christian minorities, especially its Armenians.

The empire’s Armenian communities, whose aspirations were nominally supported by France, Great Britain and Russia, were violently targeted, beginning with isolated pogroms in 1894 and 1895. Eventually, these incidents spread throughout the empire, fueled after the Ottoman Turks entered World War I as an ally of Germany and Austria-Hungary. By 1923, some 1.5 million Armenians perished in what many today call the Armenian Genocide. Those who survived, perhaps a quarter of a million people, fled to Lebanon and Syria.

Click here to learn more about this church, and how it has survived the violence of the last century.

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