“Secret” Churches in Van

  • by Western Armenia, May 18, 2024 in Society

Kadir Jesur writes that there are 4 protestant churches operating in Van, but the churches have to be hidden due to security reasons. Another big problem is that there is no cemetery for Christians in the region.

The City Van apart from being a city known for its historical and cultural riches, is also a cradle of different faiths. However, the 3 protestant churches forced to hide in the city and the small Christian population face public pressure and difficulties. The churches of Van are forced to be hidden, and the Christian residents have the problem of finding a cemetery to bury the remains of their dead. This once again brings to the agenda the problems that appeared during the natural course of life of people living in the city and professing various faiths.

The 3 Protestant churches in Van are used for local Christians, tourists from Iran and international religious ceremonies. However, the spiritual leaders of those churches, which have a total congregation of 250-300 people, report that they have to hide because of public pressure.

When they look at the churches from the outside, it is not understood that they are churches: there is no cross, no bell, and no sign bearing the name of the church. The "Salvation" (Kurtuluş) church of Van is even currently sheltered in the walls of an apartment.

Van, which had a large Armenian population in the past, does not have a functioning Christian cemetery today. The previously existing Armenian cemeteries were either destroyed or new buildings were built on them.

One of the most recent examples of this happened in Ipekyolu, one of the central provinces of Van. This year, in April, drilling was done for the foundation of the new building of the primary and secondary school named after Hyusrev Pasha, as a result of which human bones were found. Later studies revealed that there was an Armenian cemetery in that area. However, they continued the construction of the school building.

Since there is no Christian cemetery in the city, they are forced to bury the deceased Christians in the Muslim cemetery. Moreover, during the funeral ceremony, the rites of Christianity are also not performed, and no cross is placed on the graves, for fear that otherwise the grave will be desecrated.