ISTANBUL — The Armenian population in Turkey, which makes up the largest Christian community in the country, “resembles an iceberg melting in the sea” with its some 60,000 members, the newly elected Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople Sahak II Mashalian has said in an interview with Hurriet daily news..
“Our biggest problem is the demography. Our population has been decreasing rapidly. We lose 26 of our adult individuals per 12 newborns. It’s alarming,” said Mashalian, the 85th Patriarch of Turkey’s.
“We are like an iceberg in a sea of 82 million people. And we are melting. We are also facing emigration. Now, we make up the largest non-Muslim minority in Turkey with a population of between 50,000 and 60,000,” he added, recalling that the number of Greek Christians, another minority protected under the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, has dropped below 2,000 in Istanbul.
The international treaty signed between countries including Turkey, France, the United Kingdom, Italy and Greece ensures the rights of the Christian minority communities in Turkey, however, the necessary internal legislations and regulations have not been made, according to Sahak II.
“Even the Armenian Patriarchate has not been defined. It makes many things extremely difficult, including resorting to the law or obtaining property. Even this building housing us doesn’t belong to the patriarchate, it is the property of the church on the opposite side of the street. We have 38 churches and 42 foundations. But those 38 churches are like 38 different duchies,” he said.
Almost a third of Turkey’s population was Christian a hundred years ago, the Armenian patriarch recalled, pointing to Christianophobia and the recent murder of three missionaries in the eastern Malatya province.
Addressing the Armenia Genocide issue, the Patriarch stated that the day of April 24 should bring a new vision for the future instead of recalling the past.
“All we want is the understanding of the losses and sufferings of the Armenian people,” he added.