Archbishop of Canterbury opens Tur Abdin exhibition at Southwark Cathedral
Giulio Paletta's exhibition of photographs of Tur Abdin in Turkey has been opened at Southwark Cathedral by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Photojournalist Giulio Paletta, who specialises in small Christian groups, has been to Tur Abdin in south-east Turkey to record the life of the Syrian Christians.
The little ancient Christian community in the mountains has been immune from Roman influence but suffered in recent upheavals which saw death or exile from beginning of the 19th century to the 1990s. The Syrian Orthodox minority now finds itself struggling with little support from the Turkish authorities.
"The Syrian Church represents a very ancient and a very rich strand in the great tapestry of Christian witness," said the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.
"And perhaps most importantly to most people in maintaining the language that is closest to the language spoken by Our Lord himself across these centuries.
"I can still remember the experience of first hearing the psalms sung in Syriac and realising that was probably the same kind of sound heard by Our Lord as the psalms were sung in Aramaic in his day."
Speaking of the community's present struggle with poverty and harassment, Dr Williams said that he wanted to express solidarity with them and pray for them.
"Turkey has an honourable tradition of tolerating and protecting religious minorities and it would be a tragedy if the next generation were to see that tradition becoming any weaker."
The Bishop of Woolwich read out a message from the Bishop of Tur Abdin who said that it was a great comfort to have support from the British ecumenical Tur Abdin Focus Group which is staging the exhibition.
A second message was received from the Patriarch of Antioch who visited Lambeth Palace last year. The Patriarch's representative Bishop Polycarpos also spoke.
Canon Bruce Saunders, welcoming the Archbishop, said: "Southwark Cathedral is a parish church rooted in this local community, we are the mother church of the diocese but from time to time we also behave like an English cathedral should with a national profile doing something which takes our interest beyond our own boundaries."
Among guests at the opening were the Syrian Ambassador, diplomatic representatives from the Netherlands and Turkey, Metropolitan Seraphim of Glastonbury, the Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe, Fr Stephen Griffith who is both Anglican Chaplain in Syria and the Archbishop of Canterbury's Apocrisiarius to the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch and the Archdeacon of Southwark.