Antakya's Lost Church: Shattered by Quake, Hope for Rebirth Emerges

Antakya Antiochian Greek turkey earthquake

ANTAKYA, Turkey: One year after a devastating earthquake struck southern Turkey, the remains of the historic Antioch Greek Orthodox Church stand as a poignant symbol of loss.

Yet, amidst the rubble, flickers of hope flicker. Reconstruction plans have been approved, offering a beacon of potential rebirth for the scattered Christian community.

Antakya Antiochian Greek turkey earthquake
Antakya's Lost Church: Shattered by Quake, Hope for Rebirth Emerges 1

The 7.8-magnitude tremor, which claimed the lives of over 53,000 in Turkey and nearly 6,000 in Syria, left Antakya, once known as Antioch, deeply wounded. For centuries, the Antioch church served as a vibrant gathering place for the city's Christian community. But the quake silenced its bells and scattered its flock. Of the pre-earthquake 370 families, only 20 remain today.

"Our churches are levelled, and our bell towers are silent," Fadi Hurigil, head of the Greek Orthodox Church Foundation of Antakya, said at a recent memorial mass. The pain remains raw, with 63 members of the local community lost.

While icons, crucifixes, and liturgical vessels recovered from the wreckage offer a tangible link to the past, many artifacts remain buried beneath the rubble. For 18-year-old medical student Larina Balikcioglu, witnessing the devastation firsthand was deeply affecting. "I saw the church for the first time after the earthquake, and I couldn't believe my eyes," she shared.

But this resilient community refuses to be broken. Drawing strength from history, they point to the church's previous resurrection after an 1872 earthquake. Now, with reconstruction plans approved, hope flourishes. Soil surveys are underway, paving the way for the physical rebuilding.

Yet, the journey is far from over. More than bricks and mortar, the focus lies on reviving a community on the verge of disappearing. Hurigil expresses the shared sentiment: "Antakya holds a special place in our hearts. Giving up this city is not easy."

David Cagan, another community member, emphasizes the crucial role of churches in fostering unity. He urges authorities and organizations to support initiatives that will entice families to return, reminding them, "The city's soul is its people."

The story of the Antioch church is one of immense loss but also unwavering hope. It embodies the spirit of a community determined to rise from the ashes, rebuild their haven, and reclaim their lives. As reconstruction begins, the prayers of a scattered community echo, yearning for a future where their church and their city rise once more.

Copyright Greekcitytimes 2024