Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Antioch/Hatay/Antakya... a place where Christians, Muslims and Jews all live together peacefully!

I had an interesting talk with one of my students today. Her name is Polyana and she's very sweet. I was talking with a few students on our break about Christmas, and she mentioned that she's Christian too, which I had guessed before, but I didn't think it was appropriate to ask.

So, anyway, I asked if she was going home for Christmas, but she said her hometown is too far away to go, so she was just staying in Istanbul. She drew me a map of Turkey on the board and told me that her town is called Hatay, also known as Antakya, which, for all you Christian-history-savvy readers out there, is called Antioch in English. This is the ancient city where the term 'Christian' was first used and both Sts. Peter and Paul preached there at one time.

She explained to me that Hatay won the Nobel Prize because there is such a mix of religions in the town/city all living together peacefully, which hasn't always been the norm in the last hundred years of Turkish history, nor I suppose in many regions of the world. There are five different types of Christianity to be found there: Syrian Catholic, Maronite, Greco-Melchite, Greek Orthodox and Syrian-Tacobite. I don't even know what all of those are. There are also obviously Muslims, including the Turkish Muslim minority the Alevi, as well as a Jewish population.

According to my guide book, Hatay/Antakya was Arabic in culture and language until 1939 when it was unified with the Turkish Republic, although it says that a number of the locals still speak Arabic. It sounds very remarkable for this one city to have such a mix of different varieties of Christianity and Islam, plus Judaism.

So, I told this student that I would research more about her hometown and in the summer on our big trip, I'm going to go and visit her at her parents house! Who knows if that will happen, but it would be pretty cool.

1 comment:

  1. Sorry for the repeat. I spelled Judaism wrong and wanted to fix it. Other than switching an 'i' and 'a', there is nothing new about this post.