Turkey Battles Over Christian Monastery
Dispute over ancient monastery's land could derail country's EU bid
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 7, 2009 7:32 AM CST
The twin spires of the Mor Gabriel monastery stand against a blue sky January 11, 2003 in Midyat, Turkey.    (Getty Images)
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(Newser) – A battle over an ancient Christian monastery could deal a fresh blow to Turkey's bid to join the European Union, the Wall Street Journal reports. The Syrian Orthodox Mor Gabriel monastery, built in southeast Turkey in 397 AD, is one of the oldest functioning monasteries in the world—but government land surveyors and local Muslim villagers are trying to shrink its boundaries by more than half.

The fate of the monastic lands is being closely watched in the EU as a test of Turkey's ability to tolerate minority groups, a crucial condition of joining the union. Turkish officials say an ordinary land squabble is being given too much attention, but Mor Gabriel's bishop charges that Muslims are trying to drive the last few thousand Christians out of the area.