An Assyrian child stands on the roof of a small church in Midyat, a town in the Mardin province, in southeastern Turkey.
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In a small village in the southeast of Turkey stand two Assyrian churches, one a thousand years old, the other modern, signs of both the region's Christian past and the determination of those who remain to bring that past to life again.Seyde Bozdemir was born in the village of Elbegendi in Turkey's southeastern province of Mardin. The exodus of Christians from Turkey began with the notorious population exchanges with Greece in 1923, under which they – like most of Greece's Muslims – were sent across the border to make the two new states viable.Now no more than 80,000 members of various Christian communities – including Armenians, Assyrians, Catholics, Chaldeans and Greek Orthodox – are estimated to live in Turkey, a country of some 75 million Muslims.Of these, less than 20,000 are Assyrians, a Semitic people speaking one of the world's oldest languages who in Turkey largely adhere either to the Syriac Orthodox Church or the Chaldean Catholic Church.The Chaldeans – by far the smaller of the two Assyrian communities in Turkey – acknowledge the pope as head of the church after a schism in the 16th century.The Syriac church in Mardin, which dates back to the third century, has been entirely restored at a cost of around 1 million Turkish lira ($450,000).
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