A group of Armenians, raised as Sunni Muslims, were baptized on Sunday, as Armenian Orthodox Christians in the Church of S. Giragos (Surp Giragos), in the South-Eastern province of Dyarbakir. The church was reopened on 22 October after two years of restoration work. The group that was baptized were of Armenian origin, and their ancestors had been converted after the Genocide of 1915.Source.
Among them is Gaffur Türkay, who contributed to the restoration of the church. Türkay was very excited, as reported in a local newspaper. "It is amazing to be here, along with people from all over the world, with whom I share my origins," he said. "We have been ostracized by both Armenians and Sunni Muslims, said Behcet Avci, also known as Garoda Sasunyan. "It is an emotional moment for me." The ceremony was held behind closed doors, neither visitors nor foreign journalists were allowed to be present. It was carried out by the deputy patriarch, Aaram Atesyan.
There were guests from Armenia and the United States, including the American Ambassador to Turkey, Francis Ricciardone and the former Armenian Foreign Minister Raffi Hovhannesian, as well as Archbishop Vicken Ayvazian, of the Armenian Orthodox Diocese of America. The restoration was funded by the Armenians of Istanbul and the diaspora. The main sponsors of the initiative were Vartkes Ergün Ayık, a businessman of Armenian origin from Dyarbakir and Raffi Bedrosyan, a former citizen of Istanbul who now lives in Canada.
"We had over 2600 churches and monasteries in Anatolia in the past. Unfortunately, only a handful of sacred places remain. My request to Turkey, as a spiritual leader, is that the churches be returned to the Armenian community, better if they are used for religious services rather than museums." Ayavzian said to have been born in Turkey, in the South-Eastern province of Şırnak and speaks fluent Turkish. "Like many Armenian Americans, we also speak Turkish at home," he said, adding that his parents were forbidden to speak Armenian. On the cold relations between Turkey and Armenian American, he said: "The reason is obvious and clear. There was a genocide. A heartfelt apology would be a step forward and could completely erase this dispute."