Historic Istanbul church vandalised in graffiti attack

A historic Armenian church in in Istanbul has been vandalised with graffiti, sparking outrage among Christians and minorities activists.

The messages in English and Arabic were found at the entrance of the Church of the Holy Mother of God (Balat Surp Hreshdagabet). According to a statement from the Church, photographs and video recordings have been handed to the police.

Graffiti at the Armenian Church of the Holy Mother of God in Istanbul.Twitter

The statement continued: 'It is our greatest wish that such events do not happen again and the criminals are punished.'

Turkey's Armenian community was targeted for genocide in 1915, though Turkey still refuses to accept this; up to 1.5 million Armenians may have died and only around 100,000 still live in Turkey today.

The church is open only one day a year and its entrance is built with stones from the church that hosted the historic Council of Nicea in 325 AD, according to Armenian writer Murad Mıhçı, who shared images of the vandalism on Twitter.

Garo Paylan, an Armenian member of parliament, tweeted: 'A hate attack has been carried out against Balat Surp Hreshdagabet Armenian Church. Every year, scores of hate attacks are being carried out against churches and synagogues. Not just the perpetrators, but also the people who are behind them, should be addressed. For the most important part, the politics that produce hate should be ended.'

Hate speech has also increased against Turkey's Protestant churches in the wake of the Andrew Brunson case, according to a recent report.

International Christian Concern's regional manager for the Middle East, Claire Evans, said: 'Thankfully, no one was hurt during this incident. However, the gravity of the situation cannot be ignored. Armenian Christians have long suffered targeted harassment and violence in Turkey, which drove most to flee. The general increase of hate speech in Turkey directed against Christians sounds the alarm that the environment is increasingly hostile toward non-Muslims.

'Turkey purports itself to be a secular nation, a country which has turned over a new leaf. If such is true, then those who encourage and commit these hate crimes against Christians must be held accountable before the situation escalates to something worse.'