Hatay

Hatay is the modern Turkish name for the ancient city of Antioch (Antakya). It lies on the Orontes River not far from the eastern Mediterranean coast. Historically home to a sizable Jewish community at the beginning of the Christian era, Antioch is significant to Christians as being the location where Peter traditionally established a church and where the followers of Christ were first called Christians (Acts 11:26)

Hatay is the modern Turkish name for the ancient city of Antioch (Antakya). It lies on the Orontes River not far from the eastern Mediterranean coast. Historically home to a sizable Jewish community at the beginning of the Christian era, Antioch is significant to Christians as being the location where Peter traditionally established a church and where the followers of Christ were first called Christians (Acts 11:26).  The city has held significance for the Byzantines, the Crusaders, the Persians, the Arabs and the Ottoman Empire. One of the oldest mosques in Turkey, a converted crusader church Habib-i Neccar Mosque, is in Hatay. Recently the Müftü of the province of Hatay, a person trained in Islamic law and in charge of the provincial Islamic affairs, spoke of the historic significance of Hatay as a city where Christians, Jews, and Muslims lived together in peace. Because of the historical significance of Antakya and because of its powerful witness to how these three faiths can and should live together in peace, the Governor of the Hatay Province established a commission to preserve the universal significance of Hatay. This commission has representation from the Catholic and Orthodox Christian communities, a leader from the Jewish community, and municipal and educational leaders from the Muslim community.  As a symbol of peace three of the letters of the name “Hatay” have been represented by the Jewish Star of David, the Christian cross and the Islamic crescent moon.  From September 25-30 2005 an interfaith event will take place named the First Antioch Meeting of Civilizations. It is event designed to bring around 3000 local and foreign leaders together from the Muslim, Jewish and Christian communities and to proclaim a message of peace to the world.

We pray, dear God that the symbolic significance of three great religions standing together in peace is a message that enters the hearts and minds of those individuals and communities caught up in hatred and mistrust. When the Christian, Jew and Muslim stand together side by side in prayer to you, o God, there is no telling what mountain can be moved!

Alison Stendahl
 
Alison Stendahl serves as a missionary with the Near East Mission, Istanbul, Turkey.  She is Academic Dean of and a math teacher at Uskudar American Academy in Istanbul Turkey.