An old Orthodox church in Lebanon, which was renovated by the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TİKA), a state-run agency known for the development assistance it provides to almost every part of the world, has been inaugurated by Turkish officials.
St. George Church is located in the village of Aydamoun in Lebanon's Akkar district. The village is home to a mixed population of Turkmen and Christian Arabs. Along with the church, TİKA built playgrounds and a sports field in the area.
Speaking at the opening ceremony for the restored church, TİKA Vice President Süreyya Polat said the agency "invested in the well-being of people" and their projects did not solely cater to one faith or ethnicity. Moreover, they seek to embrace people without discrimination.
Nictarios Makhoul, bishop of the church, said the renovation was a step to strengthen bonds between Muslims and Christians in Lebanon. Makhoul praised Turkey's efforts in the Middle East and also asked Turkish authorities to aid in efforts to locate Yohanna İbrahim and Boulos Yazigi, two Syrian archbishops from Aleppo who were abducted in the war-torn country in 2013.
The renovation project was part of the agency's bid to boost Turkey's soft power, especially in its surrounding region where countries sharing historical ties with the country's Ottoman past are located. Turkey has recently expanded its work to construct mosques around the world, but it also looks to foster ties with non-Muslim communities as well; the Lebanon project is regarded as a step in that direction. TİKA already pledged to donate close to $100,000 for the restoration of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, which is believed to have been built at the site of Jesus Christ's birthplace.
TİKA is known for its diverse projects, including donating reindeer to a Mongolian community and training farmers in Africa for sustainable agriculture.
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