Harran-Midyat Intercultural Workshop

Mon, 04 Apr 2011 13:00 in Training


The Harran-Midyat Intercultural Workshop Project will take place in Turkey, in the precinct of Harran in Southeast Turkey and in the village of Mercimekli located in the district of Midyat in the region. The Harran and Midyat precincts in Turkey are known for their cultural diversity (Assyrian, Turkish, Armenian, Kurdish) and local communities of different faiths (The Eastern Orthodox Church, the Assyrian Church, the Muslim communities) have been living together in peace in this area for centuries. The Harran-Midyat Intercultural Workshop Project will provide an opportunity for the participants to explore the living cultures and faiths of the region, by visiting local communities and historical places of import for these communities.

Content and Details of the Project:

Midyat (situated in the city of Mardin) and the Harran district in Southeastern Turkey are a mosaic of cultures and civilizations, from the Assyrian community to local Arab and Kurdish communities. One of the most diverse places in the region is the village of Hapsinas/Mercimekli, whose population is a micro-example of the diversity in the region, with its residents of Assyrian, Arab, Turkish and Kurdish backgrounds, all speaking their respective languages (Syriac, Arabic, Turkish and Kurmanji). The villagers not only speak their own languages, but they speak each other's languages as well, and cultural festivities are celebrated together by all villagers. In this regard, Eid-ul Adha festivities ('Kurban Bayrami') and Easter are celebrated together by both the Assyrian Christian and Muslim residents of the village, with visits to each other's houses. Notwithstanding its long heritage of peaceful coexistence of religions and its cultural diversity, the village has received little attention and media coverage outside of Turkey. In this line, the villagers founded the 'Mihallemi Association of Dialogue Between Religions, Languages and Civilizations' ('Mihallemi Dinler Diller ve Medeniyetler Arasi Diyalog Dernegi') in 2006. The director of the association, Mehmet Ali Aslan, asserts:

Our village is the only village in the world in which the four languages [Aramaic/Syriac, Arabic, Kurdish and Turkish] are all spoken and the four cultures are celebrated together. Almost all of the residents of our village can speak Turkish, Arabic, Syriac and Kurdish as fluent as their mother tongues. The alliance of faiths, languages and civilizations is lived and experienced both theoretically and in practice in our village and this has been going on to this day. We have founded this association with the aim and hope that this unique and little known place that shows the reality of dialogue and tolerance is recognized around the world.

The workshop will explore different cultural expressions and faith traditions observed in the region, such as the Assyrian community that has preserved its ancient traditions and language since ancient times (Aramaic is still spoken in the region, in its modern dialects of Syriac/Suryoyo and Turoyo). At the centre of the beliefs and traditions of the local cultures and two faith traditions in the region stands Abraham, Prophet Abraham as known to Muslims and Patriarch Abraham as known to Christians. In this regard, the workshop will include visits to places significant to Prophet Abraham's life journey, such as the 'Ibrahim Halilullah Cave' and 'Balikli Göl'.

As part of the workshop, visits will be made to other local cultural locales and places of worship as well. In the evenings, there will be interactive workshops to share and discuss the observations made during the visits. In this respect, apart from the Mercimekli/Hapsinas village, other sites are also planned to be included for exploration by the workshop retinue.

Destinations of the Workshop Retinue (subject to change)

  • Mercimekli Village, Midyat
  • Gölbasi, Urfa
  • Deyrul Zafaran Monastery / Mar Hanania, Mardin
  • Urfa City Citadel
  • Ulu Camii / Mosque, Urfa
  • Mor Shemun Zeytuni Church, Mercimekli
  • Ibrahim Halilullah Cave, Urfa (where Prophet Abraham is believed to be born, away from Nimrod's tyranny)

Aims of the Workshop

  • To make possible an interactive workshop with an academic perspective that will take place in the historical region, rather than a mere touristic visit that would not be sufficient to explore the cultural heritage.
  • To provide an opportunity to explore the unique multicultural heritage of the Harran-Mardin-Urfa area.
  • To create an informal workshop environment that will include visits to local villages (particularly the Mercimekli/Hapsinas villages as a case in point for cultural diversity) where communities of different faiths still live together.
  • To provide an opportunity for more publications regarding the multicultural-multifaith communities of Urfa, Mardin and Harran, that in return will increase awareness about the cultural heritage of the region.
  • The participants will have the chance to learn about local cultures and faiths first-hand, by meeting with local people and visiting cultural locales and places of worship.
  • The workshop participants will be able to publish articles from the outcomes of the workshop.