Osmaneli Mayor Munur Sahin said that the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, also visited the region, and said:
"We re-evaluated the situation of the church. This place will never be opened to worship again. It will serve as a museum and a cultural venue. We obtained the necessary permits; we will bring movable cultural artifacts from around Osmaneli and keep them here."The restoration project, approved by the Council of Monuments, is set to be finished in two years. The church lies in ruins -- largely because the congregants were either murdered or forcibly deported during and after the 1914-1923 Greek genocide.
When one talks about Christians in Turkey, one tends to think of them as migrants who moved to the area after Muslims took over or as if Muslims have always been the majority there.
The truth is Bilecik and the rest of Asia Minor, which today has a tiny, dwindling Christian minority, used to be majority-Christian lands, the great Christian-Byzantine Empire. The demographics and culture of those territories have over centuries been completely changed as a result of invasions, deportations and massacres.
The early Ottoman policy: Conquest and Co-operationIn 1071, Seljuk Turks invaded and began to conquer Anatolian territories. "Starting as far back as 1071," wrote journalist Kerry Kolasa-Sikiaridi, "Turks began their settlements in Anatolia, and shortly after, dominated the vast majority of the region, excluding the Marmara Sea and some areas surrounding the sea. At that time, the indigenous population of Anatolia spoke and wrote in Greek and were Greek Orthodox. The Turks referred to all Orthodox Christian communities in the Ottoman as the 'Roman community,' and labeled the people 'Rum,' meaning Roman, a term which is used until this day."
The Ottoman state achieved tremendous military success as a fighting machine. The scholars Ebru Boyar and Kate Fleet explain in their book A Social History of Ottoman Istanbul that the policy of the early Ottoman state was far more sophisticated than utter war and conquest, as
The authors describe in the sophistication of Osman Bey in his dealings with the Byzantines:
While his brother Gunduz adopted the somewhat unsubtle approach of total destruction of the enemy, proposing that they should attack and destroy the area, Osman disagreed. 'This', he told his brother, 'is a bad idea,' for plundering and devastating the region around Karacahisar, their latest conquest, would simply ensure that the town would not thrive and develop. Therefore, Osman argued, 'the first thing which should be done is to get on well with our neighbors and be their friends.