ASİMDER, an anti-Armenian Diaspora association that “battles unfounded Armenian claims,” has announced that it will be placing flowers in front of the Akhtamar Church, in commemoration of Turks killed in 1918, the Hurriyet Daily News reports.
The move is intended to counter a baptism ritual planned by Armenians in the same historic church in the southeastern province of Van. The baptism ceremony will be held in the recently restored ancient church during an annual Divine Liturgy on Sept. 8.
Many Armenians in Turkey and from overseas flock to the 10th century Church of the Holy Cross on the tiny island of Akhtamar in Armenian in Lake Van to attend the ceremony, which has been held every year since 2010. Turkish authorities restored the church between 2005 and 2007 before opening it as a museum, where the Divine Liturgy was celebrated in 2010 for the first time in 95 years.
This year, a baptism ceremony will also take place during mass at around 11 a.m. on Sept. 8 in the historical church, said Muzaffer Aktuğ, head of the Van Culture and Tourism Directorate, according to Turkish-Armenian weekly Agos.
Aktuğ said they expected more people to attend this year’s service due to the ongoing peace process.