The go-ahead for the construction of the first Orthodox Church to be built in Turkey since 1923, has been given by Istanbul’s municipal authorities.

In yesterday’s edition of the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet the mayor of Bakirkoy, Bülent Kerimoğlu, told reporters that licenses have been issued and a new church with the capacity to accommodate 700 worshipers will be completed in two years. Even though former Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu had approved a new church in Istanbul for the Assyrian population, plans had not moved forward.

With works commencing at the end of the February the Syriac Orthodox Church is expected to serve close to 17,000 believers residing close to Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport. The church is also expected to have a cafe area and parking.

“In spite of coming from different religions, ethnic roots … everyone’s hearts beat for our Turkey,”  Yusuf Çetin, the Metropolitan of the Syriac Orthodox Church in Istanbul and Ankara told Anadolu Agency.

“We’re proud of living under the Turkish flag in this land.”

There are around 25,000 Assyrians living in Turkey, an ethnic group whose origins lie in ancient northern Mesopotamia and speak a dialect of Aramaic, one of the oldest languages in the world, with the majority based in Istanbul.