Christian Doctor in Turkey Dies from Coronavirus

Murat Dilmener, the ‘Doctor of the Poor’

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Despite the social distancing measures to counter the contagion from Covid-19, hundreds of doctors, students, and workers of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Istanbul wanted to be present in person at the commemoration – organized at the university complex – of well-known Christian doctor Murat Dilmener, who died on Sunday 3 May due to coronavirus, reported Fides News Agency.

For Dilmener, 78, struck by the virus in early April, a few weeks of intensive care did not spare him from death. The Turkish doctor, a Syrian Orthodox Christian, was born in Mardin and had volunteered initiatives in the churches of his community in both Mardin and Istanbul. Internal medicine specialist, Dilmener was the first Syrian Christian employed as a professor in a medical school in Turkey. In 2004, Turkish authorities started an investigation against Dilmener and 135 other doctors who had treated poorly ill patients without permission and free of charge at a public hospital in Istanbul. The accusations made against the professor of having stolen public funds to support that initiative had proved to be unfounded. After that, Turkish media also described Dilmener as “the doctor of the poor”.

The Syriac monasteries of the Mardin area – like the famous monastery of Mor Gabriel – represent a fundamental patrimony for the Syrian Orthodox Church. The Patriarch of that Eastern Church now resides in Damascus, but from the thirteenth century until 1933 the seat of the patriarchate was in the monastery of Mor Hananyo, near Mardin. In recent years, due to the Syrian conflict, the Syrian Orthodox Christian community in Turkey has seen a significant increase in the number of its faithful, with the arrival of refugees fleeing war-torn Syria.

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