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A Future for Antioch?
Time Machine
Posted: May 01, 2023
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    People walk by collapsed buildings in Antakya, Turkey. (CTK via AP Images)
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    Mehmet Ismet prays in front of the rubble of the Habib Najjar mosque. (AP/Hussein Malla)
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    The Habib Najjar mosque crumbled during the earthquake. (AP/Hussein Malla)
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    Rescuers work in Antakya, Turkey. They looked for people who were trapped under rubble. (AP/Bernat Armangue)
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    Antakya, Turkey, in 2019 (Dosseman/CC BY-SA 4.0)
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A grand city once stood here.


Much of it is rubble.

A terrible earthquake hit Turkey and Syria on February 6. Then another quake struck. Many people died. Some buildings in the historic city of Antakya survived the disasters. But they are now too unstable to live in. Some people survived too. Mehmet Ismet is one of them.

Mr. Ismet is 74. After the quakes, he lived in the ruins of Antakya’s most beloved mosque. (A mosque is a building where Muslims meet to worship.)

Antakya is a newer name for a city once called Antioch. Antioch was built in 300 B.C. by a general of Alexander the Great. In the days when Greece and Rome were very powerful, Antioch became one of the most important cities around. Have you heard of Alexandria and Constantinople? Antioch had significance like those famed places. One of the first Christian churches started there.

Throughout history, quakes have destroyed the city again and again. To get to Mr. Ismet’s mosque, you now must climb over heaps of concrete and old stones. This broken place traces Antakya’s many histories. The site originally held an ancient pagan temple. Next, a Christian church stood there. Finally, it settled as a mosque, built in the 13th century. That mosque was destroyed in an earthquake in 1853 and rebuilt four years later.

Mr. Ismet sleeps and prays under the few arches still standing. He mourns. He knows Antakya’s past. But what will become of its future?

“It can be rebuilt,” he says, pointing to the old mosque. “But it will not be like the old one.”

The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. — Psalm 9:9

Why? God sees the trouble of the people affected by Syria and Turkey’s earthquake. He is in control and feels compassion—just like in the Bible days.