Last Duty For Priest Sami Bolos Sabagil - 22.Feb.2014 Antakya
Humanity Photo Award 2015, in the category of "Traditional Rites"
Antakya is one of the most important cities of the Christian world. Christian Arabs have lived and worshipped there for the last 2000 years. They are Arabic-speaking and pray in Arabic. Between 2005 and 2014, I have travelled many times to Antakya in order to watch and photograph the rituals of this 1500-strong people. They grew to trust me and after a while we became friends. Sami, the aging priest of the church, was one of them. When he came to the church for the last time in 2012, he had to lean on my arm. He watched the ceremony in his ceremonial clothes. He recited a couple of prayers without standing up. My brain no longer has control over my body, Aydın bey, he told me.
When I heard the news of his passing, I jumped on the first bus I could find in Istanbul and arrived in Antakya 15 hours later. His body was at the church morgue.
This man of God had served his church for sixty years. He played a part in each and every member of his congregation in Antakya. He married them, baptised them, mediated conflicts.
He became one of the friends I made through photography. This is why I love documentary photography. I have made many friends through it. I visited him at his home each time I was in Antakya and I had the chance to talk with him at length. However, as a friend, I had one last duty to him. This also have me the opportunity to document an interesting ritual.