Last Duty For Priest Sami Bolos Sabagil  Antakya - Feb.2014

Humanity Photo Award held by UNESCO & CFPA  China 2015 "Traditional Rites" section

Antakya is one of the most important cities in 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 traveled many times to Antakya in order to watch and photograph the rituals of these 1500-strong people. Although they were a little distant at first, I became friends with many of them later on. Sami, the aging priest of the church, was one of them. When he comes to church for the last time in 2012, he had to take my arm. We came to the ceremony together from his home. He watched the ceremony in his ceremonial clothes. He recited a couple of prayers without standing up. Mr. Aydin said to me. "My brain no longer has control over my body". When I heard the news of his passing, I jumped on the first bus I could find in Istanbul and arrive in Antakya 15 hours later. His funeral 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 got them married, baptized 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, drink coffee. However, as a friend, I had one last duty to him. This also gave me the opportunity to document an interesting ritual.