Ghori Gabriel Kaya came to Hengelo from Turkey in 1981. There he became the first Syrian Orthodox priest in our country and provided services to guest workers while building a new life in Twente. He passed away yesterday at home, surrounded by his family, at the age of 78. “He was loved. Actually all Syrian Orthodox people know him.”
Ghori Gabriel Kaya was born in Turkey. Because it was not safe for Syrian Orthodox in his native country, he fled to the Netherlands in the 1970s. There he became the priest of the St. Johannes church in Hengelo. “He was one of the first priests in Europe,” says church director Habib Faal.
Partly because of Ghori Gabriel, the Syrian Orthodox community settled in Twente. “He offered them a safe shelter, downstairs they came here as guest workers. He communicates them and gave them the space to build a new life,” says Faal. “He has said for the community.”
Soon the community became so large that an extra church had to be built: the Mother of God Maria Church. Ghori Gabriel moved to that church along with some 700 families. “He really knew everyone in the community, every family has a personal story.”
For example, Ghori Gabriel has baptized a whole child in his. “He even knew which child belonged to which family,” says Faal proudly. “But that could also have consequences. If the example went the way with a family, he would talk to them. A listening ear.”
According to Faal, the priest has ensured that the guest workers feel at home in Twente and are able to develop. “Partly because of him, our people are doing well. In terms of development, participating in society and studies. He has been important in that.”
Last October, a Swede took over from Ghori Gabriel. The priest’s health continued to deteriorate. He had a lot of problems with his lungs, so he was also admitted to the hospital in Almelo for a while. Until two weeks ago, when he went home to spend his last days.
He was surrounded by his wife and sons, but Ghori Gabriel was still missing someone. “His daughter lives in Germany and was still there. He also told his sons that he would not leave yet. She had been here from Germany yesterday, has actually died. It’s beautiful.”
According to Faal, the priest is one of the founders of the Syrian Orthodox community in Overijssel. He is therefore interred in the monastery in Glane. Leaders from around the world will attend the funeral. That was also the case when Hanna Kulhan was buried in 2018.