Sunday, December 31, 2006

Over a thousand people injured in Turkey while sacrificing animals on Muslim holiday

"Over a thousand Turks spent the first day of the Muslim feast of Eid
al-Adha in emergency wards on Sunday after stabbing themselves or
suffering other injuries while sacrificing startled animals.

At least 1,413 people – referred to as “amateur butchers” by the
Turkish media – were treated at hospitals across the country, most
suffering cuts to their hands and legs, the Anatolia news agency
reported." News World -- Over a thousand people injured in Turkey while sacrificing animals on Muslim holiday

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Friday, December 29, 2006

Happy Hajj! You're Not Invited!

"Perhaps no better contrast between Judaism, Christianity and Islam
exists than the treatment of non-believers on the respective holy days
of each religion. I recall fondly the many times that I have
participated in the Passover seder at the invitation of Jewish friends
and have each time been awed at the profound meaning attached to every
element of the seder which is designed to illustrate the fascinating
historical narrative of the Jewish people over the millennia that is
the foundation of both the Christian and Islamic faiths.

I also remember the occasion several years ago when a Chinese friend
of mine who was finishing his PhD at Ohio State joined my family and me
for our Christmas Eve celebrations. After joining us for worship, he
told us with tears in his eyes how that was the first time that he had
ever heard the gospel message that Jesus Christ had come into the world
to save sinners -- a message that had been branded as
counter-revolutionary and been outlawed in his own country. Needless to
say, we were delighted when he joined us again the following year for
Christmas Eve, where he was anxious to tell anyone at church who would
listen how he had embraced the free offer of the gospel and become a
Christian the previous year. Having returned home to China, my friend
is now a leader in the underground Church there.

But if I wanted to join my Muslim friends next week on the Hajj, I
would have to bear in mind that my reception would not be as friendly.
I would be forbidden to bring my Bible or any Christian literature with
me on my trip to Saudi Arabia, and be required to remove anything
identifiably Christian from my person (crosses, etc.). There are no
Christian churches allowed in the "Land of the Two Mosques", so there
would be no opportunity for me to join with fellow Christians there in
our weekly celebration of the Lord's Day, and I would constantly be
under watch by the Wahhabi Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice
police to ensure that I didn't share my Christian faith with anyone

Even having arrived in Saudi Arabia and complying with the absolute
ban of any expression of my faith, as I approached the holy city of
Mecca, I would be denied entry. Despite all of the supposed Quranic
endorsements of the "People of the Book" (i.e. Jews and Christians), as
a kafir, my presence is not welcome at the Hajj. We should remember
that the cardinal offense that prompted Osama bin Laden and his
al-Qaeda lackeys to declare war on the "Crusaders and Zionists" in 1996
was the presence of American troops in the Arabian Peninsula, though
nowhere near the sacred cities of Mecca or Medina.

For Muslims in the West, they have as much freedom as any other to
practice their faith openly and freely without any fear of being
molested. The number of mosques popping up all over America is a
testament to that freedom.

Such is not the case for Jews and Christians in Islamic lands,
however, where people of those faiths are subject to countless acts of
intimidation and violence on a daily basis. Even in their synagogues
and sanctuaries, believers are not immune from attack. In fact, many
are prevented from approaching their own holy sites. In the Holy Land,
Muslims occupy the Temple Mount -- the historic location of the ancient
Jewish Temple -- and Jewish worshippers are subject to regular assaults
by stone-throwing Muslim crowds at the nearby Wailing Wall and other
sacred sites. And it was the mere presence of a Jew -- Israeli Prime
Minister Ariel Sharon -- near the Temple Mount in September 2000 that
sparked the second intifada that has claimed the lives of hundreds of
Jews, Christians and Muslims in recent years. Jews have also been
forbidden from visiting the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron --
Judaism's second-most holy site -- since it was converted to a mosque
in 1266.

And earlier this month Turkish authorities feared that Pope Benedict
might take the opportunity while touring the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul
-- one of the greatest churches in the world that was seized by Muslims
after 1,000 years of constant use by Christians -- that he might
actually try to pray there.

It isn't just the Hagia Sophia that has suffered the inglorious fate
of being converted from its original use as a Christian church to be
taken over by invading Islamic forces and made into a mosque. In her
book, The Decline of Eastern Christianity under Islam. From Jihad to
Dhimmitude, Bat Ye'or chronicles how innumerable Christian and Jewish
holy sites, such as the Church of St. John in Damascus that was
demolished by the Islamic Caliph Abd al-Malik in 705 and had the
Umayyad Mosque built over it, were taken over for the exclusive use for
Islamic worship during the constant waves of Islamic conquest. It is
worth noting that even the Kabaa, the central location of worship in
Mecca, was seized by Mohammad from non-Muslims.

Getting back to my original point -- one of the constant complaints
of Muslim apologists is that Westerners just don't understand Islam.
Fair enough; but is that entirely the fault of non-Muslims who are shut
out of Islam's most important rituals? And might it be the case that
those of us, Christians and Jews alike, who are angered at the
treatment of our brethren in Islamic lands do so not because of our
alleged "Islamophobia", but rather on the basis of real grievances?"

Happy Hajj! You're Not Invited!

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Monday, December 25, 2006

A Fellow Bloggers Highs and Lows from 2006 in Turkey:

Tops in Child Porno

According to world-wide “Google Trends” research, the world’s top five cities hitting child-porn sites are all in Turkey, Trabzon, Izmir, Adana, Ankara and Istanbul respectively. Next in line are Auckland, Melbourne, Seattle, Tampa and Sydney.

(Radikal, 23 Dec. 2006)

Christians under pressure

Pressure on the Christian community did not let up this year. Early in the year a priest was shot while praying in his church in the city of Trabzon (the same Trabzon which leads the world in child porno hits) and another priest was knifed. Molotof Cocktails were thrown at several Istanbul Protestant church fellowship, one of which was severely damaged. Two Turkish Christians were arrested on obviously trumped up charged. Their court cases are ongoing. For more info go to the Compass Direct site, linked to


Muslims, failing to see the link, responded to a cartoon in the Danish newspaper Jyland Posten depicting Muhammed wearing a bomb as a turban, by bombing, rioting and killing innocent bystanders. A cartoonist depicting the Prime Minister of Turkey, Recep Tayip Erdogan, as a cat caught in a ball of wool was sued by Mr. Erdogan. The Prime Minister lost the case.

Papa Don’t Preach

The Pope undertook major damage control during his visit to Turkey. He arrived unwelcome, after apparently linking Islam with violence. However, he played a weak hand well…

Nobel Matters

When Orhan Pamuk received the Nobel Prize for Literature, a few Turks rejoiced. Most seemed to think it was a western plot to support a national traitor because he once suggested that Turks were involved in an Armenian genocide.

Holy Sledge

The Prime Minister’s blood sugar dropped during Ramazan (month of fasting). As a result he fainted while sitting in the back of his car. His chauffeur raced to a nearby hospital, where both he and the body guard jumped out of the armoured car in a panic—which promptly auto-locked. They tried to break into the car using a “No Parking” sign, but to no avail. They then scrounged up a sledge hammer from a nearby construction site and eventually managed to rescue their man, who was bundled off on a stretcher, legs dangling everywhere. Member of Parliament and party yes-man Feyzi Berdibek bought the sledge from the workmen, annoucing he’d treasure the sacred object forever.


Mehmet Ali Agca, the fellow who tried to kill Pope John Paul II back in the 80s and who really did kill newspaper man Abdi Ipekci, was finally released after nearly 25 years in prison. Following a public outrcy the court decided that they had “wrongly calculated” his release, whereup Mr. Agca was promptly rearrested and sent to back to his cell. He is now due to be freed in 2014.

Good times for Turkish cinema

After a long decline following the demise of the Yesilcam films of the 70s and 80s the Turkish film industry is making a comeback. In 2005 27 Turkish films were shown in cinemas. I’m not certain of the total number of films for 2006—but more than 20 were produced since September. The top 2 are probably Takva and Hokkabaz.

Attack on Supreme Court

A nationalist nut, lawyer Alparslan Arslan, attacked the Supreme Court Judges. One, Mustafa Yucel Ozbilgin died, 4 others were injured. He had already thrown a bomb at the Ankara office of Cumhuriyet newspaper earlier that day.

Jet Ski Imam

An “ultra-conservative” imam, Ahmet Mahmut Hoca, was caught living the high life in Malta. Women, visits to churches, and racing around on a Jet Ski struck most of the faithful back home as a bit odd.


Colourful tights are all the rage in Turkey this season.

A la Turca Highs and Lows of 2006 « pikkert

Merry Christmas!

"For unto us a Son is born, for unto us a Son is given and the government shall be on His shoulders and he shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace . . ."

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Dr.Caner Brothers, Converts From islam to Christianity-Part2

Part 2 of the interview.
Dr.Caner Brothers, Converts From islam to Christianity-Part1

Part 1 of an excellent interview with the Caner Brothers.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Young Turks and Israelis are Most Religious

Or is it that they are the most indoctrinated:

"Approximately 10,000 young people in ten countries were interviewed about their attitude towards religion. Young Turkish Muslims had the strongest faith, followed by Jewish youth in Israel."

"Religious education in Turkey and Poland has the highest degree of sustainability. Eight out of ten young people said they would continue to follow the faith of their parents. By comparison, only one in five young Germany follows in the religious footsteps of their parents.

In Turkey, 84 per cent of all parents find it important that their children carry on in their faith. That is also true for 60 per cent of Polish parents, but only of nine percent of German moms and dads."

..: LE JOURNAL CHRETIEN [Young Turks and Israelis are Most Religious] :..

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Christmas a major event in predominantly Muslim Turkey

"The trees are trimmed, merry lights blink in the store fronts, children spend sleepless nights giggling in anticipation and adults, of course, double-check to make sure the belly dancer is coming.

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas here; Christmas Muslim-style, meaning without the Christ and without the Mass. It takes place New Year's Eve instead of Dec. 25, but it has Santa Claus, the family gathering, the feast and the joy."

McClatchy Washington Bureau | 12/14/2006 | Christmas a major event in predominantly Muslim Turkey

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Hakan and Turan with English subtitles

The testimony of the 2 Turkish believers outside of the courthouse with English subtitles.

Beggars Matter

"You’re not supposed to give beggars money—every one knows they’ve got loads of money stashed away somewhere, right? They’re simply exploiting us hardworking people… And you must absolutely not give anything to the little beggar children; giving them money encourages those who exploit them, and thus simply increases the problem!

However, whenever I pass one of these numerous human wrecks—the doubled over old woman, the man without limbs, the doleful young mother with a dirty baby sucking an empty feeding bottle, the half-naked, snot-nosed toddler holding out a grubby hand and looking hopefully at you with big, brown eyes—I feel vaguely uncomfortable, guilty even. What if these people really are needy…?

In fact the really needy people far outnumber those reduced to begging. Most of the really poor people still have too much self-respect to beg. Statistics bear this out:

According to the Turkish Statistics Organization (Turkiye Istatistik Kurumu: TUIK) 25.5% of the population of Turkey in 2004 lived below the poverty line. That’s 18 million people. According to TUIK about one million people go hungry. A 2005 World Bank report states that 58% of the population of Turkey lives on $4.30 a day, 20% of the population on $2.15 a day.

I don’t know how that is possible. Nor do I know what I, personally, can/should do about it…

Give to beggars…?

Source for statistics: Radikal, Dec.5 2006."
Beggars Matter � pikkert

Monday, December 11, 2006

Report on Religious Freedom in Turkey

Christian World News has a good report on religious freedom in Turkey.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Turkey at odds with faithful - The Boston Globe

"Observant Muslims and Christian minorities feel the effects, to different degrees and in different ways, from limits on religious life."

"For Muslims, the government trains, hires, and fires imams. For the tiny Christian and Jewish minorities, the government has used a web of regulations to close and confiscate places of worship, and doesn't allow individuals or institutions to inherit property.

To the Turkish government and many non observant Turks, appeals for religious freedom strike at the defining principle of the modern Turkish state, the "secularism" imposed by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the nation's first president, who forced Turks to abandon many of their traditions as part of a campaign to Westernize the country."

"For the approximately 99 percent of Turks who are Muslim, all aspects of religious expression are regulated by the Diyanet, the religious affairs ministry. Sermons are supposed to be written by imams higher up in the ministry bureaucracy, although some mosques have bucked the rule lately."

"For Turkey's religious minorities -- including about 68,000 Armenian Orthodox, 20,000 Catholics, 23,000 Jews, and 3,000 Greek Orthodox -- the laws are far more restrictive. Many of the minorities see them as part of a Turkish history of trying to drive them out that includes the Armenian genocide and waves of expulsion of Greek Orthodox Christians."
Turkey at odds with faithful - The Boston Globe

Thursday, December 07, 2006


"Ankara’s top government religious official accused Pope Benedict XVI yesterday of “doing injustice to Turkey” by declaring after his historic visit to Turkey last week that the country’s Catholics live under difficult conditions."

“If the pope says Christians in Turkey are mistreated, I will tell him that he has been seriously misinformed,” Bardakoglu told Reuters in an interview published November 24, four days before Benedict arrived.

Sidestepping the rights of Turkey’s Christian citizens, Bardakoglu instead cited his government’s support for places of worship for expatriates living and working in Turkey, according to Reuters."


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Josh McDowell Speaks at the Marmara

Josh McDowell spoke last night to a large crowd at the Marmara hotel in Istanbul. He clearly communicated his testimony and the truth about Jesus as the Son of God who died and was resurrected for our salvation.
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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Turkish Church Burned by Molotov Cocktail

Last Friday in the middle of the night, the Gungoren Protestant Fellowship was struck by a molotov cocktail. The fire did considerable damage to the main entrance to the church and inside of the building. The church members met in homes last week, but are going to return to worship in the building this Sunday. Evidence points to this being the work of amateurs, but no one has been detained for the vandalism. Pray for the strengthening of the believers and for the considerable expense to repair the damage to be met.

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Monday, December 04, 2006

Article 301: Thou Shall Not Share Christ- CWNews

"For Hakan Tastan and Turan Topal, two best friends, enjoying a casual walk along the streets of Istanbul has taken on new meaning. In the next couple of months, the two converts from Islam to Christianity could face the prospect of pending up three years behind bars.

"But we are not afraid because we know that our love for Jesus Christ takes away all of our fears," Topal said. "Even if we die, we will be rewarded in heaven with eternal life."

On Nov. 23, a criminal court charged the men under Article 301 of the Turkish penal code for allegedly insulting "Turkishness" and inciting hate while "trying to convert other Turks to Christianity."
"We are not guilty but, yes, we do share our faith because the Bible tells us that we are free to talk about the love of Christ to anyone who asks for it," Tastan said.

Article 301 has been widely criticized by human rights groups for restricting freedom of speech. European officials have demanded that Turkey amend the article if it hopes to join the European Union. Tastan and Topal's case goes to trial in January."

Article 301: Thou Shall Not Share Christ- CWNews

Who are Hakan Tastan and Turan Topal? � GetReligion

"During this busy week, I have been watching to see if two men’s names showed up, at any point, in Google News."

"But I have been watching to see if their names surfaced in coverage of Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Turkey. Why? To answer that question we have to turn to some form of advocacy media — like this Compass Direct report by veteran journalist Barbara G. Baker (a friend of this blog), which was, thank goodness, picked up by Baptist Press.

To cut to the chase, these two men continue to be accused of “insulting Turkishness” because they have, as evangelicals, tried to do evangelical things. You know, the kinds of basic free-speech activities that people can do in countries that are part of the European Union. I think."

"Here is my question: Why isn’t this mainstream news if the back story to the papal visit is Turkey’s bid to enter the European Union and, well, the Western world built on some form of rule of law? I am glad that “Christian news agencies” cover these stories, believe me. I respect the work they do. But why do I need to read about this religious-liberty issue on “religious” news sites?

I want to read about this in the elite MSM newspapers and wire services. It’s news.

Right? Does religious liberty matter? Does free speech matter? How about the freedom of assembly? And isn’t this linked, in a way, with the freedom of the press?"
Who are Hakan Tastan and Turan Topal? � GetReligion: "During this busy week, I have been watching to see if two men’s names showed up, at any point, in Google News."

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Turkey's Christians await pope's visit | - Houston Chronicle

"Next door to a store selling artificial limbs in a run-down area of Turkey's capital, the Protestant church sits on the ground floor of a dreary apartment block, with barred windows and kitchen chairs for pews.

The 100-strong congregation of the Kurtulus Church, which is linked to the U.S.-based International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, rents the space because authorities have not responded to its request for land and a permit to build a proper chapel."

"The pastor of Kurtulus Church, the Rev. Ihsan Ozbek, sees an opening for dialogue. "We face serious problems. Turkish citizens who converted to Christianity, especially, face serious discrimination and violence," he said.

The windows of his makeshift chapel have twice been smashed by suspected Turkish nationalists, reflecting a widely held conviction that conversion is treason and that Christian clergy are missionaries or spies for Western powers."
Turkey's Christians await pope's visit | - Houston Chronicle

Monday, November 27, 2006


"A criminal trial against two Turkish Christians accused of “insulting Turkishness” and inciting hatred against Islam grabbed national media coverage as religious tensions mounted before the visit of Pope Benedict XVI tomorrow. Hakan Tastan, 37, and Turan Topal, 46, emerged from the opening hearing at Silivri Criminal Court on Thursday (November 23) to a cluster of clamoring journalists. Tastan promptly stepped up to the microphones to state, “We are being accused because we are Christians and because we have done missionary work.” Formally the two Christians are charged with violating Article 301 of the Turkish penal code for allegedly denigrating “Turkish identity.” The two former Muslims are also accused under separate statutes of reviling Islam and secretly compiling files on private citizens. “We don’t use force to tell anyone about Christianity,” Tastan said. “But we are Christians, and if the Lord permits, we will continue to proclaim this.”


Christians in Turkey frustrated by popular distrust�|�

"Christian pastor Behnan Konutgan knows a little about religious tolerance in Turkey.

After a life spent translating the Bible into Turkish and defending his faith in a secular country with an inherited suspicion toward Christianity, the 55-year-old Protestant feels his efforts are bearing little fruit.

"This year we have seen rising prejudice against Christians. Islamic and nationalistic sentiment is growing, probably because of the Iraq War, and people are angry," he said in his office, with no sign, hidden away in a rundown district of old Istanbul.

Popular mistrust of all Christians among majority Muslim Turks has also risen after Pope Benedict made comments seen as critical of Islam and the air of suspicion has been getting worse ahead of a four-day visit from the leader of the Roman Catholic Church beginning on Tuesday."

" The EU has also shown concern at attacks against non-Muslim clergy and places of worship. Catholic Priest Andrea Santoro was murdered in a church in Trabzon on the Black Sea in February.

Christians say tensions have been inflamed, as elsewhere in the Muslim world, by the Iraq War, Danish caricatures of Prophet Mohammad and comments by the Pope on Islam."

" In a study on religion by the Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation (TESEV) 60 percent of respondents believed that the work of non-Muslim missionaries should be restricted.

"This reflects a lack of self-confidence. They have this idea that there is this plan in the United States and Europe to convert them to Christianity," said Associate Professor Ali Carkoglu of Sabanci University who co-authored the study."
Christians in Turkey frustrated by popular distrust�|�

The State of Religious Liberty in Turkey

"The Christian churches in Turkey want more religious freedom, even as they realize that the country's secularism might also be a bulwark against radical Islam, says an observer."

"Turkey is not really an Islamic country, even if it is over 99% Muslim and mosque attendance is going up.

Until the 1920s it was a theocracy under Shariah law. Ataturk saw this as a stumbling block for social and commercial progress. He reinvented Turkey as a secular state and helped Turks gain the reputation of being "Muslims with a Protestant work ethic." His reforms included the abolition of polygamy, equal rights for women, coed public schools, and the prohibition of religious garb in public.

Ataturkist laws have been applied in such a way that Turkey de facto has an unofficial established religion, a moderate sort of Sunni Islam. The state appoints imams; it oversees what is preached in the mosques and what is taught in Koran schools."
Zenit News Agency - The World Seen From Rome

Sunday, November 26, 2006

20,000 Turks protest at pope visit

"More than 20,000 Muslims in Istanbul on Sunday staged the biggest protest so far against Pope Benedict's trip to Turkey as Islamic opposition to this week's controversial visit gathered momentum.

Benedict, due to begin his first official visit to a Muslim country next Tuesday, angered many Muslims in September with a speech they took as an insult to Islam.

Youths wearing headbands with Islamic scripts, beating drums and waving Turkish red and white flags chanted "Allahu Akbar" (God is greatest) in the peaceful rally.

"I cannot remain silent when the Prophet Mohammed is insulted. I love him more than myself," said Husamettin Aycan Alp, 25, a science student from Izmir in western Turkey.

He said Roman Catholic cardinals chose this pope last year "because he is against Islam and are concerned Islam is spreading in Europe."

"Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, who will be absent during the pope's visit, played down the controversy.

"We hope this visit will help eliminate misunderstandings between Muslims and Christians," Gul told a news conference.

"His message will be very important."

Turkey plans tight security measures for the pope, whose trip takes in the capital Ankara, Istanbul -- formerly Constantinople -- and the site where the Virgin Mary is believed to have lived and died near Izmir on the Aegean coast."
20,000 Turks protest at pope visit -

Pope's visit offers Turkey's Christians hope for improved religious rights

When Roman Catholic Pope Benedict visits mostly Muslim Turkey next week, he'll try to ease anger over his recent remarks linking Islam and violence. But he is also expected to press Turkey, which hopes to join the European Union, for improved rights for its tiny Christian community. That minority, at times forced to worship in so-called "apartment churches," has faced prejudice, discrimination and even assault."

"Ironically, the Christian church has deep roots in what is today Turkey, a land that has also been the stage of Christian and Muslim confrontations, most notably during the Crusades.

The region hosted some of the most important Christian events, including the first Council of Nicea - in present-day Iznik - in AD 325, which established a Christian doctrine.

All seven major churches of early Christianity, mentioned in The New Testament, are in present-day Turkey. The Pope will make a pilgrimage to one of them at Ephesus.

St. John the Apostle is said to have brought the Virgin Mary to Ephesus, where she is believed to have spent the final years of her life, while St. Paul travelled through much of modern-day Turkey on his missionary journeys."
Pope's visit offers Turkey's Christians hope for improved religious rights

Friday, November 24, 2006

Hakan and Turan outside the Silivri courthouse

Video of Hakan and Turan's testimony, which was cut out by every news station in Turkey on their reports.

Creation vs. Darwin takes Muslim twist in Turkey - Yahoo! News

"A lavishly illustrated "Atlas of Creation" is mysteriously turning up at schools and libraries in Turkey, proclaiming that Charles Darwin's theory of evolution is the real root of terrorism."

"Arriving unsolicited by post, the large-format tome offers 768 glossy pages of photographs and easy-to-read text to prove that God created the world with all its species.

At first sight, it looks like it could be the work of United States creationists, the Christian fundamentalists who believe the world was created in six days as told in the Bible.

But the author's name, Harun Yahya, reveals the surprise inside. This is Islamic creationism, a richly funded movement based in predominantly Muslim Turkey which has an influence U.S. creationists could only dream of.

Creationism is so widely accepted here that Turkey placed last in a recent survey of public acceptance of evolution in 34 countries -- just behind the United States.

"Darwinism is dead," said Kerim Balci of the Fethullah Gulen network, a moderate Islamic movement with many publications and schools but no link to the creationists who produced the atlas."
Creation vs. Darwin takes Muslim twist in Turkey - Yahoo! News

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Christian converts on trial in Turkey

"Two men who converted to Christianity went on trial Thursday for allegedly insulting "Turkishness" and inciting religious hatred against Islam, the Anatolia news agency reported.

The trial opened just days before a visit to Turkey by Pope Benedict XVI. During his visit, the pontiff is expected to discuss improved religious rights for the country's tiny Christian minority who complain of discrimination.

Hakan Tastan, 37, and Turan Topal, 46, are accused of making the insults and of inciting hate while allegedly trying to convert other Turks to Christianity. If convicted, the two Turkish men could face up to nine years in prison.

The men were charged under Turkey's Article 301, which has been used to bring charges against dozens of intellectuals - including Nobel Prize-winner Orhan Pamuk.

The law has widely been condemned for severely limiting free expression and European officials have demanded Turkey change it as part of reforms to join the EU.

They also are charged under a law against inciting hatred based on religion.

Prosecutors accuse the two of allegedly telling possible converts that Islam was "a primitive and fabricated" religion and that Turks would remain "barbarians" as long they continued practicing Islam, Anatolia reported.

The prosecutors also accused them of speaking out against the country's compulsory military service, and compiling databases on possible converts.

Tastan and Topal denied the accusations in court.

"I am a Turk, I am a Turkish citizen. I don't accept the accusations of insulting 'Turkishness,'" Anatolia quoted Tastan as telling the court. "I am a Christian, that's true. I explain the Bible ... to people who want to learn. I am innocent."
AP Wire | 11/23/2006 | Christian converts on trial in Turkey

Pope Benedict XVI's visit and religious freedom

Good article that summarizes some of the recent issues in religious freedom here in Turkey before the pope's visit.
Forum 18 Search/Archive

Monday, November 20, 2006

Will Turkey choose Islamic identity over secular law?

"Turkey, touting itself as the only Muslim-majority secular democracy in the world, now faces a test to see how committed it is to practicing democracy.

In late October, the European Union required Turkey to modify its decidedly un-democratic Article 301 or seriously jeopardize its relationship with the EU. Turkish Article 301 states that insulting Turkishness is punishable by six months to three years in prison. Just this year, 99 persons have been charged with violating Article 301. Most recently, two Turkish men were charged with violating 301 after police raided their church office.

Both men, formerly Muslims, had been active responding to inquirers in greater Istanbul. The police released them after taking their computers and interrogating them over two days. In speaking with the prosecutor, one of the men said, “I am a Christian, and I am a Turk. I will keep on sharing my faith. We are not ashamed to be Christians, and we are not hiding anything.” Their case goes before the courts Thursday.

What exactly was their crime? What were the crimes of the other 97 people arrested under Article 301? What exactly is “insulting Turkishness”?

It appears from the charges brought against the two Turkish evangelists that, contrary to public statements of Turkey’s secularity, Turkishness is in fact bound up with Muslimness, and anything that questions the nature of Islam also questions Turkishness."
News-Sentinel | 11/20/2006 | Will Turkey choose Islamic identity over secular law?

Sunday, November 19, 2006

There's A Fly In Our Holy Water

Interesting blog post:

"It's said that while the Ottoman Turks were breaching the walls of Constantinople the people were inside debating a theological issue. The question was this: If a fly lands in holy water, does the fly make the water unholy, or does the water make the fly holy?"
caught in the middle: There's A Fly In Our Holy Water

Friday, November 17, 2006

Secularism in Turkey means government controls all religions

"Turkey's unique brand of secularism is not separation of religion and state, but rather government control of religion, impacting both the Muslim majority and religious minorities.

The government builds and funds mosques, employs Muslim prayer leaders, controls religious education and bans Muslim women and men from wearing certain head coverings in public offices and universities.

The Turkish Constitution guarantees the religious freedom of all the country's residents, and a 1923 treaty guarantees that religious minorities will be allowed to found and operate religious and charitable institutions.

Secularists in Turkey see control of religion as the only way to guarantee Islam will not overpower the secularism of the state and its institutions.

However, the fact that the constitution and Turkish law do not recognize minority religious communities as legal entities has severely limited their ability to own property, and laws restricting private religious higher education have made it almost impossible for them to operate seminaries and schools of theology."

CNS STORY: Secularism in Turkey means government controls all religions

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Turkey adopts new law on religious minorities’ property rights

"Turkey's parliament approved a law that would give non-Muslim minorities property rights. At the same time, the Turkish government is examining the possibility of changing Section 301 of Turkey’s Penal Code. Both changes are preconditions set by the European Union in its negotiations with Ankara over its EU membership application. None the less, the new law on non-Muslim groups' property rights is likely to fall short of EU expectations.

The demand by largely Christian religious minorities for the right to own real estate falls within a set demands related to freedom of religion. Under existing legislation, these groups are legally barred from owning real estate."
>>> <<< Turkey adopts new law on religious minorities’ property rights

Monday, November 06, 2006

Islam challenges secularism in Turkey's east - Turkish Daily News Nov 06, 2006

"In the heartland of Turkey's southeast, plagued by decades of conflict between separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and the state, a new threat to secularism is emerging -- Islamist groups.

Local politicians say these organizations are becoming more active in the poor region that borders Iraq and Syria, and some fear this could fan fundamentalism, especially among young people who have grown up with violence.

As in the rest of predominantly Sunni Muslim Turkey, practicing one's religion here long took a backseat to a public espousal of the secularism of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the republic's founder.

However, since the Justice and Development Party (AKP), which has roots in political Islam, swept to power in 2002, Muslims are now being more open about their faith."
Islam challenges secularism in Turkey's east - Turkish Daily News Nov 06, 2006

Saturday, November 04, 2006

12,000 Turks march against radical religious influences, concessions to EU

"Thousands of nationalist Turks marched in the capital Saturday, vowing to defend the secular government against radical Islamic influences and urging the government not to make too many concessions in order to gain European Union membership.

Some 12,000 people from more than 100 pro-secular associations waved Turkish flags as they marched to the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey. "Turkey is secular and it will remain secular," they chanted during a march broadcast live on some TV channels."
12,000 Turks march against radical religious influences, concessions to EU

Friday, November 03, 2006

Turkish PM to sidestep the Pope

"The Turkish Prime Minister plans to shun a proposed meeting with Pope Benedict XVI for talks in Estonia instead.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan was due to become the first Turkish Prime Minister to receive the Pope, during a bridge-building visit this month.

But the Turkish embassy to the Holy See has announced that Mr Erdogan, who is struggling to secure his country's entry into the European Union, would instead attend a NATO summit in Estonia.

Turkish analysts suggested that with elections next year, Mr Erdogan could ill afford a photo opportunity alongside the Pope, who provoked outrage across the Muslim world by citing the words of a 14th-century Byzantine emperor.

The program of the visit made no mention of a meeting on the day of the Pope's arrival. Vatican officials played down the apparent diary change."
Turkish PM to sidestep the Pope

Turk shoots at Italy consulate over Pope visit

"A man fired a weapon in front of the Italian consulate in Istanbul on Thursday to protest against Pope Benedict's visit to the predominantly Muslim country later this month, raising concern over the Pontiff's safety there.

"I did what every Muslim has do to. God willing, the Pope will not come to Turkey, but if he does he will see what will happen to him," 26-year-old Ibrahim Ak told the DHA news agency while sitting in a police car after he was detained." News - Latest News - Turk shoots at Italy consulate over Pope visit

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Converts in Turkey Charged under Speech Law

"A Turkish prosecutor slapped criminal charges against two converts to Christianity earlier this month, accusing them of “insulting Turkishness,” inciting hatred against Islam and secretly compiling data on private citizens for a local Bible correspondence course, Compass Direct News reports. Hakan Tastan, 37, and Turan Topal, 46, joined the ranks of 97 other Turkish citizens hauled into court in the last 16 months over alleged violations of the country’s controversial Article 301 restricting freedom of speech. If convicted, the accused men could be sentenced from six months up to three years in prison. “It’s all lies,” Topal told Compass. “Someone is trying to make us look like a Christian tarikat [banned religious sect].” - Religion Today Summaries - Nov. 1, 2006

92-year-old Turkish archaeologist to be tried for saying head scarves linked to sex rites - iht,europe,Turkey Archaeologist's Trial - Europe - Interna

Be careful when studying history in Turkey, especially if you publish your results:

"A 92-year-old retired archaeologist will stand trial in Turkey for claiming that Islamic-style head scarves date back more than 5,000 years — several millennia before the birth of Islam — and were worn by priestesses who initiated young men to sex.

Muazzez Ilmiye Cig, an expert on the ancient Sumerian civilization of Mesopotamia between the fourth and third millennia B.C., is the latest person to go on trial in Turkey for expressing opinions, despite intense European Union pressure on the country to expand such freedom as freedom of expression. Her trial is scheduled to start in Istanbul on Wednesday."
92-year-old Turkish archaeologist to be tried for saying head scarves linked to sex rites - iht,europe,Turkey Archaeologist's Trial - Europe - International Herald Tribune

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Headscarf Politics: Erdogan Too Religious for Turkey? - International - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News

"Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan wants to run for the powerful post of president next year in a changing, secular country caught between eastern and western traditions -- and his headscarved wife may be an image problem."

"Erdogan had already been under fire by old-guard secular opponents who said Turkey had no room for a leader whose wife wears a headscarf. Erdogan's devout spouse, Emine, never appears in public unveiled. "Does a religious person not have the right to be in politics?" Erdogan countered. In the last election, he said, citizens voted for his mildly Islamist "Party for Justice and Development" (AKP), "despite the fact that we appeared with our wives who were wearing headscarves."
Headscarf Politics: Erdogan Too Religious for Turkey? - International - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Digging for history in Turkey

"An archaeological dig tells us more about the Garden of Eden, says sean thomas

I am standing above an archaeological dig, on a hillside in southern Turkey. Beneath me, workmen are unearthing a sculpture of some sort of reptile (right). It is delicate and breathtaking. It is also part of the world's oldest temple."

The First Post : Digging for history in Turkey

Monday, October 16, 2006

Pope, Would B Graham Compromise Truth? by Grant Swank

"As I type, in more geographies than Christians would like, Christians are being persecuted by Islamics. Churches are burnt. Muslim converts to Christ are slain. Christian ministers, missionaries and priests are being threatened, some to the extent of being tortured, then slaughtered.

Yes, Christians pray for " peace and harmony." That is in keeping with Christ's directives for His disciples when telling them to pray for their enemies, do good to their enemies and pray for those who despitefully use them. That much the pope got right.

But when it comes to this "brotherly tie over centuries," he is way off-base once again. If there has been a reaching out to be "brotherly" it has come from biblical Christians who take seriously Christ's way of dealing with enemies. Christ set the real-life example in dealing with His own foes who finally murdered Him.

Today Christians have basically fled from Iraq for fear of their lives. The Christian community that once was is now a has been. Why? Because Muslims have killed some, taunted more and laid the sword close to others very existence if they remain inside Iraq.

The more Christians reach out to Muslims, the more zealot Muslims take advantage of the kindness. Muslims don't reach out to Christians by seeking brotherly love. That can't happen for the Koran forbids it. Allah hates non-Muslims."
Pope, Would B Graham Compromise Truth? by Grant Swank

Friday, October 13, 2006

Nobel winner calls it an honor for Turkish literature

"Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk, whose uncommon lyrical gifts and uncompromising politics have brought him acclaim worldwide and prosecution at home, won the Nobel literature prize Thursday.

The selection of Pamuk, whose recent trial for "insulting Turkishness" raised concerns about free speech in Turkey, continues a trend in which Nobel judges pick writers in conflict with their own governments."
Nobel winner calls it an honor for Turkish literature

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Turkish parliament rejects motion to censure education minister - iht,europe,Turkey Censure Motion - Europe - International Herald Tribune

The government gets off the hook for getting rid of secular teachers in favor of Islamic ones:

"Turkey's Education Minister on Tuesday escaped censure over accusations he had promoted thousands of religious teachers and sacked secular employees.

The opposition had proposed a motion censuring the Islamic-rooted government's education minister Huseyin Celik.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party, which has a majority in parliament, easily defeated the motion to censure Celik for alleged abuse of power and for allegedly raising Islam's profile in the secular education system.

The opposition parties accused Celik of ousting secularist school principles, teachers and local education officials and replacing them with religious studies teachers.

Celik was also accused of inserting religious references into school text books — such as claims that washing before Islamic prayers would increase the number of red blood cells.

Secularists accuse Erdogan's government of trying to raise Islam's profile in this predominantly Muslim country that is ruled by strict secular laws. Last week, Turkey's new military chief, Gen. Yasar Buyukanit, accused the government of nurturing fundamentalism."
Turkish parliament rejects motion to censure education minister - iht,europe,Turkey Censure Motion - Europe - International Herald Tribune

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Seminary stays shut as Turkey bucks EU pressure -

"The blackboards are clean, desks dusted and library books neatly ranged. The Greek Orthodox seminary on this idyllic island off Istanbul is ready and waiting to take in new student priests.

But this autumn, as for the past 35 years, Halki seminary remains shut, despite pressure on Turkey to reopen it to qualify for European Union membership. Visitors reaching the hilltop retreat by horse-drawn carriage find the place empty."

"The 162-year-old seminary, a barometer of religious freedom in secular Turkey, which has a Muslim majority, seemed close to revival as Ankara debated changing a law that shut it in 1971.

But the Islamist-rooted government had to pull a proposed change in the law when the secular-minded opposition charged it would change the status of religious minorities in Turkey."
Seminary stays shut as Turkey bucks EU pressure -

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Some Turks change religion to seek tickets West

Here's a Muslim propaganda piece on the recent hijacking:

"Turkey's few Muslim converts to Christianity, of which the hijacker Tuesday of a Turkish airliner claimed to be one, are a motley, marginal group that includes people on personal spiritual quests, as well as those in search of more material benefits."

"Whether he actually belongs to any of Turkey's Christian churches, however, has come under doubt with the appearance of several articles in the Turkish press Wednesday saying he has a criminal record for fraud, in addition to two spells in the stockade for desertion."

"The evangelical churches, which are not recognised by the strictly secular laws of Turkey, are mainly in the three biggest cities -- Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir.

"The fact that we are open to everyone means that we get some strange followers," said Ihsan Ozbek, the evangelical pastor for Ankara. "Some come looking for women, others for money, yet others for visas to the west."
Middle East Online

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

A Coming Papal Visit Focuses Anger Among the Turks - New York Times

"A novel was published here in May, winning more notoriety than sales, called “Assassination of a Pope.”

It was inspired not by the attempt on the life of Pope John Paul II by a Turkish gunman in 1981, but by the trip to Turkey of his successor, Benedict XVI, who is coming to this overwhelmingly Muslim country in late November primarily to meet the Orthodox patriarch, who lives in Istanbul.

Benedict was far from loved here even before his speech in Germany two weeks ago quoting a medieval commentator who called aspects of Islam “evil and inhuman.” But his visit, and the book, play on one of Turkey’s deepest fears: that the secular and unified Turkish state could begin to dissolve if the Orthodox patriarchate tries to become a sort of Vatican, a state within a state.

The pope apparently did not grasp fully that his words would hit Turkey even harder than those other Muslim countries where the reaction was violent. The anger in this nation that uncomfortably bridges West and East — with a strong recent tug from Islam — is far from over, and not just among the religious."

A Coming Papal Visit Focuses Anger Among the Turks - New York Times

Monday, October 02, 2006

Cicek says religious education insufficient

A flawed idea, state-sponsored religion:

"Justice Minister Cemil Çiçek said yesterday the state had a responsibility to provide accurate religious education for its citizens and complained that it was one of the most seriously deficient areas in Turkey's current system.

'We have lack of education in all areas, but the greatest lack of education is in the area of religious education. The state should provide reliable and accurate information to meet people's needs in this area,' Çiçek said in a televised interview with private TV station Kanal 7."
�i�ek says religious education insufficient - Turkish Daily News Oct 02, 2006

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Erdogan loves Jesus!

"Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan repeated on Wednesday his criticism of comments made by Pope Benedict about Islam that sparked Muslim protests and said even a politician would not have spoken in such a way."

"We love Jesus and Moses as much as our own Prophet. Nobody should try to meddle with our religion. The Pope made this mistake," Erdogan said. Muslims also revere Jesus Christ and Moses as prophets sent by God."
Turkish PM repeats criticism of Pope's Islam remarks�|�International News�|�

Turkish Penal Code: It's illegal to stop someone from sharing their faith!

I had heard this before, but a friend showed me what the law actually says:

"Article 125 - What is the penalty for preventing religious freedom?
To force someone to reveal or change their religious, political, social or philosophical thoughts or opinions, or to prevent from revealing or propagating these, or to hinder public religious worship and religious events, will be punished by up to three years in prison (Article 115).

Article 126 - Is it a crime to denigrate religious values?
Our law sees as illegal the denigration of the religious values of a segment of the population. In order for it to be punishable, however, it will depend on whether it was done in public and in a way that serves to break the public peace. Therefore, even if it is done in public, as long as it does not serve to break the public peace, it will not be considered a crime (Article 126).

Article 127 - Is missionary activity a crime?
No. Just the opposite: forbidding the propagation of religious thoughts and opinions is a crime (Article 115)."

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Do You Keep the Feast?

Today marks the beginning of the Muslim's holy month of Ramadan, when they eat more from sun down to sun up than they do in any normal day. Because they "fast" from sun up until sun down, they often use this as an excuse to be miserable and grumpy to everyone they encounter during the day. Pray for them to find a religion that is based on true faith in the one and only God and not on works that seem empty and meaningless.

Christian Values: New EU Membership Criteria for Turkey?

Many Turks are upset, feeling that what the EU really wants from them is 'Christian Values'. This poses the question, what is it that makes Muslim values so different from Christian ones?

"Turks say that the latest criteria for Turkey’s EU membership is the ‘Christian values’.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the prime minister of Turkey, Turkish opposition leaders, and some Turkish religious authorities continue to demand that the pope make a more sincere public apology for the words he spoke in a Sept. 12 discourse at the University of Regensburg, during his visit to Germany. Turkish media continue to argue that the Pope has undermined the harmony between civilasations. However Abdullah Gul, Turkish Foreign Minister, said the Pope’s visit to Turkey will be a great opportunity to restore the misunderstands."

"Dr. Nilgun Gulcan from USAK, however, says that Stoiber’s only condition is Christinity:

“Turkey is not a Germany, or a France, and it will never be like these countries. Turkey is different. If the current members want to establish Europe on the base of Christian values, Turkey can never be a European. If Europe means Christian discrimination, it means that the EU has to live with more than 100 million non Europeans (Muslims) inside”
German politician Stoiber argued that Turkey has different cultural and spiritual background and these differences make it non-European: “Turkey is not Europe nor does it belong to the continent, because the country has such great cultural and spiritual differences with western values."
JTW News - Christian Values: New EU Membership Criteria for Turkey?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


It always amazes me the impact pride and insecurity have in the Muslim world. That is what the cartoon controversy was about and that is what this is about. Why would God need these people to defend His name. Pray for them to meet the true God who is above any human controversy and the grace that he provides to the humble:

"ANGRY Muslims in Turkey want the Pope arrested when he visits their country in November.

Workers at a leading Islamic body have asked prosecutors to lock up Benedict XVI.

The protesters claim the Pope insulted their religion during a lecture when he quoted a claim made in the 14th century that the prophet Mohammed had brought the world only "evil and inhuman things".

The Pope later stressed that the claim did not reflect his own opinion and said he was "deeply sorry" some Muslims had been offended.

But his words did not satisfy staff at the Turkish Directorate General for Religious Affairs."

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Pope’s trip at risk as Turkey becomes less secular

"Turkey’s Christians are horrified by the reaction out of proportion to the Pope’s university speech. Increasingly, people are wondering whether this reaction was planned by local mass media to reignite an anti-Christian diatribe that never truly died in the last few months. Turkish Christians appeal to “moderate Muslims to have the courage to speak out and show, first of all, that Muslims have not lost their mind and are still capable to engage others in a rational dialogue without clashing and resorting to violence and threats like months ago over the Muhammad cartoons affair.”
>>> <<< Pope’s trip at risk as Turkey becomes less secular

Friday, September 15, 2006

Turkish religious leader calls on Pope to apologise

"Turkey's highest Islamic authority Thursday called on Pope Benedict XVI to apologize for remarks he made during a trip to Germany in which he condemned the Islamic notion of jihad or holy war.

Ali Bardokoglu, president of the state-controlled Religious Affairs Department, told the NTV television station that if the pope's statements "show a hatred in his heart, then we face a dangerous situation."

"Bardakoglu also called for the cancellation of the pope's scheduled visit to Turkey in November.

"I wouldn't expect anything good to come from a visit to the Islamic world by someone who thinks like this about Islam's prophet. First he must save his heart from this hatred," Bardakoglu said."
Expatica - Living in, moving to, or working in Germany, plus News in English

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Everybody Living In Turkey Equal Under Laws, Arslan

"Everybody living in this country is equal under the laws irrespective of their language, race, color, gender, political opinion, philosophical belief, religion or sect," said Osman Arslan, chairman of the Turkish Supreme Court of Appeals.

Making a keynote speech in a ceremony held at the Supreme Court HQ in Ankara to mark the beginning of the new judicial year, Arslan indicated, "nobody is a second-class citizen in this country" and noted that preserving the unitary structure of Turkey is for the best interests of everyone living on Turkey's territories."
Everybody Living In Turkey Equal Under Laws, Arslan

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Modern Turkey's first new church opens in Istanbul

"A new Christian church has opened in Istanbul for the first time in modern Turkey in what its founder hailed on Friday as a sign of increased religious freedom in the European Union candidate country.

Since the foundation of the Turkish Republic in 1923 as a secular state with a predominantly Muslim population, accompanied by a mass exodus of Greek and Armenian Christians, many churches and other non-Muslim religious buildings have closed or been abandoned."

"Barcelona-born Carlos Madrigal, the founder pastor of Istanbul's Evangelical church, sees the end of his seven-year struggle to make the church official as a major step for Turkey.

'As far as the Protestant Church is concerned, it's an achievement ... but in terms of the rights and freedoms of all citizens, a door has been opened for any community,' he told Reuters at the church on the Asian side of Istanbul."

"Before 2003 it was impossible to open a church in Turkey, as Turkish legislation made no mention of the necessary procedures and dealt only with mosques, and worship outside an official venue was forbidden."

"The new church is simple, unadorned except for stained-glass windows, in a house converted for about $130,000 with help from donors in Britain, Spain, the United States and Indonesia.

Now two more Evangelical churches are applying for permission to register, one in Istanbul's Beşiktaş district and another in the southeastern city of Diyarbakır."

"(Proselytizing) is seen badly in society. ... The word missionary means spy," Madrigal said, adding that in 1987 he was arrested, and as policemen beat him they demanded to know which state he worked for.

There has been much progress since then, and Madrigal says the EU has played a large role, but his church still has unmet demands, such as being allowed to have a graveyard.

Madrigal, who says that what he has faced in Turkey has parallels with obstacles to change in Spain under dictator Francisco Franco, also looks forward to greater freedoms in Turkey as EU membership draws nearer.

"urkey is changing its attitude slowly, from the realm of what is forbidden to one of what is permitted."
Modern Turkey's first new church opens in Istanbul - Turkish Daily News Sep 06, 2006

Saturday, September 02, 2006

A Christian Shrine in a Muslim Land

"CASUAL readers of Greek mythology are often surprised to learn that if you want to visit what is left of Troy, you have to travel to Turkey. And those familiar with Christianity might also be surprised to learn that millions of people believe that in her final years the Virgin Mary also found her home in Turkey, a couple of hundred miles south of Troy, near the ancient city of Ephesus."

"A startlingly large number of those who visit are Muslims who believe that Mary — or Meryem, as she is known in the Koran — was a holy figure, not the mother of God, but a woman of remarkable virtue. Brother Tarcy Mathias, the Capuchin monk who is the Roman Catholic Church’s overseer of the site, says that the Koran mentions Mary more than 30 times. Brother Mathias is a soft-spoken Indian Catholic, with deep-set eyes and a somewhat melancholy manner. He looks watchful, measured, reminiscent of someone whose words have been used against him.

“In Chapter 3, verse 37,” he tells me, “the Koran says, ‘Mary, God has chosen thee, and purified thee. He has chosen thee above all women.’”
A Christian Shrine in a Muslim Land - New York Times

Modern Turkey's first new church opens in Istanbul

"A new Christian church has opened in Istanbul for the first time in modern Turkey in what its founder hailed today as a sign of increased religious freedom in the EU candidate country.

Since the foundation of the Turkish Republic in 1923 as a secular state with a predominantly Muslim population, accompanied by a mass exodus of Greek and Armenian Christians, many churches and other non-Muslim religious buildings have closed or been abandoned.

Minority rights are one of several sticking points in negotiations with the European Union, and the continuing closure of a Greek Orthodox seminary has become a symbol of the difficulties still to be overcome.

Barcelona-born Carlos Madrigal, the founder pastor of Istanbul's Evangelical church, sees the end of his seven-year struggle to make the church official as a major step for Turkey.

"As far as the Protestant Church is concerned, it's an achievement ... but in terms of the rights and freedoms of all citizens, a door has been opened for any community," he told Reuters at the church on the Asian side of Istanbul.

He described the labyrinthine and expensive process required to get his church legally registered, including two trips to Turkey's top court.

Before 2003 it was impossible to open a church in Turkey, as Turkish legislation made no mention of the necessary procedures and dealt only with mosques, and worship outside an official venue was forbidden.

European Union-inspired reforms in 2003 changed that, but even so, it took a further three years of bureaucratic procedures before the church could officially open in August.

Officially, Turkey is strictly secular, but a large majority of Turks are Muslim, and Islam is closely tied up with the national identity. The national flag bears the Islamic star and crescent moon, and many feel non-Muslims are not real Turks.

The new church is simple, unadorned except for stained-glass windows, in a house converted for about $130,000 with help from donors in Britain, Spain, the United States and Indonesia.

Now two more Evangelical churches are applying for permission to register, one in Istanbul's Besiktas district and another in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir.

Madrigal, a Catalan from a Catholic family who came to Turkey in 1985, says there are some 5,000 evangelical Christians in Turkey — half of them Turks — and he receives four or five enquiries each week.

But, in a country where missionaries have traditionally been viewed with suspicion, the group does not actively seek new members.

"(Proselytising) is seen badly in society ... The word missionary means spy," Madrigal said, adding that in 1987 he was arrested, and as policemen beat him they demanded to know which state he worked for.

There has been much progress since then, and Madrigal says the EU has played a large role, but his church still has unmet demands, such as being allowed to have a graveyard.

Madrigal, who says that what he has faced in Turkey has parallels with obstacles to change in Spain under dictator Francisco Franco, also looks forward to greater freedoms in Turkey as EU membership draws nearer.

"Turkey is changing its attitude slowly, from the realm of what is forbidden to one of what is permitted." - Modern Turkey's first new church opens in Istanbul

Friday, September 01, 2006

'Islamist conspiracy' fear in Turkey

"Turkey has long been valued by the West as a secular Muslim ally but now one former military officer tells the BBC that secularism is under threat."

"Symbols of such unity seem a little over-optimistic in today's Turkey, marked as it is by the regular bomb attacks of separatist Kurdish groups.

In the towns and villages of the south-east, where support for the outlawed armed gangs of the PKK runs high, local officials sit with what must be permanently gritted teeth beneath the de-rigueur portraits of Ataturk.

But there is another perhaps more significant reason why the Father of the Turks deeply divides his 70 million "children".

And it is about more than ethnic difference. It has to do with religion."

""He was truly an enemy of Allah to the core," writes one Islamist thinker.

Ataturk made Turks look West, not East, for their cultural and political inspiration.

As well as giving women the vote and introducing the Latin alphabet for the written Turkish language for the first time, he formed the secular state with a divide between religion and government enshrined clearly in law.

His ban on women wearing headscarves in public institutions endures as one of the issues that most incites bitterness, even violence, in Turkey today."
BBC NEWS | Programmes | Correspondent | 'Islamist conspiracy' fear in Turkey

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Pinocchio, Heidi Receive Islamic Makeover in Turkish Books

"The latest victim in the rising tensions between the West and the Islamic world didn't want to become an international symbol for the clash of civilizations; in fact, Pinocchio's only wish was to become a real boy.

Book publishers in Turkey, reacting to controversy that arose over inclusion of such titles in the Turkish government's recommended reading list for schoolchildren, have reprinted several of the classics with Islamic elements inserted into the storylines."

"In "Pinocchio," when the wooden puppet arrives at the end of his quest, he exclaims to his maker, Geppetto, "Thanks be to Allah, I am a real boy!"

Earlier in the book he says, "If Allah wills it, please give me some bread."
Pinocchio, Heidi Receive Islamic Makeover in Turkish Books --

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Bardakoglu Writes About the EU, Islam and Religious Affairs

"The book, delivered to various officials and institutions via Turkish embassies, focuses mainly on the function of the Department of Religious Affairs.

The existence of such a department was widely seen as a contradiction in a secular country striving to enter the European Union.

Prof. Dr. Bardakoglu responds to such criticisms in his book."

"Bardakoglu, presenting Turkey as a country where peoples of different religions, languages and races live together in peace, elaborates on Turkey’s experiences with Islam and democracy.

Topics such as “Turkish model of religious affairs and a moderate Islam,” “Islam and democracy in Turkey,” “religion and terror,” “building of dialogue and tolerance,” and “relation of religion and state” are dealt with in an academic style."

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Miracle of Mary’s House in Ephesus, spared from the flames

Another "miracle", personally I have a hard time believing that God is concerned with a bunch of rocks, but to each his own:

"People are saying it is a miracle while religious admit the incident was indeed “extraordinary”. A devastating summer fire in Turkey wiped out 1,200 hectares of forest and came to a halt barely a metre away from the House of Mary, near Selcuk, a shrine that is the destination of pilgrims from all over the world, Christians and Muslims. The house of Meryem Ana is also likely to be a stage in the journey of Pope Benedict XVI to this country at the end of November. This led some of the media to think, at first, that the fire was caused by arson, while others suspected an attack by the PKK of the Kurds. Speculations were put to rest when it was found that the fire was probably caused by people who were picnicking in the forest: the heat, dryness and wind contributed to the fire, as happened in other coastal areas."
>>> <<< Miracle of Mary’s House in Ephesus, spared from the flames

Thursday, August 24, 2006

"Koran: a Resource for Growth and Prosperity?"

"Last night the show “Wide Angle” had a propaganda piece in which they claim Turkey is a secular state but with emphasis that the “teachings of the Koran led a group of businessmen to growth and prosperity.” From what I have gleaned Turkey is fast losing its secular status, as Muslims have infiltrated every aspect of Turkish life and are starting to impose Sharia on its population. Obviously someone is lying, let’s find out who.

“Turkey, (is) a Muslim nation secular by law where piety is on the rise and businessmen are pursuing wealth, faith and fashion.”

“They represent a new face of Islam; devout and profit-driven. They are earning the name ‘Turkey Tigers.’”

It turns out that all these tigers are pushing to convert Turkey from a secular state to that of fundamentalist Islam. They leave that to the end and use it as a punch line.

Believe it or not, the show’s main businessman designs and manufactures head-to-toe burkas to cover women according to the holy Koran. Woman must be starved for any conceivable nuance as our hero drives a Mercedes as “Allah allowed it.” He has three stores; one ten stories high with three basements. When he got to Turkey in 1969 women were in mini-skirts. Now with the resurgence of Islam women are starting to cover up. Ergo our businessman is part of the problem not the solution. He is just heading down the road to the further enslavement of women; enslavement into a world where Islamic men have a coronary if their buddies get a glimpse of their wife’s ankle and honor killings are restored if their daughters stray."
"Koran: a Resource for Growth and Prosperity?"

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Assyrians Experience Slow Cultural Revival In Southeastern Turkey

"Filled with honey-colored stone homes with exquisite relief carvings, Midyat, located in southeast Turkey, is one of the country's most beautiful ancient towns. It is also one of its most haunted.

Once almost exclusively populated by Assyrian Christians -- an ancient sect that traces its roots back to the earliest days of Christianity and that still uses Aramaic, the language spoken during the time of Jesus, for its liturgy -- the town is now almost completely devoid of its original inhabitants.

Caught up in the violence that resulted from the separatist war that was fought in the area in the 1980's and 90's between the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and Turkish security forces, Assyrians from Midyat and several other towns and villages in the area fled to Europe, particularly Germany and Sweden, leaving their ancestral homeland behind.

Some 30-40,000 Assyrians lived in the area around Midyat, known as the Tur Abdin Plateau, 40 years ago. Nobody is sure what the population is today, although in Midyat only 100 Christian families remain."
Assyrians Experience Slow Cultural Revival In Southeastern Turkey

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Turkey has 2nd thoughts about EU

"Once, Europe was a sweetshop, and Turkey was an eager kid with his face pressed to the window. Just two years ago, polls showed that more than 70 percent of Turks wanted to join the European Union, convinced that following the road to Brussels would make them richer, healthier and freer. Now, only months after long-delayed negotiations finally began, support for the EU has slipped to just 43 percent, and is falling fast."

"Turkey is already in Europe's Customs Union, and enjoys largely tariff-free trade with the EU. Ankara's politicians continue to insist that Turkey will accept nothing less than full membership—yet those with their eye on the bottom line are starting to recognize that that may not be the best deal. "Farsighted people are realizing that it's not ultimately in Turkey's best interests to join [the EU]," argues analyst Attila Yesilada of the Istanbul-based news station Business Channel. "But at the same time everyone knows that it's important to maintain the façade."
Turkey has 2nd thoughts about EU

Saturday, August 12, 2006

'Protestant work ethic' in Muslim Turkey - Business - International Herald Tribune

We don't see this much in Istanbul, somebody stopping work to pray. Usually it is just to drink tea:

"In European countries, workers take a 15-minute smoking break; here we take a 15-minute prayer break," said Ahmet Herdem, the mayor of Hacilar, a town of 20,000 people in this deeply religious and socially conservative region of Central Anatolia, which has produced some of Turkey's best-known companies. "During this time, you are in front of God and you can ask him to help improve business and this is good for morale."

"If you're not a good Muslim, don't pray five times a day and don't have a wife who wears a head scarf, it can be difficult to do business here," said Halil Karacavus, managing director of the Kayseri sugar factory, one of the biggest Turkish businesses, which expects €500 million, or $642 million, in revenue this year."

"Not everyone at the factory, however, views Islam as a benevolent influence. Halil Karacavus, managing director of the company, complains that the region is too much under the influence of the governing AK Party of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. It is a traditionalist party with Muslim roots and won 70 percent of seats here in 2004 municipal elections.

Karacavus said that the AK Party too often had tried to mix religion with business. He said that because he was known as a secularist in a region dominated by Islam, government auditors have audited the sugar factory at least five times this year, and the government had tried to install religious- minded people on its management board. The effort did not succeed, Karacavus said, because the company was successful and that insulated it from interference.

"For me, Islam doesn't come first, which can bring problems because the best contracts, land and tax breaks are given to people who share the AK Party's religious beliefs," Karacavus said."
'Protestant work ethic' in Muslim Turkey - Business - International Herald Tribune

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Joy of Steam

A trip to a Turkish bath:

"Arriving in the Sultanahmet district of Istanbul, built atop the ruins of the Greek city of Byzantium and the Roman capital of Constantinople, I already felt like I’d traveled halfway back in time to the ancient world. Then, in tea houses all over the city, I found dog-eared leaflets advertising the pleasures of Cagaloglu Hamam, the city’s oldest bath house:

World Hum | Travel | The Joy of Steam

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Turkey at threshold

"For centuries, Turkey has had one foot in Asia and one in Europe. Now it’s seeking more: Membership of the EU and a role as a global peacemaker. First, it must deal with its changing Muslim identity and increasing acts of Kurdish terrorism."

" Face-to-face interviews with 1,846 adults in 23 cities throughout Turkey, conducted in March and April, found a strong religious influence. More than 60 percent of those responding said they would refuse to let their daughters marry non-Muslims. Also, 60 percent blamed a lack of religious beliefs for overall ‘‘failure in life’’. And 46 percent favored schools specialised in religious teachings for their children over schools with secular curriculums." :: Turkey at threshold

Monday, July 31, 2006

Conservatism growing in Turkey

"With the European Union acting more unsure about whether to admit Turkey, there are signs that conservatism is growing across the nation, both politically and culturally, according to a prestigious U.S. daily.

Referring to a recent survey, The New York Times said the prolonged road to membership, and the many economic, legal and cultural adjustments made to pave the way, have soured some attitudes toward the EU."

"According to The New York Times, since the time when the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) -- born in the ashes of fringe religious-based parties -- came to power as a result of the 2002 polls there has been an increase in public displays of conservatism around the country, notably in the number of women wearing headscarves in the streets."
NYT: Conservatism growing in Turkey - Turkish Daily News Jul 31, 2006

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Atta Turk? No

"Turkey is constitutionally a secular republic. Any display of religion in public is banned since the Constitution was adopted in 1924. In a country with a 98 per cent Muslim population, this sounds improbable yet that is precisely what successive governments have tried to implement with varying degrees of success. In the early years, under Mustafa Kamal Ataturk, this was enforced with a near-missionary zeal. Islamic-style courts and seminaries were shut down, Sufi brotherhoods (tarikat) and dervish lodges (tekke) disbanded, the wearing of fez caps, veils and Eastern-style clothing banned and a Constitution modeled on western lines introduced, giving women equal rights. By 1928, Islam was no longer the state religion, polygamy was abolished, civil rather than religious marriages became the norm, Turkish was written in Roman instead of the Persian alphabet, children were given non-Arabic names and religious education was restricted, for a time even prohibited."

"Interestingly, the Islam you see being practised in cities like Istanbul, is not the Wahhabi Saudi-inspired version of Islam but a far more workaday practical Islam where the daily rhythms of life are perfectly in tune with the demands of religion. Our host, a smartly-dressed young professional in his 30s, would excuse himself at the appointed hour, offer namaz at any one of the many mosques that are found in such abundance throughout Istanbul, and return to our side in a matter of minutes."
Atta Turk? No :

Friday, July 28, 2006


"Turkey's Muslim teachers and academics have levelled criticism at sweeping plans to modify university programmes for those training to be religion teachers in the nation's primary schools. The changes include removing a number of Islamic courses and reducing the number of Arabic language lessons, replacing these with compulsory philosophy, sociology, music, computer, Christianity and missionary courses."

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Little progress on religious freedom

"Despite hopes, there has been little progress in achieving true religious freedom in Turkey, argues Otmar Oehring of the German Catholic charity Missio. Delays in changing the Foundations Law; declining official interest in acting on EU and Council of Europe advice; the lack of concrete impact of limited changes in the way the state records individual religious affiliation; "massive nationalistic indoctrination" in schools; and continuing systematic discrimination against Muslim and non-Muslim minorities contribute to Turkey's religious freedom deficit. In this personal commentary for Forum 18 News Service, Dr Oehring maintains that the Turkish government no longer seems willing to improve the religious freedom and human rights situation. Many think that EU accession negotiations may fail, and he suggests that this is likely to end any progress towards religious freedom."
Forum 18 Search/Archive

Head of Religious Affairs warns on gun use in Turkey

"Following the highly publicized deaths this week of two young women in Turkey, both victims of bullets shot from guns fired into the air at celebrations, the head of the Ministry of Religious Affairs, Ali Bardakoglu, has issued a strong statement to Muslims on the implications of the use of gunfire at celebrations.

Said Bardakoglu, "No matter what reason it is done, whether it is at a wedding, a picnic, or after a football match, what is trying to be proved by shooting a gun?....Do men think they are proving their masculinity by doing this? We have to put an end to this responsibility as soon as possible."
H�rriyet - Head of Religious Affairs warns on gun use in Turkey

The ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party is working hard to boost the controversial clerical imam hatip schools.

"Although it hasn't been able to make great progress in the last three years, it is showing its determination to return the education institution to the popularity of its past, particularly through the appointment of imam hatip graduates to key posts in the education ministry. The ruling party is also said to be running the risk of coming into conflict with state institutions over the notion of secularism."
The New Anatolian

Friday, July 21, 2006

Turkish anti-West mood 'rising'

"Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul has warned that moderate Turks are becoming anti-American and anti-EU.

Mr Gul said many Turks were embittered by the US' support for Israel's actions in Lebanon and by Turkey's problems in joining the EU.

He also said Ankara could be forced to act to stop cross-border raids by Kurdish rebels operating from Iraq.

Mr Gul's comments came in a wide-ranging interview with the UK's Financial Times newspaper.

"Moderate liberal people [in Turkey] are becoming anti-American and anti-EU," he said."

"If our young, educated, dynamic and economically active people become bitter, if their attitudes and feelings are changed, it is not good.

"Their feeling has changed towards these global policies and strategic issues. This is dangerous."
BBC NEWS | Europe | Turkish anti-West mood 'rising'

EU Criticizes Turkish Law on “Insulting Turkishness” | The Brussels Journal

"EU Enlargment commissioner Olli Rehn demands that Turkey amend its laws on curbing free expression, in particular Article 301 of its penal code. Recently, Turkish courts upheld a prison sentence against a Turkish editor, Hrant Dink. The Turkish citizen, Elif Shafak – author of Father and Bastard – also faces renewed charges of “insulting Turkishness” under the notorious Article 301 of the Turkish Criminal Code, despite the earlier dismissal of the case."

"The charges of “publicly insulting Turkishness” stem from the notorious Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code. After previously reviewing the trial of Orhan Pamuk, it is clear that there is now an extensive list of journalists and writers whose freedom of expression continues to be intimidated and suppressed."
EU Criticizes Turkish Law on “Insulting Turkishness” | The Brussels Journal

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Turkish Nationalists Accuse Church of ‘Treason’

"Kidnappers posing as police officers threaten to kill pastor."

"Izzet Altunbas, chairman of the Samsun Association of Balkan Turks and a prominent member of the local Nationalist Movement Party, publicly attacked the Agape Protestant Church in vicious terms in mid-June.

In speeches broadcast over three local TV channels on June 16, Altunbas declared that establishment of the church, officially registered as the Agape Church Association, revealed “extensive damage” to the nation in that it reflected efforts to conform to the laws of the European Union (EU).

The nationalist leader blamed Turkey’s compliance with EU legal norms for strengthening a dangerous “assimilation” drive by “Christian Europe” against both Turkish ethnicity and Islam."

“This is not a church,” Altunbas told Haber newspaper back on November 2, 2004.

“This is a center for displaying missionary activities,” he said, claiming it was an attempt “to divide our people and our government … The passion, sex and prostitution going on at Agape House is being linked with money to deceive our youth to change their religion.”

"In an attempt to intimidate Pastor Picaklar, two unidentified men posing as policemen rang his doorbell at 2 a.m. on April 3, demanding that he come with them to answer a complaint registered against him.

“I thought to myself, ‘Oh, maybe someone has thrown stones at the church again, and my telephone is out of order so the police came to inform me,’” Pastor Picaklar said. “I’d been fast asleep, so I didn’t think to ask them to show me their police IDs.”

Only after the men hustled him out of his apartment building into a minibus with blackened windows and started to drive across town did the pastor realize he had been kidnapped. When he tried to ask where they were taking him, the men began to curse and verbally abuse him. “Be quiet, you filthy scum!” one said.

Finally escorting him from the minibus into a building’s second-floor apartment, the men began to rail against him, declaring him a traitor to Turkey. “You are a Turk! Stop this. The missionaries are deceiving you and others with money!”

When he tried to explain that was not true, they shouted curses and threats at him for some 20 minutes, he said.

“They said that I had spoken against Muhammad in my last sermon, and that they had listened to it themselves,” Pastor Picaklar said.

“If, after this, you do Christian propaganda again, we will kill you,” they warned. Then they stuffed him back into the minibus and dropped him on the street about a mile from his home. The pastor was unable to see their license plate, nor could he tell in the darkness which of the city’s districts or buildings he had been taken to."

For more of this story, please subscribe to Compass Direct at

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

How to Avoid Honor Killing in Turkey? Honor Suicide

The pressure on these young girls must be unimaginable:

"For Derya, a waiflike girl of 17, the order to kill herself came from an uncle and was delivered in a text message to her cellphone. “You have blackened our name,” it read. “Kill yourself and clean our shame or we will kill you first.”

Derya said her crime was to fall for a boy she had met at school last spring. She knew the risks: her aunt had been killed by her grandfather for seeing a boy. But after being cloistered and veiled for most of her life, she said, she felt free for the first time and wanted to express her independence.

When news of the love affair spread to her family, she said, her mother warned her that her father would kill her. But she refused to listen. Then came the threatening text messages, sent by her brothers and uncles, sometimes 15 a day. Derya said they were the equivalent of a death sentence.

Consumed by shame and fearing for her life, she said, she decided to carry out her family’s wishes. First, she said, she jumped into the Tigris River, but she survived. Next she tried hanging herself, but an uncle cut her down. Then she slashed her wrists with a kitchen knife.

“My family attacked my personality, and I felt I had committed the biggest sin in the world,” she said recently from a women’s shelter where she had traded in her veil for a T-shirt and jeans. She declined to give her last name for fear that her family was still hunting her. “I felt I had no right to dishonor my family, that I have no right to be alive. So I decided to respect my family’s desire and to die.”

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Turkey cornered by EP over protection of religious heritage

"A written declaration claiming that most churches and monasteries in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) have been looted or used for other purposes won a majority of votes in the European Parliament."

"The declaration says, "Among more than 133 churches, chapels and monasteries located in the northern part of Cyprus … 78 churches have been converted into mosques, 28 are used as military depots and hospitals and 13 are used as stockyards. Their religious items, including more than 15,000 icons, have been illegally removed and their location remains unknown."

It condemns the pillage of Greek Orthodox churches and monasteries and the removal of their religious items, and calls for the Commission and the Council to take the necessary action to ensure respect for the European Community Treaty and the protection and restoration of the affected Greek Orthodox churches.

A call for the Commission and the Council to examine the matter under the relevant chapters of negotiations with Turkey is also made in the declaration."
The New Anatolian

Friday, July 14, 2006

Turkish media hostile to Papal visit, bishop says

"According to Bishop Luigi Padovese, Apostolic Vicar of the Diocese of Anatolia, Turkey, the stabbing of a Catholic priest has exposed a media-led campaign to undermine the success of the Pope’s trip to the country.

Turkey’s beleaguered Christian population of barely 100,000 were shocked after the elderly French Father Pierre Brunissen was knifed - allegedly by a schizophrenic - in the northern port city of Samsun last week. It was the sixth attack on a Churchman in as many months."

"Speaking to Aid to the Church in Need earlier this week, Bishop Padovese said the country’s media has spread lies about Fr Brunissen, 75, and called Christians “enemies.” He explained that the newspapers have made false claims that Fr Brunissen had tried to bribe people to win conversions. “The newspapers are trying to aggravate,” he added, “to show the Christians as enemies of Turkish people.” The bishop said the media reaction to the attack on Fr Brunissen had coincided with hostile comments about Pope Benedict XVI’s scheduled visit to Turkey in November: “There are some who will search out all the possibilities to reduce the positive effects of the trip.”