Saturday, April 26, 2008

The demise of Turkey's pork butchers

BBC NEWS | Programmes | From Our Own Correspondent | The demise of Turkey's pork butchers
The role of Islam in Turkish society is a subject of continual debate. Secularists are protesting against what they see as the government's increasingly Islamic agenda, and as Sarah Rainsford found out, the latest battleground could be across the butcher's counter.

Friday, April 25, 2008


A year after the brutal martyrdom of three Christians for their faith in Malatya, Turkey’s tiny Christian community gathered quietly this past week to honor their memories and pray for their sorrowing families.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

In Syrian Villages, the Language of Jesus Lives

In Syrian Villages, the Language of Jesus Lives - New York Times
Elias Khoury can still remember the days when old people in this cliffside village spoke only Aramaic, the language of Jesus. Back then the village, linked to the capital, Damascus, only by a long and bumpy bus ride over the mountains, was almost entirely Christian, a vestige of an older and more diverse Middle East that existed before the arrival of Islam.

Now Mr. Khoury, 65, gray-haired and bedridden, admits ruefully that he has largely forgotten the language he spoke with his own mother.

“It’s disappearing,” he said in Arabic, sitting with his wife on a bed in the mud-and-straw house where he grew up. “A lot of the Aramaic vocabulary I don’t use any more, and I’ve lost it.”

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Mixed feelings at Malatya massacre memorial

Mixed feelings at Malatya massacre memorial - Turkish Daily News Apr 22, 2008
Hundreds of members of Turkey's Protestant community gathered Sunday afternoon to remember Necati Aydın, Uğur Yüksel and Tilman Geske, the three Christians who were brutally murdered in Malatya in April of 2007.

But a year after the Malatya killings the Turkish Christian community still yearns for freedom to express and live its faith in a tolerant Turkey.

“I knew Necati, Uğur and Tilmann, and especially Necati very well,” said Zekai Tanyar, chairman of the Turkish Protestant Churches Alliance, during the memorial service. “I laugh bitterly when I hear the unfair lies told about them. This is the only crime my three brothers committed: Their belief in God, following Jesus and telling people about God's message of love and hope for people.”

At the gathering that brought together members of the Turkish protestant church from all over Turkey as well as representatives of the Armenian, Catholic, and Orthodox churches the feelings were a mixture of sorrow for the loss of the three, joy for the re-union of the Christian community and hope. Yet there was a lingering sense of disappointment especially among Turkish Christians about the continued lack of tolerance toward them for their choice of faith, said Tanyar.

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Monday, April 21, 2008

When Muslims become Christians

BBC NEWS | UK | Magazine | When Muslims become Christians
There's a widespread belief that the penalty for leaving Islam is death - hence, perhaps, the killing of a British teacher last week. But Shiraz Maher believes attitudes may be softening. Ziya Miral's parents disowned him when he converted from Islam to Christianity. "They said 'go away, you're not our son.' They told people I died in an accident rather than having the shame of their son leaving Islam."

Born and raised in Turkey, he decided to convert to Christianity after moving to university. He knew telling his parents would be a difficult moment even though they're not particularly observant Muslims, and he planned to break the news to them gently.

In the end, events overtook him. Before heading back to Turkey for the holidays, Ziya briefly visited a Christian summer camp where he was filmed eating a bowl of spaghetti.

The first his parents heard of his conversion was when they saw Ziya on the national news being described as "an evil missionary" intent on "brainwashing" Turkish children.

His parents decided they would rather tell people that he was dead than acknowledge he was a Christian. And Ziya, who now lives in the UK, is not alone in this experience.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Turkey aims to pass 301 amendment "immediately"

We'll see what the amendment looks like when it comes out:
Turkey aims to pass 301 amendment "immediately"
Turkish PM Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday the government aims to adopt the amendment on the controversial Article 301 of Turkish Penal Code immediately. The Turkish FM later said a complete annulment of the article was not on the agenda.


On the eve of the one-year mark of the slaughter of three Christians here, the impartiality of the judges in the case is in doubt, and the young men on trial have now shifted the blame to one man.

Accused killers Cuma Ozdemir, Abuzer Yildirim and Salih Gurler had been caught at the scene of the crime on April 18, 2007, butcher knives in their hands and the blood of the victims on their clothing. But like Hamit Ceker, the first suspect to testify in January, the three suspects declared at the fifth hearing on Monday (April 14) that they had not participated in the actual killings of Turkish Christians Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel and German Christian Tilmann Geske.

Instead, in Malatya Third Criminal Court they claimed it was Emre Gunaydin, the fifth culprit and alleged ringleader of the attack, who personally tortured and then slit the throats of the three Christians.

In their statements before a packed courtroom, the three said Gunaydin had deceived them, telling them his plan was just to infiltrate and intimidate these “Christian missionaries” whom he claimed were trying to divide Turkey and destroy Islam.

“We will go to their office and gather information,” suspect Gurler said Gunaydin told them the night before the attack. “The information would contain the intentions of the missionaries and their activities,” he explained, including CDs and computer files.

According to Ozdemir, Gunaydin said the purpose of buying five knives and a considerable length of clothesline cord was “to be used to frighten them” and extract more information.

When Ozdemir asked about the three guns they were taking along, he said Gunaydin told him, “I’ll explain that later.”

Although the suspects admitted they followed Gunaydin’s orders to force the Christians onto the floor, tie their hands and feet and then stuff their mouths with towels, they insisted they had tried to stop him when he began to stab and torture the victims.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Islamization of Turkish Society

The Islamization of Turkish Society « pikkert
Daily life in Turkey is changing. Most of us, myself included, are so frog-like that we don’t really notice the gradual environmental changes until someone points it out. A recent article by the veteran Turkish journalist Mehmet Ali Birand highlighted a number of things which rang true with me: 1. Religious language (i.e., once outmoded Arabism and Qur’anic expressions) are re-emerging in daily speech patterns of AKP politicians in particular and ordinary citizens in general.

Click the link for the rest of this interesting article.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

TURKEY: One year after Malatya murders, time to address the causes

Forum 18 Search/Archive
Turkish Protestants are this week commemorating the deaths one year ago of Necati Aydin, Tillman Geske and Uður Yüksel. On 18 April 2007, the three - two Turks and a German national - were brutally murdered in their office in the south-eastern town of Malatya. The murders left behind grieving families, a community in fear and a country with mixed emotions about the incident.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Turkey's Turning Point: Could there be an Islamic Revolution in Turkey?

AEI - Short Publications - Turkey's Turning Point: Could there be an Islamic Revolution in Turkey?
Few U.S. policymakers have heard of Fethullah Gülen, perhaps Turkey's most prominent theologian and political thinker. Self-exiled for more than a decade, Gülen lives a reclusive life outside Philadelphia, Pa. Within months, however, he may be as much a household a name in the United States as is Ayatollah Khomeini, a man who was as obscure to most Americans up until his triumphant return to Iran almost 30 years ago.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Man confesses to stabbing Catholic priest

Man confesses to stabbing Catholic priest - Turkish Daily News Apr 11, 2008
A man confessed in court Wednesday to having stabbed a Roman Catholic priest last year because he was angered by Christian missionary activities in Turkey, the Anatolia news agency reported.

"I read in the press about missionary activities by priests. The Turks' only weapon is their faith and I think they [the priests] want to eradicate it," Ramazan Bay told a court in İzmir.

Bay, 19, stabbed Italian priest Adriano Franchini, 65, in the stomach after attending Sunday mass at Saint Anthony's Church in İzmir in December.

He told the court he acted alone.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Turkey9 April 2008 Amendments to article 301 on “Turkish identity” fail to satisfy

Reporters Without Borders is not satisfied by the bill presented on 7 April by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) for the revision of two controversial articles in the criminal code - article 301, which punishes “humiliation of the Turkish identity, the Republic and the institutions and organs of the state,” and article 305, which punishes “any action against major national interests.”

Under the amendments submitted to parliament, “Turkish nation” replaces “Turkish identity” and “Turkish Republic” replaces “Republic,” while the president would henceforth be the only person who could initiate prosecutions based on these articles.

“We reiterate our desire to see article 301 repealed,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The amendments proposed by the Justice and Development Party still leave too much scope for misuse of these articles and for prosecutions against the news media.”

Monday, April 07, 2008

The lost history of the Crusades

Interesting read on the Crusades:
The lost history of the Crusades
The Crusades, says Madden, were a response "to more than four centuries of conquests in which Muslims had already captured two-thirds of the old Christian world. At some point, Christianity as a faith and a culture had to defend itself or be subsumed by Islam."

Turkish men accused of 'insulting Turkishness' still on trial

Actually, the trial began almost 16 months ago.
Mission Network News
In Turkey, the pressure is on for Christians, as can be seen in "this trial against these two men who, by witnessing for Christ, have now been accused of insulting Turkish-ness--as if the idea of a Turkish Christian is somehow an insult," said Todd Nettleton of Voice of the Martyrs.

The trial has lasted for about seven months. Nettleton says, "It seems to be going on strictly for the purpose of pressuring Christians, trying to set a precedent that public witness for Jesus Christ is not appropriate in Turkey, according to the laws of that land."

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Turkey's ruling party to stand trial for being 'too religious'

Turkey's ruling party to stand trial for being 'too religious' - Europe, News - The Independent
Turkey's highest court has voted to hear a case to close down the country's ruling party, in a move that looks set to open the bitterest bout yet in a 50-year war pitting popularly-elected governments against the secular establishment.

The Constitutional Court's unanimous decision comes a fortnight after a prosecutor charged the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) with trying to turn Turkey into a country that "takes religion as its reference" and demanded political bans on the prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the president Abdullah Gül.

The offshoot of an Islamist party closed down by courts in 1998, the conservative AKP has a month to prepare its defence. With the closure case likely to last at least six months, many fear it will now have neither the time nor the inclination for reforms aimed at strengthening the country's still-flawed democracy and economy.