Sunday, December 12, 2010

When will prosecutors investigate Ergenekon’s anti-Christian activities?

The Ergenekon indictment’s annexes include a series of reports titled “Summary of Daily Intelligence of Aegean Army Intelligence Department.” These reports show that activities and events in churches across Turkey were closely monitored. The reports contain detailed blacklists and intelligence reports on almost all Christian groups in Turkey.

But the most striking aspect is that Christians were attacked in all of the provinces that were subject to careful scrutiny in the reports. Let us recall these attacks: The Dirili Protestant Church was attacked in January 2005; a hand grenade was found on the roof of the Greek Patriarchate in February 2005. The Antalya Aziz Pavlus Church was set on fire in April 2005. Christian workers of a clothing store were attacked in August 2005. A land mine exploded on a road after a vehicle carrying a Syriac bishop passed by in August 2005. The leader of the Adana Protestant Church, Kamil Kıroğlu, was brutally beaten in January 2006. Father Andrea Santora was killed in Trabzon in February 2006. Members of the Mersin Catholic Church were threatened with knives in March 2006. The Syriac Church in Diyarbakır was raided and members were threatened in April 2006. The Orthodox community in Bergama was protested and not allowed to perform their service in May 2006. The Protestant church in Ödemiş was attacked with Molotov cocktails in November 2006. Priest Francois Rene Brunissen was stabbed in January 2006. Three Christian missioners were slain in April 2007. Priest Adriano Franchini was stabbed in İzmir in December 2007.

This list does not include death threats that churches and their leaders constantly receive. All these attacks happened in provinces that were mentioned in the “blacklists.” Attacks against Christians have virtually stopped ever since the Ergenekon case began.


Thursday, December 09, 2010

Malatya massacre victim's widow wants case merged with Cage plan

The widow of German national Tilman Geske, who was brutally killed along with two colleagues at a Christian publishing house in Malatya in 2007 at the hands of young ultranationalists, believes that her husband's murder was part of a greater plan to provoke chaos in society and increase pressure on the government and is asking for the Malatya case to be merged with the Cage Operation Action Plan case.

Cage is a suspected Naval Forces Command plan that was exposed in 2009 in which prominent non-Muslim figures in Turkey were to be assassinated with the aim of fomenting chaos in society and leading to a coup d'état against the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government. “I want the Zirve Publishing House killings to be merged with the case into the Cage Operation Action Plan. I do not believe that those young men could have carried out the murders on their own. Some de facto links [between the killings and Cage plan] are evident. There are other influences behind these murders,” Suzanna Geske told Today's Zaman.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Endangered Species: Religious minorities in Turkey

In his recent visit to Turkey, German president Christian Wulff correctly stated that Christianity belongs to Turkey. In the Turkish city of Antakya, Jesus` devotees for the first time called themselves as Christians. Anatolia was the heartland of the Christian Byzantine Empire and millions of Christians and other religious minorities lived in the Ottoman Empire.

In light of this history, the situation of Christians and other religious minorities in Turkey today is alarming. Having suffered genocide, displacement and discrimination, the number of religious minorities from Christian and Jewish decent has diminished significantly. Today, only 1% of the Turkish population is Christian or Jewish constituting only 92.000 citizens of Armenian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox or Jewish belief. In addition, the Muslim minority of the 15 to 20 million Alevis in Turkey faces major impediments with regard to the exercise of their belief.

While Atatürk`s foundation of a modern Turkish nation is based on the principle of laicism, placing religion in the private sphere, the definition of the "Turkish" nation was always equated with a "Muslim" nation. Accordingly, devotees of an alien religion were considered as danger to national unity. Although the Treaty of Lausanne grants special legal minority status to "non-Muslim minorities" and even the Turkish Constitution enshrines freedom of belief, worship and prohibition of discrimination on religious grounds, these principles were invalidated by contradictory articles and the adoption of problematic laws, such as the law on foundations.

As a consequence, religious minorities in Turkey experience significant hurdles in exercising their religion: Up until today, churches do not have a legal status. They are considered as foundations, whose rights are strictly regulated by the General Directorate for Foundations. Despite of the amendments on the law of foundation, minority foundations still face problems in the acquisition of properties and the building of new churches. Many congregations, monastery Mor Gabriel being the most popular example, still struggle with unlawful expropriations. The religious affiliation is clearly stated in the I.D. card opening the floodgates to harassment by state officials and policemen. Furthermore, the prohibition of the training of priests by non-Turkish citizens accompanied with the closing of several seminaries makes it almost impossible to train young priests.


Friday, November 12, 2010

Turkey's top religious official dismissed

The head of Turkey's Religious Affairs Directorate has been abruptly dismissed, local media reported Thursday.
Ali Bardakoglu ran the body for seven years. He will be replaced by his deputy, Mehmet Gormez.
'Radical changes are about to happen in the directorate's structure. Bardakoglu was replaced in the scope of these changes,' State Minister for Religion Faruk Celik was quoted as saying by the daily Milliyet.
Although secular, Turkey is deeply involved in religious life, with the directorate - known as Diyanet - responsible for managing some 78,000 mosques and a bureaucracy that is exceeded only by the military and the education system in terms of size and budget.
The Diyanet plays perhaps the most important role in shaping Turkish religious life.
In recent years, it has introduced various innovations, such as female preachers and deputy imams and a project to update the Hadith - a collection of the words and deeds of the prophet Mohammed.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Politicians and famous soccer player attend 10-year anniversary of a local church’s foundation

This weekend marks the 10th anniversary of the Altintepe Protestant Church Foundation. In what was celebrated as a "miracle of tolerance" by the leadership of the foundation, the anniversary was attended by many local dignitaries and a famous Christian soccer player from Brazil, who is currently playing for an Istanbul team. The program had many highlights, including a speech by Bobo, the Brazilian soccer player and different musical performances. Also in attendance were leaders from other Christian churches and several guests from outside of Turkey.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Christians in Turkey Acquitted of ‘Insulting Turkishness’

After four years of legal battle in a Turkish court, a judge acquitted two Christians of insulting Turkey and its people by spreading Christianity, but not without slapping them with a hefty fine for a spurious charge.

Four years ago this month, Turan Topal, 50, and Hakan Tastan, 41, started a legal battle after gendarmerie officers produced false witnesses to accuse them of spreading their faith and allegedly “insulting Turkishness, the military and Islam.”

At the Silivri court an hour west of Istanbul, Judge Hayrettin Sevim on Thursday (Oct. 14) acquitted the defendants of two charges that they had insulted the Turkish state (Article 301) and that they had insulted its people (Article 216) by spreading Christianity. Sevim cited lack of evidence.

He found them guilty, however, of collecting information on citizens without permission (Article 135) and sentenced them to seven months of imprisonment each. The court ruled that the two men could each pay a 4,500 lira (US$3,170) fine instead of serving time, said their lawyer Haydar Polat.

Tastan expressed mixed feelings about the verdicts.

“For both Turan and I, being found innocent from the accusation that we insulted the Turkish people was the most important thing for us, because we’ve always said we’re proud to be Turks,” Tastan said by telephone. “But it is unjust that they are sentencing us for collecting people’s information.”

At the time of their arrests, Topal and Tastan were volunteers with The Bible Research Center, which has since acquired official association status and is now called The Association for Propagating Knowledge of the Bible. The two men had used contact information that individuals interested in Christianity had volunteered to provide on the association’s website.

Administrators of the association stated openly to local authorities that their goal was to disseminate information about Christianity.

The two men and their lawyer said they will be ready to appeal the unjust decision of the court when they have seen the official statement, which the court should issue within a month. Polat said the appeal process will take over a year.

“Why should we have to continue the legal battle and appeal this?” asked Tastan. “We are not responsible for the information that was collected. So why are they fining us for this? So, we continue our legal adventure.”

Still, he expressed qualified happiness.

“We are free from the charges that we have insulted the Turkish state and the people of Turkey and we’re glad for that, but we are sorry about the court’s sentence,” Tastan said. “We’re happy on one hand, and sorry on the other.”

The court hearing lasted just a few minutes, said Polat.

“The judges came to the court hearing ready with their decision,” Polat said. “Their file was complete, and there was neither other evidence nor witnesses.”

Polat was hesitant to comment on whether the decision to convict the men of collecting private data without permission was because they are Christians. He did underline, however, that the court’s decision to fine the men was unjust, and that they plan to appeal it after the court issues an official written verdict.

“This was the court’s decision,” said Polat, “but we believe this is not fair. This decision is inconsistent with the law.”


Saturday, October 16, 2010

Turkish nationalists accused of killing bishop

Turkey's top Roman Catholic bishop has publicly accused Turkish ultra-nationalists and religious fanatics of being behind the slaying of the country's senior bishop in June.
Monsignor Luigi Padovese, the Vatican's apostolic vicar in Anatolia, was stabbed to death by his driver outside his home in Iskenderun on June 3, a day before he was to leave for Cyprus to meet Pope Benedict XVI.
The slaying shocked the Turkish church and cast a cloud over Benedict's visit. It was the latest in a string of attacks in recent years on Christians in predominantly Muslim Turkey, where Christians make up less than 1 percent of the 70 million population.
Turkish officials have insisted the slaying was personal and not religious or politically motivated, and the driver's lawyer has said the suspect had mental problems.
But the head of Turkey's bishops' conference, Monsignor Ruggero Francheschini, told a Vatican meeting Thursday that Padovese was the victim of "premeditated murder" by the same forces that Padovese had denounced for killing a priest in 2006 and three Christians in 2007.


Turkey's dwindling Orthodox Christians fear end is approaching

Andreas Zografos left Turkey in 1974 amid economic and political turmoil to find work in Europe, but he always knew he would return home.

"The ties of this land are strong. I was drawn back by the blue of the sea, the colour of the sky," he says.

A Greek Orthodox Christian, Zografos, 63, and his wife today tend to the 19th-century St Nicholas Church, where his grandfather painted vibrant icons, on Heybeliada, or Halki in Greek, an island off the Istanbul coast.

Heybeliada was home to a few thousand ethnic Greeks when he left, Zografos says. About 25 remain, part of a dwindling community of 2,500 Greeks in Istanbul, capital of the Greek Orthodox Byzantine Empire until the Ottoman conquest of 1453.

Istanbul, a city of 13 million Muslims, is still the seat of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, spiritual leader of the world's 250 million Orthodox.

"We are proud our patriarch is still here in the land where our faith began. This is holy land," Zografos says.

But vast numbers of Christians have left their ancient homeland and now make up just 0.13 percent of Turkey's population of 73 million people.

He remembers Sundays in the 1960s when the congregation would fill the basilica-style church and spill into the narthex.

"If I don't do this, who will?" says Zografos, who says he is not religious but feels a duty to serve his community.

"Soon there will be just one or two of us left on the island. I don't see anything else but the end."


Turkish State Minister calls Christians “gavur” (unfaithful)

The Chair of the Syriac Culture Association Yuhanna Aktas stated Turkish State Minister Faruk Celik should apologize to Christians for calling them gavur (an offensive ethnic slur used by Muslims in Turkey to describe all who are non-Muslim) in one of the TV programs several days ago.

Aktas sharply criticized Turkish Minister’s cynical statement, saying Celik insulted Christianity and should apologize to all Christians in Turkey.

This irresponsible statement proves what the Turkish Minister thinks of non-Muslims in Turkey. We fiercely criticize his attitude,” Aktas stressed.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Alevi sit-in protest to continue for 24 hours in Turkish capital

A sit-in organized by an Alevi group to protest against mandatory religion classes Saturday will continue for another 24 hours in the Turkish capital, daily Hürriyet reported on its website.

Around 2,000 people took part in the sit-in protest led by the Pir Sultan Abdal Cultural Institution in Ankara's Kızılay Square, where group leaders spoke out against a Constitution-mandated "religious culture and moral knowledge" class for primary and secondary schools.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Armenian Surb Harutyun church reopened in Istanbul

On October 7, the Armenian Surb Harutyun (Holly Resurrection) Church opened in Beyoglu district of Istanbul. The church was restored by the funds of the Istanbul community of Sisli.

Armenian Deputy Patriarch of Constantinople Archbishop Aram Ateshyan and Mayor of Sisli District Mustafa Sarigul attended the ceremony.

In his speech, the Turkish official said their aim is to ensure freedom of religion of all citizens, without national, religious and cultural discrimination.

According to him, the restoration of the church cost $ 150.000.


Turkey’s Protestants complain of state discrimination

Turkey discriminates against its Protestant community and fails to take action against hate speech targeting Christians, according to a report released by a church association Wednesday.

The Association of Protestant Churches report said one problem was public perception in the predominantly Muslim but secular country that "missionaries constitute a grave national threat and must be opposed."

"The Protestant community has been labeled as 'missionaries' and has, as a result, borne the brunt of being stigmatized and denounced over the last 20 years," said the group, which says it represents 85 percent of the 100 parishes in Turkey.

The report charged that Turkish media often portrayed Protestants as "illegitimate" and turned them into a "hate object," especially by targeting missionary activities.

"It is no coincidence that physical attacks against Protestants almost always follow negative news stories about Protestants in the media. Virtually none of these incendiary broadcasts targeting Protestants has resulted in the prosecution and conviction of those responsible for the broadcast," it said.

The association charged that missionary activities were also stigmatized in school textbooks and underlined that religious classes taught at school that focused mainly on Islam posed further problems. "To obtain exemption for their children, [Protestant] families are forced to tell what religion they are.

"Further, the children are put on display and, because they belong to a different religion, may encounter exclusion, derision and insults from friends and even from some teachers," it said.

Other grievances raised in the report include "restrictive decisions" by officials and "inadequate regulations" on the use of places of worship, restrictions on public employment and obstacles to training pastors.

The Protestant community says it has a congregation of between 3,000 and 3,500. Many of them are Muslim converts. In a 2007 attack that shocked the nation, three Protestants — a German and two Turkish converts — were murdered at a Christian publishing house in the eastern city of Malatya after they were tortured for hours.

Their murder followed the 2006 killing of a Catholic priest in the northern city of Trabzon on the Black Sea coast. "Security problems have decreased significantly as a result of security measures" taken after the killings, the report said.


Sunday, October 03, 2010

Can you open a church in Turkey?

Until amendments were made to the Zoning Law in 2003, it was highly debatable whether a place of worship other than a mosque could be opened or what the relevant practices and procedures to do this might be.

The relevant article of Zoning Law No. 3194 used to read as follows:

“In the development of zoning plans, the required places for mosques shall be designated, taking into account the conditions of the planned districts and regions and their future needs. Provided that the permission of the mufti is obtained and the zoning legislation is respected, mosques can be built in provinces, sub-provinces and towns. Places for mosques cannot be allocated for other purposes in violation of the zoning legislation.”

However, where it involves non-Muslims, what the law provides for, implementation takes away. This practice has been put to use in the case of regulations concerning places of worship. The zoning law amendment cited above has been rendered non-functional through the Implementation Guidelines.

Though the legal code permits it, for a variety of reasons, non-Muslims who want to open a place of worship face major obstacles. It is impossible for a church with a congregation of 30-40 persons to purchase a lot that is 2,500 meters squared and build a building on it. Further, the condition that permission be obtained from civilian authorities, because it does not include explicit criteria, is a regulation subject to arbitrary responses. In practice, municipalities have rejected requests that space be allocated and a multiplicity of bureaucratic obstructions have been encountered. Subsequent to the adoption of the amendments to the Zoning Law, dozens of applications have been submitted and denied; only a handful of applications have been successful. In theory it is possible for non-Muslims to have places of worship. In reality, this problem remains unsolved.

Click here to read more

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Friday, September 10, 2010

German church leaders urge concessions for Christians in Turkey

The president of Germany's Roman Catholic Bishops Conference has called on Muslims to do more to support religious freedom for Christians around the world, especially in Turkey, from where most German Muslims originate.

"We hope reflection on the faith will lead to the overcoming of tensions dividing Christians and Muslims," said Archbishop Robert Zollitsch. "But we should also remember the difficult situation facing Christians in the Middle East. The Catholic Church in Germany has publicly supported justified Muslim needs, and we count on Christians in Turkey soon being able to enjoy full religious freedom too."

The Archbishop sent greetings to Muslims, dated August 27, for the end of the traditional Ramadan fast in Germany. Three million mostly ethnic Turkish Muslims make up 3.5 per cent of Germany's population and are the third largest religious group after Catholics and Protestants.

At the same time, another German Catholic church leader welcomed a recent call by the Muslim head of Turkey's official religious council for Christians to be allowed to repossess a historic church at St Paul's birthplace of Tarsus.

"If this church were given back, it would be a signal for the whole world and German society in particular," Cardinal Joachim Meisner of Cologne said in a statement.

"Members of Turkey's government have made many promises to return it which have aroused hopes and then turned out to be illusory. But our church hierarchy has never abandoned the ancient Christian principle of hoping against hope."

Christian minorities have frequently complained of discrimination and hostility in Turkey, most of whose 71.5 million inhabitants are Sunni Muslims.


Thursday, September 09, 2010

Armenia Church To Boycott Landmark Mass In Turkey

Armenia's religious leaders have decided to boycott an upcoming landmark liturgy at a medieval Armenian cathedral located in southeastern Turkey because of Ankara's refusal to restore a cross on its dome, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Mass will be celebrated at the 10th-century church of Surp Khach (Holy Cross) for the first time in nearly a century on September 19, three years after the church was reopened following a $1.5 million renovation funded by the Turkish government. The government has allowed Turkey's surviving Armenian Christian community to hold religious services there once a year.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Murdered journalist Dink wins court case

The European Court for Human Rights has ruled in favour of the (murdered) Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink and his family. Dink filed the case almost four years ago. The Turkish state didn’t do enough to protect Dink’s life and didn’t respect Dink’s freedom of expression. The news appeared in several Turkish media outlets on Monday.

Sources say the verdict is set to be announced in September. Dink started the court case in January 2007, a week before he was killed in Istanbul by a young nationalist. Dink, who was known for his efforts to reconcile Turks and Armenians, was convicted of ‘insulting Turkishness’, and he wanted the European Court to overturn that conviction.

After his death his family went to the same court to sue the Turkish state for negligence: soon it became clear that many high-ranking police officers and security service personnel knew about the murder plans but took no action to prevent the murder. The Court heard both cases together.

The case has got a lot of renewed media attention in Turkey over the previous week. Last week the official defence sent to the Court by the Turkish state was leaked. It asserted that Dink incited hatred with his articles and referred to a case of the German state against a neo-Nazi. The comparison between Hrant Dink and a neo-Nazi angered many Turks.


Turkey's top religion official supports opening of St Paul's Church

Turkey's chief official for religious affairs Tuesday called for the reopening of the historic St Paul's Church in the birthplace of the saint in the south of the country, supporting a long-running Christian initiative.

In an interview to the Turkish daily Milliyet that was confirmed by his office, the Presidency of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) in Ankara, Ali Bardakoglu said: "I would prefer if the church was used as a church, not as a museum."

Turkey had the duty to ensure religious freedoms on its own territory, Bardakoglu said. He pointed out that there were more than 3,000 mosques in Europe, and that he was alarmed about the ban of minarets declared in Switzerland after a referendum in November 2009.

"If the place is a holy site for Christians and they want to conduct religious services there, then there is no reason for a ban," he said.

The church of St Paul's in Tarsus, a building dating back to the 12th century, was confiscated by Turkey in 1943 and used as a warehouse.

Religious freedom should be a two-way street, but is not in Islam

Though the subject of the Cordoba Mosque proposed for construction near ground zero in New York has been in the news for several weeks, recent comments by political leaders have brought new attention. The issue is fairly simple.

A group of Muslims want to build a multimillion-dollar mosque and multipurpose Islamic center just next to where the Twin Towers stood until Sept. 11, 2001. The proposed religious center would occupy a building that an engine from one of the airplanes struck, raising the argument that it should be protected as a historical site and not used for any private purpose.

But the real concern is that the construction of a mosque next to the ruins of the once world-famous icons of Western capitalism and strength destroyed by a team of highly committed Islamic jihadists simply endorses their success. Numerous writers have pointed out that historically, whenever Islam gains political, economic and military control over an area, it most often builds a mosque in a prominent place as a symbol of victory. (Think of the computer game, “Age of Empires.” In the final stage of empire development, the player can build a religious monument.)

Respect seemingly should be a two-way street. Recently while visiting some friends in Turkey (99.9 percent Muslim population) I was enjoying an evening of conversation and tea-drinking under a gazebo in the garden behind a bed and breakfast. The evening air was cool and clean, and I was quietly strumming my guitar. No problem, until the local mosque starting broadcasting the evening call to prayer. Still no problem. Few Turkish people actually drop what they are doing and go to their ritual prayers.

But a problem arose when another guest in the hotel informed me that all music should cease during the call to prayer. In other words, I should have stopped strumming my barely audible $50 acoustic guitar. But, I replied, I'm not a Muslim, and Turkey claims to have freedom of religion.

The guest said, “If I was in a church, I should respect what is going on there.”

“True,” I said, “but we are sitting in a garden behind a public hotel several blocks from the mosque. This isn't the mosque.”

In a recent poll in Turkey, 60 percent of the country said no religion other than Islam should be allowed. According to historical Islamic law, no church can be built near a mosque and no religion other than Islam is allowed to publicly practice or spread its beliefs.

From a global perspective, the problem is not so much what is happening in New York with the proposed mosque near ground zero. Its builders may or may not be consciously erecting it as a symbol of conquest. The problem is that in Islam respect almost always runs in one direction. The majority of Americans are usually willing to tolerate diversity of belief, and willing or not, our Constitution guarantees freedom of religion.

But what do you do with a “religion” that is also a political system? Islam never had the teaching to “give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's.” It has Shariah law that teaches, “Everything is Allah's, throne and pulpit, give everything to him.” That's what the word Islam means, submission to Allah. America will allow mosques in every city, village and hamlet, but don't expect the favor to be returned in Cairo or Medina or Pakistan.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

International Congregation of Agia Sophia Calls for Lift of the 557 Year-Old Blockade on Agia Sophia, The Great Christian Church in Istanbul, Turkey

International Congregation of Agia Sophia Calls for Lift of the 557 Year-Old Blockade on Agia Sophia, The Great Christian Church in Istanbul, Turkey | Business Wire
-Chris Spirou, President of the “International Congregation of Agia Sophia,”, has asked Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to return the ancient Basilica of Agia Sophia, the seat of Orthodox Christianity for over one thousand years, located in Istanbul, Turkey, to a functioning Orthodox Church.

According to the International Congregation of Agia Sophia, Agia Sophia, named for God’s holy wisdom, was violently and illegally seized by the Ottoman Turkish forces during the conquest of Constantinople in 1453. It was then converted into a mosque, its religious icons, frescos, and holy sites desecrated, and is currently a state-run museum.

“Lift the 557 year-old blockade on the holy Church of Agia Sophia - so we may pray in it,” said Mr. Chris Spirou, president of the International Congregation.

“Mr. Prime Minister - you and your government have it in your power to do the right thing, to undo the sacrilege of the seizure of our holy church, Agia Sophia, and return it to Orthodox Christians, which was and remains the center of worldwide Orthodox Christianity, just as the Vatican represents the locus of worldwide Catholicism.”

Friday, August 13, 2010

Thousands of Orthodox Christians to attend liturgy at monastery in Turkey

The Canadian Press: Thousands of Orthodox Christians to attend liturgy at monastery in Turkey
Local officials say thousands of Orthodox Christians from Greece, Russia and Georgia will attend mass to be held at a historic monastery in Turkey for the first time since 1923.

Turkish authorities have reopened the Byzantine-era stone monastery of Sumela near the Black Sea — built nearly 1,000 feet into the side of a mountain — for once-yearly worship.

Patriarch Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians, will hold the first liturgy there on Sunday.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Daily Pilgrimages to Akdamar if Border and Church Opened

Daily Pilgrimages to Akdamar if Border and Church Opened | HULIQ
The government of Turkey is set to allow the first church service on the island of Akdamar after its restoration. The monastery complex is a 10th century religious icon and expects thousands of Armenians from Istanbul, diaspora and from Armenia to attend what is expected to be a once a year service. Yet, one bold and visionary move by Turkey would make daily pilgrimages possible to Akdamar Armenian church.

Today this church has become a symbol of a struggling reconciliation process between Armenia and Turkey, which the latter conditions with Armenia's relations with Azerbaijan. Akdamar is a state museum and as a gesture the authorities say they will allow a church service on September 19 of this year.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Christians in Danger

For all the attention Turkey has gotten lately, very few Americans are aware that the Roman Catholic bishop serving as apostolic vicar of Anatolia was stabbed to death and decapitated last month by an assailant shouting, “Allahu Akbar! I have killed the great Satan!”

There are fewer than 60 Catholic priests in all of Turkey, and yet Bishop Luigi Padovese was the fifth of them to be shot or stabbed in the last four years, starting with the murder of Fr. Andrea Santoro in 2006, also by an assailant shouting, “Allahu Akbar!” (An Armenian journalist and three Protestants working at a Christian publishing house — one of them German, the other two Turkish converts — were also killed during this period.)

Christian children singled out in Turkey

There is a saying in Turkey: "To be Turkish is to be Muslim, and to be Muslim is to be Turkish."

This mindset has deep roots in the history of Turkey and originated in 1923. Just years before, the Ottoman Empire had collapsed in World War I at the hands of the Allied forces. With the help of other military officers, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk led a successful resistance against the Allies and formed the Republic of Turkey.

Since then, depending on the regime in power, Islam has held a varying degree of importance, but nonetheless, it has always been the nation's assumed religion.

Fast-forward to present day and a country where 99.8 percent of its inhabitants are Muslim, and the few Turks who do turn to Christ are misunderstood and ridiculed for their decision to leave Islam.

"There is kind of a mental conflict on how you can be a Christian and also a Turk, because that does not really compute with the thinking of most Turks. It's a secular society, but never forget there is this strong tie to being a Muslim," said Rody Rodeheaver of I.N. Network. With the current political party, "There has been more of a swing toward the idea of Islamic involvement in government and more of an Islamic role tied to the patriotism," he said.

Among Christians, it is often the children who bear the brunt of this misunderstanding, as they are often isolated at school and labeled "different."

Regulated by the government to attend public school, children are also required to take Islamic classes. Rodeheaver said, "It forces them to be singled out [and] be subjected to bullying by other students. They are embarrassed often by teachers who have a way of pointing out that these children do not believe in the Islamic faith."

After day in and day out of this treatment, Rodeheaver said children desire to leave the country as soon as they are old enough and attend university elsewhere.

However, I.N. Network wants to see these kids stay in the country and grow into strong Christians, spreading their faith in whatever they do in the future.

"It's our purpose as an organization, the I.N. Network in Turkey, to work very hard at helping to disciple the children and young people because they will become the leaders of tomorrow," Rodeheaver said. To do this and also give students refuge from the ridicule they receive at school, I.N. Network has children's ministry to encourage these kids. This ministry includes a summer camp for two weeks each summer, as well as holiday festivals for Christmas and Easter, since the country does not observe these holidays.

There, Christian kids do not feel singled out or different. Instead, they form friendships, worship, and share with like-minded youth.

Rodeheaver said summer camp is taking place right now with over 100 kids from between 25-30 different churches represented. When the session concludes, I.N. Network hopes the kids will leave feeling refreshed and rejuvenated, knowing they are not the only ones ostracized at school or at home, if they live in non-Christian homes.

Rodeheaver said they are still $5000 away from hitting their goal this year for summer camp. You can help out with a $100 scholarship to help a kid go to camp for a week. Click here to donate.

And pray. Pray for these kids to gain courage and understanding to help them stand up for their faith and not grow discouraged.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Christians and Muslims attend funeral of murdered bishop

Both Christians and Muslims from all over Turkey attended the funeral of murdered Bishop Luigi Padovese, apostolic vicar of Anatolia, in Iskanderun cathedral. Bishop Luigi was allegedly killed by his driver on 3 June.

In the homily delivered during celebration, Monsignor Ruggero Franceschini, archbishop of Smyrna, noted the passion that Monsignor Padovese had for Turkey and his love for the Turkish people. He said: “In the spirit of collaboration with local authorities on the day before he died, he met with them to discuss the issue of religious minorities in Turkey and to find ways of collaboration for the common good… With him, even we, right here, shall continue to pray such that upon this very Middle East the sky might become more serene, the hearts might find the road for peace, for a harmonious co-existence in the collaboration for the common good”.

Sümela service to popularize Trabzon as faith tourism destination

The Sümela Monastery, located in Trabzon province, will be open for worship for one day this year, with tourism professionals saying that the first service at the monastery could be the start of an influx of tourists traveling for faith-related purposes.

Turkish Association of Travel Agents (TÜRSAB) Black Sea regional executive board head Suat Gürkök said that Aug. 15 -- the Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos according to the Orthodox liturgical calendar (also known as the Assumption of Mary) -- is a very significant holy day for Christians.

Gürkök said the monastery is an important contribution to both the country and the region’s tourism. “Opening the monastery for services [for a day] will provide some important income, but for these earnings to be high plans should be made so that visitors will stay overnight. In general, foreign tourists arrive in the morning via plane or by ship and then leave that same night. Their economic contribution to the region would be more if the infrastructure was there to encourage them to spend the night.”

“Faith tourism is a very delicate type of tourism,” Gürkök said. “With the slightest mistake, the damage caused is much bigger than the benefits the tourism brings. Although there are certain risks to it and it is usually short-lived, faith tourism contributes to the region’s economy, albeit slightly. This year’s service will be the first trial run. I hope it goes wonderfully.”

He said normally 1,500 people attend illegal, unofficial services at the monastery, saying he expected this number to double or even triple this year. He said the monastery’s infrastructure was not adequate to fit more than a certain number of people. “If the number of people attending the service is too much, perhaps this should be limited, the same way there is a quota for the Muslim pilgrimage. This first service is very important, so we’ll have an idea for the following years.”


Thursday, June 03, 2010

Catholic bishop in Turkey murdered by driver

A Catholic bishop in southern Turkey was found stabbed to death Thursday and his driver arrested for the alleged murder, according to Turkish media reports.

Bishop Luigi Padovese, the Vicar Apostolic for the Anatolia region, was found dead in his summer home in the city of Iskendrun, in the Hatay region on Turkey's Mediterranean coast.

It was not immediately clear what the motive of the killing was.

The Hatay region is home to an ancient, but dwindling, community of Christians who have lived in the area since Roman times.

In recent years, nationalist extremists in Turkey on several occasions have attacked or kidnapped Christian clergymen in the country.

Luigi Padovese took up his post in Iskenderun in November 2004.


Friday, May 28, 2010

Trial over 'Insulting Turkishness' Again Yields No Evidence

The 11th hearing of a case of alleged slander against two Turkish Christians closed just minutes after it opened this week, due to lack of any progress.

Prosecutors produced no new evidence against Hakan Tastan and Turan Topal since the last court session four months ago. Despite lack of any tangible reason to continue the stalled case, their lawyer said, the Silivri Criminal Court set still another hearing to be held on Oct. 14.

“They are uselessly dragging this out,” defense lawyer Haydar Polat said moments after Judge Hayrettin Sevim closed the Tuesday (May 25) hearing.

Court-ordered attempts to locate and produce testimonies from two witnesses summoned three times now by the prosecution had again proved fruitless, the judge noted in Tuesday’s court record.

Murat Inan, the only lawyer who appeared this time on behalf of the prosecution team, arrived late at the courtroom, after the hearing had already begun.

“At this point, we are tired of this,” Tastan admitted. “If they can’t find these so-called witnesses, then the court needs to issue a verdict. After four years, it has become a joke!”

Topal added that without any hard evidence, “the prosecution must produce a witness, someone who knows us. I cannot understand why the court keeps asking these witnesses to come and testify, when they don’t even know us, they have never met us or talked with us!”

Both men would like to see the trial concluded by the end of the year.

“From the beginning, the charges against us have been filled with contradictions,” Topal said. “But we are entirely innocent of all these charges, so of course we expect a complete acquittal.”


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Turkey: update on trial of murderers of Christians

Turkish Christians request our continued prayers that:

a. Family members and friends of the victims will continue to know the peace of Jesus as the trial process continues

b. Justice will be done concerning the perpetrators, and that those behind them will be identified

c. There would be renewed international attention towards this trial

d. All those who aided or perpetrated the murders would have a deep conviction about what they have done, and understand the depths of Jesus' forgiveness

e. The judges, other officials, lawyers and journalists involved will hear the gospel of Jesus, feel the Spirit's conviction of sin and be drawn to the Father's love, forgiveness and acceptance

f. All Christians involved will know the Spirit's enabling, equipping and assisting as they persevere in their efforts to promote justice

Thursday, May 13, 2010

End of week key for Christians in Turkey

Mission Network News
Friday and Saturday are two dates central to Turkey's Malatya Christian bookstore murder trial.

On Friday, a judge is expected to decide if he'll combine this case with another uncovering a plot to destabilize the Turkish government. On Saturday, a verdict could be announced in the trial dealing with the vicious murders in 2007.

Rody Rodeheaver with IN Network says there are two hopes: one is for justice, and the other is for truth. "The Christians really hope that this case will be put to rest. By that, they mean the sentencing of these five individuals. But they also are praying that this case will influence some of the other things that are happening."

Turkish Christians Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel, and German Christian Tilmann Geske, worked at a publishing house that distributed Christian material in this southeastern Turkish city. They were found brutally murdered three years ago.

As the case began to wrap up, a hearing on April 21 brought new evidence to light that indicated the perpetrators may not have been acting on their own accord. According to Compass Direct News, prosecuting lawyers asked the judge to join the Malatya murder case to a plot called the "Cage Plan."

The Cage Plan is thought to be part of a "deep state" operation to destabilize the government. Lawyers presented evidence that corroborated a plan led by retired generals, politicians and other key figures. More disconcerting, the evidence indicated this plan also targeted Turkey's Christian minority leaders, as well as some of their children. Hearings for the Cage Plan are expected to begin on June 15.

At the moment, it seems things are in limbo. However, there's a "silver lining" from the scrutiny. Rodeheaver explains, "This case served to bring about the reality that the evangelical church is a legitimate entity and that it is not the cult that it was made out to be."

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Turkey Ignores Christians Delaying Armenian Patriarchal Election

Turkey Ignores Christians Delaying Armenian Patriarchal Election ...
The Armenian Patriarchate in Turkey has once again delayed the election of the community's Patriarch because the authorities in Istanbul do not give the appropriate go-ahead for the elections to take place.

Originally the elections of the Armenian Patriarch were scheduled for May 12. However, as Austrian Catholic Press Agency and DomRadio from Germany report, the election is postponed. The Turkish state has not yet approved the election.

The Interior Ministry of Turkey has not yet responded to the request made by the election committee of the Armenian Patriarch on January 14 of 2010. According to the Turkish regulations the Interior Ministry must give it's approval for a new patriarch to be elected in country's Christian churches: something unheard of in European Union member countries.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Turkey remains on religious freedom "Watch List"

"Serious limitations on the freedom of religion or belief continue to occur in Turkey. Turkey's active civil society, media, and political parties influence the climate for religious freedom and help define the debate about the appropriate role of religion in society. Turkey has a democratic government, and the country's constitution calls for the protection of the freedom of belief and worship and the private dissemination of religious ideas. Nonetheless, the Turkish government's attempt to control religion and its effort to exclude religion from the public sphere based on its interpretation of secularism result in serious religious freedom violations for many of the country's citizens, including members of majority and, especially, minority religious communities. The European Union (EU) continues to find that, despite some improvements since its 2001 bid to join the EU, "Turkey needs to make additional efforts to create an environment conducive to full respect for freedom of religion in practice." An additional factor influencing the climate during the past year includes the alleged involvement of state and military officials in the Ergenekon plot, which included alleged plans to assassinate the Greek Orthodox and Armenian Orthodox patriarchs and to bomb mosques."

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

'Noah's Ark' found atop Mount Ararat in Turkey, evangelical group claims

'Noah's Ark' found atop Mount Ararat in Turkey, evangelical group claims
Noah shepherded them through the flood, two by two, and ended up in Turkey.

That's what a group of Chinese and Turkish evangelical explorers is claiming, after having found what it says are pieces of the religious icon's famed boat on Mount Ararat.

"It's not 100% that it is Noah's Ark, but we think it is 99.9% that this is it," Yeung Wing-cheung, a Hong Kong documentary filmmaker, told AFP.

Wing-Cheung, a member of the 15-member team from Noah's Ark Ministries International, said the structure in which they got the wood had several compartments that were possibly used to store animals.

According to the Bible, Noah was tasked by God to build a giant ark after deciding to flood the world because humanity had become too corrupt.

Mount Ararat has long been believed to have been the final resting place of the ark, which according to be Bible, came to rest upon the top of a mountain.

Carbon dating shows that the wood the group recovered was 4,800 years old, which would put it around the time of the ark, the team claimed.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


EurasiaNet Eurasia Insight - Turkey: Thousands Make Pilgrimage to Christian Site on St. George's Day
Turkey is a secular Islamic country. But the Christian feast day of St. George is observed by thousands of Turkish women in a way that is completely unexpected.

Starting in the early morning on April 23, St. George’s Day, the dock area of the Kabatas section of Istanbul is packed for the 6:50 am ferry running to the island of Büyükada, lying about 30 kilometers from Istanbul. The island is home to the 12th century Greek monastery of St. George, which sits perched hundreds of meters above sea level on top of one of the islands hills.

No one can provide a clear explanation of how the tradition began. What is known is that thousands now make the pilgrimage every year to offer up prayers for health and material success.

Those who made the pilgrimage this St. George’s day were a mix of Turkish women, dressed in a wide array of secular and Islamic attire. On the island, a mixture of good luck charms, multi-coloured candles and cotton threads stretched from the bottom of the hill to the top; the colours signified the nature of the requests regarding, jobs, marriage or children; green for peace and money, red for love, and so on. It took pilgrims about 45 minutes to make the 1.5-kilometer uphill trek to the monastery.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Today is a Day of Prayer set aside for Turkey, Don't Forget to Pray!

To Church Leaders and Christians Worldwide,

From the body of Christ in Turkey, to our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world, grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Greetings from the church in Turkey – from the land of Noah, of Abraham, of Paul, of Ararat and Harran, of Antioch, Ephesus, Galatia, of the Seven Churches of Revelation……… Yet today, the body of Christians in our land is less than 0.1% of the population of 72 million.

We are writing to you on behalf of the leaders of the church in Turkey to ask for your churches. We greatly desire that you would join the small congregations of Turkey along with many churches worldwide to give 2-3 minutes to prayer for Turkey in your churches on Sunday April 18, 2010.

In 2009 we asked the world to join us each year for a 'Global Day of Prayer for Turkey' on April 18, the day in 2007 when 3 of our brothers were tortured and brutally murdered in the town of Malatya.

New video reveals Islamic activists carried notes: 'They were attacking our religion'

Fear of 'missionaries' blamed for martyrdom of 3 Christians
A new video about the martyrdom of three Christian workers at the hands of Islamic activists in Turkey reveals that while the government's case against the alleged killers continues in turmoil and confusion, the Christian community in the Muslim nation views the tragedy as the will of God.

"Malayta," available now as the April 18 third anniversary of the deaths approaches, is from Austin Stone Community Church, Voice of the Martyrs and Family Christian Movies. It tells the story of the martyrdom of Necati Aydin, Tilman Geske and Ugur Yuksel. The three, who were working at a Christian publishing house, had agreed to meet with several young Muslim men who expressed interest in the Bible.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Three-year trial for murders of Christians finally ending

Mission Network News
The Turkish church has called on people everywhere to join with them in prayer.

"One of the things that has emerged from this is a global day of prayer for Turkey, which was started a year ago to commemorate the deaths of these young men. But it has been broadened to call attention to the fact that God is at work in Turkey through His church."

Rodeheaver says Turkey is a launching pad for the spread of the Gospel. Its geographical location makes it an intersection for several countries hostile to the message of Christ. It has naturally become a peaceful harbor and meeting place for Christians due to its republic form of government. Turkey has become extremely important to the mission field in the Middle East in general.

Turkish judges to decide whether to join ‘Cage’ with Malatya killings

Turkish judges to decide whether to join ‘Cage’ with Malatya killings - Hurriyet Daily News and Economic Review
Judges hearing a case about the murders of three Christians in Malatya in 2007 announced Thursday a decision to consider whether to merge the trial’s file with the “Cage Action Plan” case, which is scheduled to open on June 15.

The “Kafes” (Cage) Action Plan called for the bombing of a museum during a student visit, and also termed the killings of three missionaries, the murder of Hrant Dink, a Turkish journalist of Armenian origin, and the murder of Priest Andrea Santoro in Trabzon as “operations.”

The judges will now decide whether to combine the cases and will make their announcement at the trial’s next hearing on May 14.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Turkey's Christians Emboldened after Martyrdom

Turkey's Christians Emboldened after Martyrdom - World - CBN News - Christian News 24-7 -
Three years ago, a brutal slaying of three Christians in Malatya, Turkey, shook believers there.

Many believed the murders would stop the gospel in the Muslim nation. But a small, vibrant Christian community has worked to ensure that doesn't happen.

The horrifying attack has left its mark on the evangelical community.

Pastor Carlos Madrigal says many Turkish believers have received threats over the years, but they never expected to see such an act of violence against fellow believers.

Now, they're much more aware of the risks of being Christian in a Muslim-dominated society.

"For years, we have seen people coming to the church sometimes asking for financial help thinking that if they become Christians, they will get a passport, or best job, or things like that," Madrigal said.

"But now, after the Malatya murders, we saw that people coming are taking seriously, or considering seriously, what it means to become a Christian and it helps at some level to purify the church in Turkey."

"People are coming again to the church as maybe two, three years before again with a thirst for Christ," Madrigal said. "I believe that the seeds planted through the martyrs will bring great fruit in this country."

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Turkey's religious head calls for worship freedom for Muslims in Europe

Turkey's religious head calls for worship freedom for Muslims in Europe [ WORLD BULLETIN- TURKEY NEWS, WORLD NEWS ]
Ali Bardakoglu, head of the Directorate of Religious Affairs, said on Tuesday that members of different religions could worship according to the requirements of their beliefs.

"The churches should be open for worship and religious ceremonies. It is their natural right," Bardakoglu said in an exclusive interview with the A.A correspondent.

Bardakoglu said religious minorities in Turkey should not feel themselves as second class citizens and underlined importance of worship and religious education according to their religious rules and principles.

Bardakoglu said restriction of religious freedoms would lead to uneasiness, indicating that freedoms were the main elements of social peace.

Bardakoglu said religious minorities living on this territory had never faced second class treatment throughout the history. "Turkey should not be a country where members of different religions experience problems with religious freedoms. Actually, Turkey is not such a country."

Alevi leaders in court for teaching faith to children in southern Turkey

Alevi leaders in court for teaching faith to children in southern Turkey - Hurriyet Daily News and Economic Review
“As citizens of the Turkish Republic, we want an answer to this question: Do we need permission to teach own beliefs to our children?” asked Hasan Atıcı, a member of the Adana Alevi Culture Research Foundation, or AKAD, during a press conference held outside the court building. “As we have done in the past, we will continue to teach our children our beliefs.”

Also speaking at the press conference, lawyer Kemal Derin said discrimination against the Alevi faith is routine in every corner of the country. “Here we are with our religious leaders, who are being subjected to this discrimination,” Derin said. “Children of Alevis are forced to learn about the [Sunni faith] at schools through compulsory religious education.”

Armenians were provocated by American missionaries

This is a common view in Turkey, and is fairly widely held across class and education levels.
Armenians were provocated by American missionaries
Giving a lecture entitled "Influence of American missionaries on Armenian nationalism" Assistant Professor Doctor Gökhan Dalyan said that American missionaries had an important role in the initiation nationalist movements in Armenian society from the begining of 19th century. "Armenians were very similar to Turkish community with their social and cultural approachs and with their traditions in the period of Ottomans," said he.
Stating that Armenians lived an ordinary life in the different regions of Anatolia till 19th century, Dalyan said that the idea of nationalism became stronger after 19th century as American missionaries intensified their efforts. Stating that missionaries attached importance to the Armenian language for spreading "Armenian nationalism", Dalyan said, "With the schools they opened for Armenians, they wanted to establish a unity of language. They educated children of different poor families in these schools and they spread Armenian nationalism. Those schools gave many "komitadji" graduates."
"Churches started to use the ordinary people's Armenian dialect in religious ceremonies, instead the Armenian language that nobles were using," said he.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Minister Bağış congratulates Christians on Easter

Minister Bağış congratulates Christians on Easter
In his message, Turkish State Minister & Chief Negotiator for EU Talks Egemen Bağış said, "I am happy to share the feelings of tolerance and unity on such a feast that connects people to one another with their beliefs. I hope our Christian citizens have a happy and peaceful feast day together with their families".

Earlier in the day, a religious ceremony was held at Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Istanbul to mark the Easter.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Christians, Muslims, empathy

by Orhan Kemal Cengiz

I am always struck by this enormous lack of empathy in Turkey. People cannot go out of their own identities; they do not try to feel what other people may be feeling under certain circumstances. Maybe each time I should give them some examples in which they themselves would appear as victims. How would a devout Muslim feel if his son was forced to make the “sign of the cross” in a mandatory religious lesson in a European country after he has explained that he is actually Muslim? Would his father accept that his son should tolerate this behavior because Christianity is the prevailing religious belief in that country? I don’t think this would happen.

In Turkey many things happen to non-Muslims which would drive Muslims crazy if the same things happened to them in a non-Muslim country. In spite of the lack of any legal provision criminalizing religious propaganda, Christian missionaries in Turkey have been arrested, interrogated and even put into jail for just trying to introduce their religious beliefs.

In the year 2000, Necati Aydın and Ercan Şengül were taken into custody while distributing Bibles and were arrested by the court in Kemalpaşa, İzmir. When I was looking at their file, something immediately struck me. There was a list of documents and publications seized from their houses and vehicles, and these materials were listed as “evidence of crime.” “Bibles” were amongst them. What would happen if this had occurred in a Christian country and the Quran was listed as “evidence of crime”?

This lack of empathy, which is partly caused by our cultural codes and partly because of the injection of nationalist sentiment into religious identities, is at the same time the biggest obstacle to understanding how the political system functions in Turkey. These two Christians became victims of a trap set by “deep state” elements back then. Şengül was interrogated by people who introduced themselves as members of JİTEM (an illegal extension of the gendarmerie) when he was arrested in Kemalpaşa. However, no one paid any attention to the details of this incident in the year 2000. Seven years later, Aydın was killed in a barbaric way in Malatya along with two other victims whose only crime was being Christian. Once again “the deep state” was in the background.

Because of this lack of empathy toward different identities, Turkish people have never fully understood the root causes of state-sponsored crimes and the general framework within which these deep state elements operate in Turkey. They never questioned how they were used by these deep state elements to oppress other groups.

You cannot understand today’s “deep state” in Turkey if you do not understand Teşkilat-ı Mahsusa (an Ottoman intelligence agency), which orchestrated Armenian massacres. If you do not understand the insidious plans aimed at totally destroying the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Turkey, you cannot understand how plans were being prepared to “finish off the [Justice and Development Party] AKP and the Gülen movement”; without understanding the “wealth tax” (1942), which aimed to rob non-Muslims, and the Sept. 6-7, 1955 pogroms, you cannot understand Ergenekon’s “Cage plan,” which targeted Christians to destroy the devout Muslim prime minister.

A lack of empathy is the root cause of your poor vision, which prevents you from understanding your own country and yourself. What you need to do is too simple: Each time you should ask yourself how would you feel if you were in this or that person’s situation. All you need is to have a little empathy. It will make huge difference when you have it!

Full Article

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Turkey permits religious rite at Armenian church

Turkey permits religious rite at Armenian church [ WORLD BULLETIN- TURKEY NEWS, WORLD NEWS ]

A religious rite may take place once every year at eastern province of Van's Akdamar Church upon a proposal by the Van Governorship and approval by the Turkish Minister of Culture and Tourism Ertugrul Gunay.

The rite at the Akdamar Church may take place each year in the second week of September.

Governor of Van Munir Karaloglu said that the decision to permit a rite at Akdamar Church will boost faith tourism in the region and provide important advantages for those in the tourism sector.

Akdamar is an Armenian church located on Akdamar Island in Lake Van. The church was restored recently.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

AKP ministers differ over Halki seminary opening

AKP ministers differ over Halki seminary opening - Hurriyet Daily News and Economic Review
The Turkish government issued conflicting signals on the long-debated opening of the Halki seminary Thursday, with one deputy prime minister announcing the government has decided to open the facility as another said it is impossible without constitutional change.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Official: 57 dead in earthquake in eastern Turkey

Please be in prayer, for the people of this province.  Pray that local believers would fine opportunity to help.

The Associated Press: Official: 57 dead in earthquake in eastern Turkey
An official says the death toll in the strong earthquake that hit eastern Turkey has reached 57.

A mayor says 57 people have died in the quake that struck six villages in Elazig province.

The quake struck Elazig at 4:32 a.m. (0232 GMT) and was centered near the village of Basyurt. It was followed by several aftershocks, including one measuring 5.5.

The quake was felt in the neighboring provinces of Tunceli, Bingol and Diyarbakir, where residents fled to the streets in panic and spent the night outdoors.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Coup attempts to overturn government; provides opportunities for the Gospel instead

Mission Network News
According to Israel National News, over 200 people were arrested for alleged involvement in the recent military coup to overthrow the Turkish government. Perpetrators included high ranking generals and politicians.

Several reports say that the secularist coup had been in the making since 2003 when the Justice and Development (AK) party came to power. Sources go on to say that the coup planned to bomb several mosques, and that a staged conflict with Greece was underway in order to justifiably overturn the mostly Muslim government.

Although Christians were not directly involved in this conflict, Behnan Konutgan with I.N. Network in Turkey says they were originally a target of the coup.

"These plans to overthrow the regime also included plans to kill and persecute Christians so that they could blame the Islamic party," says Konutgan. Fortunately these threats were extinguished by the Turkish government, which has been protecting Turkish Christians. Konutgan says Christians are in no real danger at this time.

However, believers do have a role to play in the wake of this uprising. Fighting between groups has been going on for over 30 years, according to Konutgan. This unrest is causing a country comprised of 99 percent Muslims to reevaluate.

"People are really tired of this [unrest]," notes Konutgan. "This political unrest leads people to question what they have always believed, and they are searching for answers. This situation opens a door for Muslims to think about Christ."

Christians have the opportunity to share their faith as Turks search out truth after the upheaval. Konutgan believes many will take that opportunity, but asks that all believers pray.

"Pray that all church members will be prepared to take every opportunity to glorify God and reach the people of Turkey with the salvation of Christ."

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Baseless Case Against Turkish Christians Further Prolonged

Baseless Case Against Turkish Christians Further Prolonged
Barely five minutes into the latest hearing of a more than three-year-old case against two Christians accused of “insulting Turkishness and Islam,” the session was over.

The prosecution had failed to produce their three final witnesses to testify against Hakan Tastan and Turan Topal for alleged crimes committed under Article 301 of the Turkish penal code. The same three witnesses had failed to heed a previous court summons to testify at the last hearing, held on Oct. 15, 2009.

This time, at the Jan. 28 hearing, one witness employed in Istanbul’s security police headquarters sent word to inform the court that she was recovering from surgery and unable to attend. Of the other two witnesses, both identified as “armed forces” personnel, one was found to be registered at an address 675 miles away, in the city of Iskenderun, and the other’s whereabouts had not yet been confirmed.

So the court issued instructions for the female witness to be summoned a third time, to testify at the next hearing, set for May 25. The court ordered the witness in Iskenderun to submit his “eyewitness” testimony in writing to the Iskenderun criminal court, to be forwarded to the Silivri court. No further action was taken to summon the third witness.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Assailant in Street Attack in Turkey Ordered Released

An Istanbul court has ordered the release of a jailed Turk who publicly threatened and held a knife to the throat of a Christian he attacked six months ago. In a ruling on Wednesday (Feb. 10), the Kadikoy Seventh Court of First Instance convicted Yasin Karasu, 24, of making death threats and mounting an armed attack against Ismail Aydin. Shouting to attract passersby as he held a knife to Aydin’s throat on Aug. 3, Karasu had denounced the Christian as a “missionary dog” who had betrayed Turkey by leaving Islam and evangelizing others. The crime is punishable by four years in prison, but Justice Tahsin Dogan ruled that Karasu should be released unconditionally, without serving the remainder of his sentence. “It seems that the judge did not take into account at all that this crime was committed with religious hostility,” one member of the legal committee of Turkey’s Association of Protestant Churches told Compass. “That, in my view, should have aggravated the crime and sentence.”

Court blocks religious college proposal

turkey: Court blocks religious college proposal
Turkey’s highest administrative court has ruled against a government-backed move to make it easier for students from religious training colleges to go to university, the Anatolia news agency has reported.
The Council of State blocked the implementation of a proposal made in December by the Higher Education Board (YOK) to change the way study marks are assessed, the agency said.
The YOK wanted to change the coefficients applied to the grades of students from religious colleges, called Imam Hatip schools, which currently make it difficult for them to get on university courses other than theology.
Imam Hatip schools are state-run establishments that train imams, and defenders of Turkey’s secular system sometimes accuse them of being breeding grounds of Islamism.
In November the Council of State blocked a similar proposal from the YOK that was hailed at the time by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose Justice and Development Party has its roots in a now-banned Islamist movement.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Overwhelmingly negative attitudes toward Jews in Islamic countries

World Jewish Congress
A survey of attitudes has found that the populations of nearly all predominantly Muslim countries hold a negative attitude toward Jews. The Pew Research Center’s survey, which was carried out in mid-2009 in 25 countries, found that 98 percent of Lebanese, 97 percent of Jordanians and Palestinians and 95 percent of Egyptians hold an unfavorable view of Jews. However, only 35 percent of Israeli Arabs said they disliked Jews. In Turkey, the figure jumped from 32 percent in 2004 to 73 percent in 2009.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

European court rules against religion box in ID cards

European court rules against religion box in ID cards
Listing religions on identity cards, whether obligatory or optional, is in violation of human rights, the top European human rights court ruled on Tuesday in case filed by a Turkish citizen who is a member of the Alevi community.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Head of Religious Affairs expresses support for Halki Seminary reopening

Bardakoğlu expresses support for Halki Seminary reopening
Bardakoğlu said in an interview with the NTV news channel that as a Muslim and the head of Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate he supports everyone’s religious freedom. “We should act ethically and be principled on this issue. Our ancestors opened the Halki Seminary in İstanbul. I have always been in support of the religious freedom of all religious groups in our country,” he said.

Touching upon another controversial issue surrounding religious freedom in Turkey, Bardakoğlu said that a former Roman Catholic church in Tarsus, which was confiscated by the state in 1943 and is now a museum, should be turned back into a house of worship.

Rather than remaining a museum, St. Paul’s Church should be reopened as a church, Bardakoğlu said. “Let churches remain churches and mosques, mosques. People should be able to openly express their religions or irreligiousness. Atheists should also be able to live freely in this society. This does not mean that we approve of atheism. We should also demand the same freedoms for Muslims.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Ancient Christianity in Turkey

America Magazine
The strange thing about studying early Christianity in Turkey is that there are not a lot of Christians left in Turkey, the lands that were home to so much of the earliest growth and development of Christianity and the location of all seven of the first Ecumenical Councils. As we discuss how Christianity displaced, person by person, century by century, the pagan gods that predominated the Mediterranean Basin prior to the rise of Christianity, we reflect in our course on how it could even take place at all. How could a mission started by Paul, John, Barnabas, Peter, Timothy, Priscilla, Lydia and others have any success? We focus a lot on the movement of the Holy Spirit, on the experience of Jesus Christ. The ancients were not looking for gods, necessarily, but they were looking for hope and salvation. If the conversion of these lands and people is a sign of God's powerful work, what does it mean when these lands converted by the Christians are no longer Christian lands?

Pope calls on Turkey to give church legal recognition

Religion News: Pope calls on Turkey to give church legal recognition
Pope Benedict XVI has called on Turkey to give legal recognition to the Roman Catholic Church in the Muslim-majority but politically secular nation, which has been criticized for its treatment of religious minorities as it seeks to join the European Union.

Receiving Kenan Gursoy, the new Turkish ambassador to the Vatican last week (Jan. 7), Benedict said Catholics appreciated the freedom of worship, "guaranteed by the constitution" in Turkey. However, he added that "civil juridical recognition" would help the church, "to enjoy full religious freedom and to make an even greater contribution to society."

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Dutch TV: The miserable fate of Christians in "moderate" Turkey

The Jawa Report: Dutch TV: The miserable fate of Christians in "moderate" Turkey
Muslims in the West constantly squeal about the supposed intolerance and mistreatment in Europe and the US. Switzerland, for example, recently imposed a ban on the construction of minarets. There were angry reactions in many Islamic countries, including Turkey. But what happens when the shoe is on the other foot? How tolerant are Turks towards the Christian minority in their own country? Follow the link to see the video report.

Turkey Christians disappointed: government won’t protect them

Turkey Christians disappointed: government won’t protect them

Hopes for improvements in the rights of religious communities in Turkey in 2009 have once more come to nothing, notes Otmar Oehring of the German Catholic Charity Mission in a commentary for Forum 18 News Service.

Alevi Muslims broke off formal talks with the government over denial of their rights. A high-profile lunch with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in August 2009, attended by five religious minority leaders, including Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, was followed by a visit to two Greek Orthodox sites. But no concrete improvements ensued.

Intolerance promoted by Turkey's mainstream media has markedly reduced, but local and ultranationalist newspapers and websites still promote such intolerance. No verdict was reached in 2009 in the long-running trial over the 2007 murder of three Protestants in Malatya, or over the long-running attempts to prosecute two Protestants accused of "defaming Islam". Dr Oehring argues for a fundamental change in the attitudes of both society and the government.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Small 'home church’ survives in Istanbul

Small 'home church’ survives in Istanbul - Hurriyet Daily News and Economic Review
Unlike Turkey’s Christian communities that often belong to a certain Christian sect, one church founded mostly by Turkish converts from Islam eschews any denominational categorization. A member of the community says other Christian groups are far from the true path of Christianity. The church has asked the government for land, a building and security, but so far its request has gone unanswered

In the middle of Istanbul, there is a “home church” with people from various parts of the world praying together in joy. Composed of worshippers from around the world, there are Turks, Kurds, Japanese, Chinese, Brits and Canadians inside.
This “church,” on the entrance floor of an apartment building, is connected to the basement by some stairs. The community goes downstairs to the kitchen after the service to have soup or tea and chat with fellow parishioners.
The “home church” is called Dirisu and was named after a Bible verse. Its doors were opened to the community with the permission of the Istanbul Governor in 1999.

Almost all of the church’s founding members were Turks or Kurds and came from Muslim families. The church’s elders – in reference to their founding membership in the church rather than their age – said they are generally people who became Christian in their 30s because of an inner emptiness.

Baydemir and his family from the Pervari district of Siirt in Southeast Anatolia were Catholic, yet he never saw a church building before he turned 20, only encountering one in Mardin during the 1960s.

“We were one of the few Christian families in Siirt but they alienated us because of our beliefs,” said Baydemir. “I am not blaming anyone because they were ignorant.” When asked why he chose to be a missionary instead of following Catholicism, Baydemir said: “All the churches, including the Catholic Church, are full of rules. I had an undefined emptiness inside me; I filled it at this church. I have learned that Christianity is not only a denomination but a lifestyle.”

Sunday, January 03, 2010

One perspective on religious freedom in Turkey

Religious minorities face no discrimination in Turkey, says head of religious affairs - Hurriyet Daily News and Economic Review
The head of Turkey's Directorate of Religious Affairs said on Saturday he did not believe that religious minorities living in Turkey faced any problems regarding their religious services and practices or the training and appointment of their religious leaders.

"However, if there are any problems, they should be solved," said Ali Bardakoğlu, president of the Directorate of Religious Affairs, in an exclusive interview with the Anatolia news agency.

Bardakoğlu also said that the issue of reopening the Halki seminary should be solved within the context of freedom of religion.

Expressing his directorate's support for religious freedoms, Bardakoğlu said, "If we only respect those who think and believe like us, we will turn life on earth to hell."

Bardakoğlu also said, everybody had the right to exercise the belief they wanted.