Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Church firebombed in Ankara

Please pray for the Church of Turkey, as they face increasing persecution.

"On April 21, 2005 the International Protestant Church of Ankara (IPCA)
in Cigdem suffered minor damage following an overnight fire caused by
small molotov cocktails thrown through a window by unknown assailants.
The firebombing occurred after the church had received threatening
e-mail messages purportedly from a group that has been violent in the
past. It is not known whether the fire and the e-mails are related.
Turkish police are currently conducting an investigation.

Since the beginning of the year there have been a number of threats
and minor vandalism against religious facilities at various locations
around Turkey. This uptick in threats and vandalism is occurring
during a period of increased focus by the Turkish media and government
on missionary activity in Turkey."


"The country of Turkey is predominantly Muslim and the majority of Turks have never heard the message of salvation through Christ. Normally, missionaries must work undercover, and most cities and villages have no resident Christian witness.

"I would like to invite you to send Gospel Letters to Turkey," says Steve Hagerman of Turkish World Outreach in an e-mail to ministry supporters obtained by ASSIST News Service (ANS).

By sending Gospel Letters prepared in their language, you can reach Turks in even the most remote areas of their nation, says Hagerman.

"The letters clearly explain the way of salvation in terms that Muslims understand. A free New Testament and 'Jesus Film' video are offered; and those who respond will be followed-up by dedicated Christian workers inside the country."

If you choose to become a Gospel Letter Volunteer, Turkish letters with addresses and instructions will be sent to you at no charge, Hagerman said.

"You will also receive a translation (of the letter). Your role will be to supply envelopes for the letters, address them (they use the Latin alphabet), affix postage and then mail them. At present, US Airmail to Turkey is 80 cents per letter. Volunteers normally send ten letters per month to Turkey, and we supply them in bi-monthly packets of twenty letters sent by bulk mail in the US."


Thursday, April 21, 2005

Turkey Braces Itself for Benedict's Papacy

"Many Turks fear forces that want to block their nation's entry to the European Union may find a powerful new champion: Pope Benedict XVI.

"Anti-Turkish pope," said the headline of the Cumhuriyet newspaper on Wednesday, the day after Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger's selection as pontiff.

"He was Turkey's last choice," said the newspaper Radikal.

The consternation stems largely from comments Benedict made in his previous role as the Vatican's doctrine chief on the nature of multiculturalism and specifically about Turkey's European aspirations. "Multiculturalism," he said, amounts to "fleeing from what is one's own."

And in an interview last year with the French magazine Le Figaro, he suggested that Turkey's bid to join the Europe Union conflicted with Europe's Christian roots. "Turkey has always represented a different continent, in permanent contrast to Europe," he was quoted as saying.

For many people in Turkey, which has staked its future on being part of a religiously diverse Europe, Ratzinger's selection seemed like a dire setback."

Turkey Braces Itself for Benedict's Papacy

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Turkey's Prime Minister Employs Thousands Of Islamic Fundamentalists

"Turkey has been employing thousands of Islamic fundamentalists in violation of its secular constitution.

An opposition parliamentary faction has accused Prime Minister Recep Erdogan of enabling the employment of thousands of Muslims who oppose Turkey as a secular state. The faction said the Islamic fundamentalists have entered all areas of government, including the Education Ministry.

"We can say that thousands of anti-secularists have been employed by the state in accordance with the government's wishes," Ali Topuz, deputy chief of the opposition Republican People's Party, said.

Erdogan has supported the relaxation of rules that had prevented so-called anti-secularists from entering government, Middle East Newsline reported.
At a news conference on April 11, Topuz cited Omer Dincer, the undersecretary of the Prime Minister's office. Topuz said Dincer has called for the toppling of the secular Turkish republic.

"No one can say he is not anti-secularist, because he himself wrote that the principles of the republic needed to be replaced," Topuz said."
Turkey's Prime Minister Employs Thousands Of Islamic Fundamentalists :: The Watchman Herald :: Daily News Online Newspaper, Christian Web Site, Church of Christ Ministry

Thursday, April 14, 2005

American Congressman Applauds Turkish Efforts on Religious Freedom

"Turkey's current government has taken "significant steps" in support of religious liberties, according to Christopher H. Smith, the co-chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, who addressed a hearing on religious freedom in Turkey April 12.

Smith, a Republican congressman from New Jersey, said he applauded Turkey's efforts to bring its legal system into conformity with Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) commitments on religious freedom. However, "there are important areas still requiring close attention and urgent action," he added, citing in particular Turkey's system of regulating religious groups, the loss of important religious properties through government expropriations, and the difficulties meeting openly that protestant and evangelical groups are experiencing."
.: US News :. .: All American Patriots :.

Scholars gather in Ankara for unity of Islam, Christianity

"Christianity and Islam constantly accuse each other. But they should try not to do so for the sake of a better world and future," said Asefi. "The location chosen for the conference is also significant since Ankara is a place located between the Islamic and Christian worlds, and has the ability to understand the two divine religions. We should keep in mind that the essence of monotheistic religions is stability and justice. Therefore, we should promote interfaith cooperation to attain friendship and unity. The existence of diversity should be unified through peaceful coexistence, something lacking these days. If we construct a dialogue on common points and exclude differences, we could attain peace and prosperity. This conference is therefore important since scholars, intellectuals and politicians will be able to expand the climate of friendship and understanding."

JTW News - Scholars gather in Ankara for unity of Islam, Christianity

Wednesday, April 13, 2005


Here's a recap of a story from a couple of weeks ago that some of you missed:

"A Turkish state minister warned that missionary activities are being driven by ulterior political motives, undermining the peace and unity of Turkish society.

“The goal of those activities is harming the cultural, religious, national and historical unity of the people of Turkey,” said Mehmet Aydin, the state minister overseeing the Religious Affairs Directorate, as reported by the Turkish Daily News. “These are not merely religious activities and they are not only carried out by Christian clerics,” he noted.

Aydin said government officials have observed doctors, nurses, engineers, Red Cross officials, human rights defenders, peace activists and language tutors conducting missionary activities. “Rather than being instances of enjoying freedom of belief and conveying religion, missionary activities are well-planned pursuits with ulterior political motives,” he noted."

"While Turkey is officially a secular state, the population is about 99 percent Muslim. It remains one of the largest unreached nations in the world, with many who have never heard the gospel. A small minority of Christians faces persecution in a variety of forms: social exclusion, harassment, arbitrary arrests, and disruption of church services.

There are over 50 missions agencies active in Turkey, employing more than 400 expatriates from 20 countries, according to Operation World.

“One of the most common charges is that the American government is paying missionaries and they are all working for the CIA,” says Steve Hagerman, founder of Turkish World Outreach. To Hagerman’s knowledge, there are no Christian workers in Turkey on the payroll of the American government. “The CIA itself has strongly stated it will never use missionaries,” he says.

Unfortunately, these charges appear regularly in the Turkish media. “There is a great deal of yellow journalism in the most reputable Turkish newspapers,” Hagerman notes. “None of the missionaries are there as secret agents of any kind.”

Hagerman sees a power struggle going on politically between those who want to see Turkey join the European Union, and those who want to maintain the status quo. If Turkey joins the EU, they will have to undergo reforms that would threaten the ruling political elite. Therefore, these same people—mostly secular Muslims—are stoking the fires of radical Islam to undermine any reform movement.

“I don’t think there would be a single Christian worker in Turkey who would want to undermine the government,” Hagerman notes. “We want them to choose Christianity of their own free will.”


Erdogan: No Religion Permits Killing Of People

"Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday that no religion tolerate the killing of people or terrorist actions."

"Noting that ''terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, human trafficking and drug smuggling, racism, xenophobia, and environmental problems were the biggest threats on security and freedom in today's world'', Erdogan said that ''particularly terrorism was an international scourge as terror could hit anybody and any country without distinction''. Erdogan stressed that Turkey was a country which has the highest number of deaths due to terrorism in the world, adding that Turkey always felt itself alone in its fight against terrorism. ''International cooperation against terrorism is a must'', Erdogan indicated."

Erdogan: No Religion Permits Killing Of People

Monday, April 11, 2005

Turkish PM cautions police over rights violations

"Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday urged the often heavy-handed Turkish police to respect civil liberties, warning that the European Union was closely watching the country as it bids for membership in the bloc, Anatolia news agency reported.

"At a time when Turkey has entered a period crucial for its EU objective and when all attention, be it well-intended or not, is on us, I’m calling especially on each member of the security establishment, on each citizen to contribute more to peace in the country," Erdogan told a police gathering."

"His appeal came in the wake of harsh EU criticism of police beatings at a women’s demonstration in Istanbul last month.

Erdogan at the time implicitly defended the police reaction to what was described as an unauthorized demonstration, and blamed the local media for "tipping off" the EU to the clampdown with its extensive coverage of the events."

Turkish PM cautions police over rights violations

Sunday, April 10, 2005

In Many Turks' Eyes, U.S. Remains the Enemy

"In Turkey, heralded as the model of a Westward-looking Muslim democracy, sales records were shattered this spring by a book that imagines a U.S. invasion of this nation, a longtime U.S. ally. Polls show an overwhelming majority of Turks regard that scenario as a real possibility.

Mainstream newspapers here routinely mock U.S. troops in Iraq, and many feature breathless but unsubstantiated reports of American atrocities there, including mythical accounts of troops harvesting organs from dead civilians. One paper announced the U.S. offensive against Fallujah in November with a photo illustration of President Bush wearing a swastika."

"Conspiracy theories, a staple topic at teahouses and water coolers, are now taken so seriously that in December the U.S. Embassy felt compelled to issue a statement denying that the United States had caused the tsunami in South Asia and, with it, the deaths of more than 200,000 people."

" The latest survey, gathered in February by the private Metropoll organization, found that four in 10 Turks regard the United States as their country's "biggest enemy." That is more than double the number who named Greece, the ancient rival Turkey has come to the brink of war with three times in the last half-century.

"Yes, definitely, the opinions are changing," said Ismail Baykus, 45, at the door of his stationery store in a middle-class Istanbul neighborhood. "Based on what we hear and see in the press, the Americans talk one way and then act another, especially when they say they will bring stability and peace to a region."

"They're all lies!" shouted an elderly fruit seller standing nearby. "All lies!"

" When the war ended after just three weeks, 82 percent of Turks said they were disappointed that Iraq's military did not put up a better fight.

"It obviously all starts with Iraq," said a senior Western diplomat in Ankara. "All this is going on in the context of the U.S. sending 140,000 troops next door."

But more than two years later, U.S. officials voice growing concern that the rift between the two governments not only has not healed, but is deepening."

" But while Turkey is a secular republic, it is populated by Muslims, whose faith defines the community of Islamic believers as one body, the umma. When the Pew Research Center surveyed global attitudes on the Iraq invasion, Turkish "unfavorable" views toward the United States clustered around 80 percent, the same level reported in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

"It was obvious after September 11 that the United States was going to feel provoked and attack a Muslim country," said Sezai Oflaz, 33, carving meat in a kabob restaurant overlooking the Bosporus Strait, which divides Europe from Asia through the center of Istanbul."
In Many Turks' Eyes, U.S. Remains the Enemy (washingtonpost.com)

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Beliefs Endure as Believers Move On

MIDYAT, Turkey

"On the day the genies show up, seemingly everyone in this historic town in southeastern Turkey heads for the door.

"On Black Wednesdays, you have to go to picnics and stay outdoors," said Summeyye Saltik, 15, on the playground of the local primary school where attendance dipped, as it always does, on the second Wednesday in March. "If you're indoors, genies will visit your house."

" "Because the houses used to belong to them and they come to claim them," added a classmate, Bushra Gokce.

"They can be anybody," explained a third girl, Serap Ceylan. "They can be Muslims or anybody who lived here before."

That makes the possibilities almost endless in Midyat, which over the centuries has been inhabited or visited by people of a vast assortment of faiths, including the Yazidis, the obscure sect that introduced the town to the springtime escapes of Black Wednesday."

" Midyat, a town that predates Christianity and Islam, once reflected the deep diversity of a region where faiths overlapped and conquering armies advanced and retreated. Scholars say its very name may be a mix of Farsi, Arabic and Assyrian that translates as "mirror."

But what this town of 57,000 reflects these days is a growing sameness. The Armenian Christians who built many of the old city's medieval stone buildings disappeared in the early 20th-century conflict that Armenians and many historians have called genocide. The Assyrian Christians who long accounted for the majority in Midyat have been reduced to just 100 families.

As for the Yazidis: "They were not causing any problems, but it was still better that they left," said Nazete Koksal, an ethnic Kurd seated on a sofa under the arched stone roof of a house her husband, an Arab, bought from a Yazidi family.

"They're dirty," Koksal said. "Their religion is dirty. They pray to the devil. We pray to God."

" Persecution, Dogdu said, "was not done very openly, but sometimes it was deliberate. For instance, there were some murders of prominent persons. If you murder a prominent person, other people have fear."

Today, about 500 Assyrians live in Midyat. Sunday services rotate among the four churches that remain in the medieval splendor of the old city. In recent months, small groups of Assyrians have begun returning from abroad to build homes, mostly in isolated villages. But Dogdu's weary smile suggested the downward trend would not be easily reversed.

"When you have a majority population and it goes down to less than 1 percent, what do you think?" he said."

"Centuries ago, Muslims slaughtered Yazidis by the thousands as devil worshipers. Yazidis, whose faith draws on several sources, including Zoroastrianism, believe the fallen angel who became Satan later repented, returning to grace after extinguishing the fires of Hell. Yazidis envision him as a peacock, a main symbol of their religion."

"Turkey differs with the European Union on the definition of minority, insisting on its definition of nationhood grounded in Turkishness. Baskin Oran, a University of Ankara political scientist active in minority human rights, discounted the new laws as "a revolution from above. It's more or less easy to change laws. But it is much more difficult to change the mentality of the people."
Beliefs Endure as Believers Move On (washingtonpost.com)