Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Human Rights Issues in Turkey Highlighted as EU Membership Talks Approach

"Ahead of the historical European Union accession talks with Turkey next month, the human rights situation of the predominantly Muslim nation has again been highlighted as a major obstacle."

"In a statement issued by the EU last December, the bloc mentioned that in Turkey, "religious freedom is subject to serious limitations as compared with European standards."

Religious freedom is often under threat in Turkey, the most populous Muslim country in Europe with very small Christian communities.

According to the 2004 International Religious Freedom Report prepared by the U.S. Department of State, 99 percent of the population in Turkey consists of Muslims. The Turkish Government officially recognizes only three communities of religious minorities - Greek Orthodox Christians, Armenian Orthodox Christians, and Jews.

Under the law, religious services may take place only in designated places of worship; only the Government can designate a place of worship; and if a religion has no legal standing in the country, it may not be eligible for a designated site. Police occasionally raid unauthorized Christian gatherings meeting in private apartments."

Country of tolerance

"We often boast that Turkey is a country of tolerance. We say it is a country where the mosque of the Muslims, the church of the Christians and the synagogue of the Jews can coexist in one neighborhood of Istanbul, the cultural and business capital of the country.
Sometimes, however, we demonstrate in a very cruel manner our obsessions and lack of tolerance; we put aside a culture of democracy that requires one to be capable of at least listening to ideas that he may not share.

What boiled over at the Armenian conference in Istanbul during the past few days was a bitter reminder of that obsessive face of our national character, which makes many people afraid of what serious problems could indeed take place in this country if rising ultranationalism cannot be controlled."

"Tolerance cannot be defended with rotten eggs and tomatoes but with respect to differing views, arguments, beliefs and cultures.

We share the view expressed by Diyarbakır Mayor Osman Baydemir, for example, that the Turkish flag represents the entirety of citizens living in this land and their cultures. Similarly, this country belongs to all the different elements of society that together form the Turkish mosaic -- the inseparable togetherness of different colors."

"Representatives of the three monotheistic religions have come together for a conference in Hatay -- ancient Antioch -- to discuss cultures that have existed in Antioch over the ages. The representatives of the three monotheistic religions highlighted a common point: the common longing of humanity for a peaceful world and the need for mutual respect among different civilizations."

"Talking peace and commonalities but ready to accept all the differences we may have. This is the Turkey we want to live in. This is the Turkey we believe is a model country for our region and beyond."
Turkish Daily News - Country of tolerance

Sunday, September 25, 2005

French Street, Istanbul

Living in Istanbul has been a whirlwind of change over the last 5 years, but perhaps the most disturbing trend has been economic disparity. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Prices have risen at an incredible rate. The car I bought 4 years ago sells for more than twice as much today. The average annual salary is very low, but prices for everything are quite high.

A good friend of mine grew up in one of the most popular districts of the city, Taksim. Renovations and additions like French Street, a pedestrians only street filled with exculsive cafes, drove up the prices so much they and many others had to move. There are dangerous trends towards the materialism of the west here in Turkey, but in some ways they seem worse. The division of wealth, but desire for status seem stronger than in the west. Remember to pray regularly for the Turks that they would not give in the god of Islam for the false god of "stuff". Instead, we pray that they would find them both empty and meaningless and that God would lead them to real truth.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Turkey an Example of Religious Tolerance for 500 years

Universalism presented by an Armenian Church leader:

"Turkey is 90 percent Muslim. But in parts of the large cities, there are pockets of people of different faiths. VOA's Miguel Rivera looks at three houses of worship that share adjacent parcels in Kuzguncuk, Istanbul."

"Kuzguncuk is an ancient part of Istanbul, the only city in the world that lies in two continents: Asia and Europe. For hundreds of years its been inhabited by Muslims, Jews, and Christians; Turks, Armenians and Greeks.

Kuzguncuk lies on the Asian side of the Bosporus Strait. There is a church, a mosque, and a synagogue, right beside each other. The priest of the Armenian Orthodox Church, using a key made in 1835, opens the doors to a Christian world within a Muslim one. The priest is one of a few who come from another part of Istanbul to serve the faithful. And when he says “faithful,” he is referring to Jews and Muslims, as well as Christians, who enter this holy place to pray."

"There is no difference between us,” says priest Mehmet Biraz. ”Muslims come in here to light a candle. Yes, Muslims come to pray here. They light the candle and they pray. There is no difference. There is only one God and different paths to that God."
VOA News - Turkey an Example of Religious Tolerance for 500 years

Friday, September 16, 2005

Christians disappointed: Ankara has put off the pope’s trip to Turkey

"The government fears too much publicity focused on Bartholomew I and criticism about the country’s human rights record. Nuncio Farhat: “Turkey, a nation which is an enemy of Christians”.

"The eagerly awaited invitation from the Turkish state did reach the Vatican but with a vague and diplomatic: “We expect you in Turkey for 2006”, inexonorably placating “the pangs of the pope, which have shaken the state so much”; this is how insistence on the papal visit was defined by journalist Evren Mesci on the daily Sabah. President Ahmet Necdet Sezer invited the pontiff to go to Turkey in 2006 so he “can become aware in person of the climate of cultural tolerance” which prevails in this Muslim majority country. The trip, said the spokesperson for the Foreign Affairs Ministry, Namika Tan, “will encourage efforts to intensify dialogue between religions and mutual comprehension among civilizations at global level.”

"And Bartholomew I? Publicly he bowed his head, telling journalists: “For us, it would have been a great gesture if the pope would have been able to join us to participate in our celebrations and it seems natural to us that he should be allowed to visit ‘his little brother’, but now we have lost hope, seeing that Ankara has crushed our invitation. Certainly it is not a nice situation, but we do not want to insist nor do we want to create a crisis with the State. Our leaders have judged that it is better this way and we do not want to be obstinate.”

“But why did Ankara react in this way?” journalist Deger Akal asked himself in an article published today in Vatan. “According to Turkish sources, all the eyes of the world would have been focused on Turkey during the pope’s visit; Turkey fears criticism which could arise and does not want to face upfront heavy observations like those of the Vatican Nuncio in Ankara, Edmond Farhat. “Turkey is a nation which is an enemy of Christians. It defines itself as a secular nation, but this freedom is only on paper.”
>>> <<< Christians disappointed: Ankara has put off the pope’s trip to Turkey

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Why you should visit Istanbul . . . now!

A nice little travelogue to the city we love:

"48 hours in Istanbul
Ottoman edifices, ancient mosques and all the delights of modern café society - no wonder they call this turkish city the jewel of the bosphorous."

"In the city where Europe and Asia collide, the weather is cooling off: no longer is Istanbul steamier than the average hammam, and the tourist crowds are beginning to diminish. September is the ideal month to visit Turkey's largest city, which drapes itself seductively over the shores of the Bosphorus."
Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Turkish Prime Minister urges for outlawing anti-Islamism

"At the opening session of the 6th Eurasian Islamic Council, Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan denounced the worldwide propaganda campaign spreading the idea that Islam was in some way a source of terrorism and asserted his commitment to overcome these ideas in all the international meetings he attends.

He called on religious leaders, especialy those in Eurasia to dedicate attention and conduct organized studies on this issue, while declaring that ''problems which the Muslim world has to face can only be solved under the guidance of tradition and reason, a democratic basis and through science, experience and mutual consultation'.' Erdogan recalled the necessity to urge the European Council to adopt a wording in its declaration that accepts anti-Islamism as a crime against humanity, just as anti-Semitism has been accepted and endorsed as a crime against humanity."
Arab Monitor - Sito di informazione dal mondo arabo

Friday, September 02, 2005

Beware Onur Air

"German holidaymakers found themselves using adhesive tape to stick together the interior of a plane operated by a Turkish airline with a troubled safety record, a German newspaper said on Tuesday.

The midair repair job came during an Onur Air flight from Antalya in southern Turkey to the eastern German city of Leipzig, the Bild newspaper said.

"The pilot started the engines. Suddenly a piece of the interior of the plane fell on our heads. Some of the holidaymakers started to scream," one of the passengers, Gunnar Storch, 34, told the newspaper."

"A female flight attendant immediately ran into the cockpit to ask for the takeoff to be aborted. But the pilot wasn't in the least bit interested. He just carried on.

"Behind the interior casing, we could see the exposed wiring. It wasn't a very reassuring sight."

"Storch, who was returning from a holiday with his wife and two children, said he used tape he had in his hand luggage to attempt to stick the panel back into place as the plane reached an altitude of 33,000 feet (10,000 meters).

The plane later landed safely in Leipzig but Storch said "no one was interested" when he tried to report the incident at the airport."
Travel Channel: News: Article:

Persecution in Turkey described as worsening despite new law - (BP)

Here's a link to the full article I posted yesterday:

"Bektas Erdogan never expected his Christian faith of 11 years to jeopardize his career as a fashion designer in Turkey.

Hired five months ago by a designer jeans company in the Beyazit district of Istanbul, Erdogan was assured by his Muslim employer that he would be evaluated on the basis of his work, not his religion.

After his first collection sold successfully in Russia, Erdogan thought the phone call he received from his employer -- asking him to come to work on a Sunday afternoon -- boded well. Maybe there was a surprise company dinner.

But that evening at the shop, his employer angrily accused him of “missionary work” and “brainwashing,” according to an Aug. 30 report by Compass Direct news service.

The employer, with the help of two employees and a relative, beat Erdogan for two hours, Compass reported; the men repeatedly struck the designer’s head and face with their fists and the butt of a pistol. Three times Erdogan’s employer attempted to shoot him, but the gun failed to fire, Compass reported.

“He really wanted to kill me. It wasn’t just to scare me,” Erdogan told Compass, recounting that he prayed for help and meditated on Bible verses while his attackers threatened to murder him and hide his body.

The two co-workers released the 32-year-old Erdogan with a swollen and bloody face around 9 p.m., warning that they would kill him later. Since then, he has received three anonymous phone calls threatening his life, Compass reported.

Erdogan told Compass he did not report the Aug. 7 incident to police, fearing that his employer’s ties with local officials might make him the target of further aggression. He also felt that once the authorities learned he is a Christian, they would be unwilling to help.

Erdogan told Compass he believes that his employer’s anger stemmed from shop employees’ interest in Christianity. During his last three months at the job, Erdogan said, “Almost every meal [at work] became a question-and-answer session about my religion.”
Persecution in Turkey described as worsening despite new law - (BP)

Thursday, September 01, 2005


"Persecution against Christians in Turkey is becoming more overt. Along with the usual delays in granting permits to Protestant churches, Christians are seeing signs of open hostility -- both verbal and violent -- toward their faith. In a country where the victims of abuse are sued and plainclothes policemen can act like thugs with relative impunity, it is easy for Christians to get into trouble."

"On the same day that a Christian fashion designer was attacked by his employer, Istanbul police beat two Protestant converts in their early
twenties and told them they could not be both Turks and Christians.

These two believers were on their way to one of Istanbul’s 25 Turkish-speaking Protestant churches on August 7
when they saw an American Christian worker and his 3-year-old daughter surrounded by a
small crowd of police and civilians.

He had been exercising the legal right to distribute
Christian tracts on Istiklal Caddesi, one of
Istanbul’s main pedestrian thoroughfares, when two plainclothes
policemen accosted him. One of them grabbed his chin and shouted at him for
distributing literature, quickly drawing a crowd of police and passersby.

When the two Christians tried to intervene on behalf of the worker, whom they
recognized as a member of a local church, a scuffle broke out between one Turkish believer and
one of the plainclothes policemen. According to the other believer, about 15 policemen
forced the first one to the ground, where they kicked and hit him before handcuffing him
and carrying him inside a nearby building.

“That’s when I first realized they were police,” said
the first believer, whose plainclothes attacker never identified himself as an officer.
The policemen continued to beat him for three minutes before taking him to a
local police station with the other believer, who had followed the group inside.

“They never showed us any ID or read us our rights,”
the second believer told Compass as he described the following hour in the police station.
After finding 100 Christian tracts in his backpack, police accused the
youths of being “missionaries” who were bent on “dividing Turkey.” Although finally releasing them without filing any
formal report, they told the young men that they could not be both Turks and

For more of this story, and other stories of the persecuted worldwide Church, please join Compass Direct.
Compass Direct