Wednesday, May 31, 2006

EU Acknowledges 'Need' for Believers

"The European Union (EU) came together with religious representatives Tuesday and expressed the need for "believers."

Strong calls for inter-religious and cultural dialogue were made at the meeting. The occasion; however, was overshadowed by Commissioner for Education and Culture Jan Figel's canceling his meeting with the representatives of different faiths at the last minute on Monday and by the protests of some Jewish institutions yesterday.

Sixteen Muslim, Christian, Jewish, and Buddhist ecclesiastics attended the session presided over by the European Commission President, Jose Manuel Barroso, and the EU term president Austria's Prime Minister Wolfgang Schussel."

Monday, May 29, 2006

Istanbul Anniversary

Yesterday was the anniversary of the Turks conquering Istanbul. I got to see part of the parade and celebration.

Sovereign meltdown on the Bosphorus?

"Orhan Pamuk, the Turkish novelist who was castigated by the Kemalist establishment because he dared to question the historical whitewash of the Armenian genocide, wrote a beautiful novel, Snow, about the passions and ideological hatreds in a provincial Anatolian town. In Snow, an Islamist assassinates the principal of a Turkish college because he enforced the secular state’s ban against girls wearing headscarves. Istanbul lawyer Alparslan Arslan might well have read Pamuk’s Snow. Last week, Arslan walked into Turkey’s highest courtroom and shot five judges, declaring he was a "soldier of Allah" who sought to punish the judges who ruled against a woman teacher who wore a headscarf in violation of laws dating back to the establishment of the secular Turkish Republic by Mustafa Kemal Pasha in 1924."

"Political risk is rising dangerously fast in Turkey. Three years ago, Erdogan was hailed as a hero in the Middle East for his moderate religious agenda, for refusing to join Blair and Bush in the invasion of Iraq, for accelerating the EU accession agenda, for epic banking reforms, agreements with the IMF, for the plunge in inflation and interest rates, the resurrection of the lira from the 2001 currency meltdown, for defusing the geopolitical time bombs in Cyprus and Kurdistan, for triggering a spectacular bull market on the Istanbul Stock Exchange.

Yet Prime Minister Erdogan now faces a grim summer of discontent. Despite his parliamentary majority, his Justice and Development Party (AKP) is assailed by corruption scandals, the outbreak of secessionist Kurdish violence in Anatolia and a global emerging markets panic that eviscerated 25 per cent from the market capitalisation of the ISE. Ankara’s relationship with Washington never really recovered from Erdogan’s refusal to send Turkish troops into Iraq and his policy to engage Syria and Iran was derailed by the assassination of Rafik Hariri and the looming nuclear crisis with Teheran."

"Turkey offered the perfect synthesis between a moderate Islamist ethos and the democratic ideal. It could so easily have morphed into a Muslim version of Catholic Ireland or Chile, a parliamentary democracy where religion and freedom could coexist. If Erdogan falls, it would mean the loss of the West’s natural strategic ally in the Islamic world at a time when Iraq has degenerated into civil war and Tomahawk cruise missiles and Stealth bombers could soon streak across the skies of Iran. A world on the brink of Armageddon cannot afford yet another sanguinary "clash of civilisations"."
Khaleej Times Online - Talking Turkey: Sovereign meltdown on the Bosphorus?

Friday, May 26, 2006


This is crazy!

"A road safety manual containing religious passages warning motorists that their safety depends less on the quality of their driving than on divine will, has riled many in Turkey who see it as an affront to the country's secular principles and carte-blanche for reckless behaviour on the road. The municipality of Beyoglu, a major Istanbul city district, published the 66-page manual entitled "Traffic Education and Information for Students" with the aim of distributing it to aspiring drivers in neighbourhoods under its jurisdicton."


Thursday, May 25, 2006

800,000 Troops to Get Woman-Friendly Training

". . . in order to prevent violence against women, a "Platform to Prevent Violence" has been set up with the participation of members of Parliament, public institutions, universities, media and non-governmental organisations.

In his speech at the same conference, Turkey's Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said that "until women achieve the equal role that they deserve within the society, it will not be possible to reach the target of lasting peace."

"Gul argued that Turkey's role in the region required far more attention and and added that it was a mistake to believe religious and cultural traditions prevented women from having more important roles in the region. "Since the Islamic religion has come to being" the Minister said, "women have always been in the forefront of the society and have taken important roles."

This should be good overall, but I'm not sure if research would back up what Mr. Gul is saying.
800,000 Troops to Get Woman-Friendly Training

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Fear of God vs. Being Afraid of God

Luk 12:5 God is the one you must fear. Not only can he take your life, but he can throw you into hell. God is certainly the one you should fear!

Verses like this in the Bible generate different responses, but they do show us clearly that having a fear of God is an important part of our belief system. I wanted to share the difference between fearing God and being terrified of God from 2 stories:

A Turkish friend of mine is a believer, his mother is not. His mother comes from a traditional, fairly conservative background. She is afraid of God. She lives her life trying to make sure she doesn't do anything that displeases him. In her mind is a rule book made up of ideas from the Koran, culture and superstition which dictates her behavior. If she violates these rules, she is terrified of the consequences and will actively look for judgement in the circumstances around her. There is no grace or love from her god.

There is another young Christian lady that I know who has cancer. She and her family and friends are praying earnestly for healing from the cancer. They have claimed this promise of God as they trust in Him:

Psalm 112: 7, 8 (NIV)

“He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord. His heart is secure, he will have no fear; in the end he will look in triumph on his foes.”

If you don’t have a study Bible with “assistance” notes at the bottom, you might appreciate what the NIV study Bible has to say about what these verses mean:

“We all want to live without fear, our heroes are fearless people who take on all dangers and overcome them. The psalmist teaches us that fear of God can lead to a fearless life. To fear God means to respect and revere him as the almighty Lord. When we trust God completely to take care of us, we will find that our other fears – even of death itself – will subside.”

This is the freedom that only Christ can bring. Only an accurate view of the true nature of God can provide this. Pray earnestly for the peoples of this region who are locked into a relationship of terror with the god they worship.

Doubts grow for Alevis in Turkey

"Remote and poor, Tunceli has all the ingredients of a typical rural town in eastern Turkey, except that Tunceli is anything but typical.
Women here do not wear kerchiefs. The central mosque remains empty even on Fridays. Local politics has a Cold War feel about it, dominated by a medley of communists and socialists -- political groups that are marginal elsewhere in Turkey.
The key to Tunceli's oddness lies in the identity of its people. Like perhaps 20 percent of Turks, they are not Sunni Muslims, but Alevi -- members of a sect distantly related to Shi'ites."

"Men, women and children attend the Thursday meeting at the "cemevi," an Alevi place of worship that is not considered a mosque.
There is music and stylized circular dancing. The ceremony ends with the religious leader, in tears, describing the death of Imam Hussein, the grandson of the prophet Muhammad, at the hands of a Sunni caliph.
Onlookers sob, and a woman hands out handkerchiefs."

"Alevis are particularly irked that the state denies them the right to describe their cemevis as places of worship. The few cemevis there owe their existence to private donations. Sunni mosques and preachers, meanwhile, are funded by the state.
"Why should the taxes I pay be used to build buildings I'll never use," asked Tunceli shopkeeper Murat Polat.
Like the European Union's representative for Turkey, Hansjoerg Kretschmer, who argued in January that the Diyanet "has no place in a secular country," Mr. Polat wants to see the agency abolished.
Arif Kuyumcu, a frequent worshipper at Karacaahmet Sultan, an Istanbul cemevi, said, "Funding yourself guarantees independence. If Turkey stopped using public money to pay for mosques, I swear the number [of mosques] would drop."
Doubts grow for Alevis in Turkey�-�World�-�The Washington Times, America's Newspaper

A quick roundup of Turkey's political fight, after the murder of a judge

TKS on National Review Online

Monday, May 22, 2006

Summer tours offered to site of 'Noah's Ark'

Come see Noah's Ark?

"A new travel website is now promoting summer tours to a Turkish site near Mount Ararat believed by many to be the fossilized remains of Noah's Ark."
WorldNetDaily: Summer tours offered to site of 'Noah's Ark'

On His Way Out?

"Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is under heavy attack because he didn't attend the funeral of Council of State Judge Mustafa Yucel Ozbilgin who was killed last week. That the prime minister chose to go to Antalya to participate in party activities was a wrong move in any case."

"Recently his attitude towards the judiciary got tougher and he's no longer listening to criticism. In Turkish history there are some examples of what happens if prime ministers don't listen to "institutional criticism" and consider themselves above the law and its institutions. His behavior shows a tendency towards not caring, or, in his own words as he recently left the country with an unhappy face, he hears "similar criticism every day." Yes, Prime Minister Erdogan seems to be losing his sense for the existing law and its institutions. With such behavior he can no longer become president because the president is the man who's obliged to ensure and defend existing law and order."
The New Anatolian

Saturday, May 20, 2006

The Secular Response

"What is happening in Ankara is amazing. Crowds booed Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul—the ruling party's representative at the funeral—and police corridors had to protect the ruling AKP ministers from the crowds. Journalists are also saying people screamed "Murderer" at the Prime Minister. The crowd even booed former AKP politicians who had defected from the party in recent months. Tens of thousands of Turks are rallying spontaneously in favor of secularism and liberalism."

"People in Istanbul and Ankara are talking about early elections. It is unclear how long the AKP can continue to govern, or whether other political parties will want to ally themselves with the group in a coalition.

Thank God Turkey is a democracy. The Turkish people are rallying and may strip the AKP of power. Accountability matters. The party has antagonized many Turks not only with its Islamist platform, but also growing corruption scandals. The Prime Minister's personal finances are murky. While he has declared limited assets, Turkish officials grouse that he refuses to discuss real estate, commercials interests, and funds shifted into his brother's portfolio."
The Corner on National Review Online

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Gunman kills Turkish judge in court attack

"One of Turkey's most senior judges was killed on Wednesday and four others were injured after a gunman shouting religious slogans burst into a court building in an attack that officials linked to a recent judicial decision on the wearing of the Muslim headscarf.Mustafa Ozbilgin, aged 64 and a member of the Danistay or council of state, was shot in the head by the gunman, who shouted "God is great" and "I am a soldier of Allah" after he stormed into a judges' meeting at the court building in central Ankara at about 10am."

"The attack, and its apparent political and religious overtones, shocked the political, judicial and military establishments and brought swift condemnation. But opposition leaders accused the government, which has roots in political Islam, of fuelling intimidation against judges with whose decisions on religious issues it disagreed.It emerged after the shooting that judges on the council of state had requested greater protection in recent weeks because of threats to their safety relating to decisions they had taken on the headscarf and other sensitive religious and political issues."
MSN Money - Financial Times Business News: Gunman kills Turkish judge in court attack

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Erdogan Suggests Reinterpretation of Secularism According to Modern Democracy

"Erdogan focused on Ataturk’s concept of secularism, and said that secularism does not equal atheism, stressing that the principles put in place by Ataturk should be reinterpreted according to the norms of modern democracy.

“Ataturk’s decisions, appropriate during the years of fighting for national independence and their emerging concepts, need to be redefined, even though these concepts were internalized by the Turkish people and acted to unite them,” Erdogan said.

Erdogan defined secularism as the fundamental and uniting feature of the republic and a guarantee for the freedom of religions and religious belief.

This is guaranteed by the Constitution and secularism does not mean atheism, Erdogan stressed.

“Secularism means that everybody has the right to adopt whatever belief and sect they wish, worshipping freely, and avoiding any discrimination due to their religious beliefs.”


Monday, May 15, 2006

Galatasaray wins Turkish title by two points - Sunday May 14, 2006 4:43PM

FYI, last night and today the Fenerbahce fans were weeping and the Galatasaray fans were partying like crazy. We heard car horns, gun shots and firecrackers until late into the night. - Soccer - Galatasaray wins Turkish title by two points - Sunday May 14, 2006 4:43PM

Noah's Ark Holidays Hits the Web and Launches Ethical Tours to Mou

"Mount Ararat has been out of bounds for tourists for many years because of the war between Kurdish freedom fighters and the Turkish army. Now, thanks to new political opportunities in the region, an ethical cultural tour has been organised by Noah's Ark Holidays ( in partnership with Turkey's Dogubayazit Council.

The tour gives people the opportunity to access the National Park of Noah's Ark - a site that is believed to be the fossilised remains of Noah's Ark. The dimensions of the site exactly match the lengths detailed in the Bible and, for years, thousands of people have visited the site, despite it not being widely publicised."

Noah's Ark Holidays Hits the Web and Launches Ethical Tours to Mou

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Story Behind the Story

The background on the young Turkish man who killed the priest earlier this year:

"The killer of Fr Santoro was some Ohuzan Akdil. How did it happen that this 16 year-old boy, coming from the so-called normal family, killed a defenceless priest who was praying at church. He fired two shots into the priest's back, shouting 'Allah Akbar' (God is great)? The answer to this question could be the words of the boy's father, 'He received orders through the Internet", and the headline of the Turkish newspaper Vatan 'Stuffed by fanatics'. The investigation showed that the boy used to go to an Internet cafe, which was a meeting place of fanatic young people, influenced by radical nationalistic and Islamic ideas. There he met a student, some Husseiyn, and they became friends. They often talked about religious themes and about the 'danger' of foreign Christian missionaries in Turkey. Husseiyn invited him for meetings with a 'master', called Ali. The theme of one meeting was the issue of Muhammad's caricatures in the Danish press. The atmosphere of the meeting was very violent. The gathered men claimed that the West had insulted Islam and wanted to destroy it and that's why they sent missionaries who gave money to young people so that they would choose Christianity (those gossips were publicised in the media). They lamented that in Trabzon there was a priest whom they should get rid of. In the mood of common excitement Ohuzan Akdil declared, 'I will kill him'. The others applauded and called him 'a hero of Islam'. On Sunday of 5th February the boy took the gun of his elder brother and together with his 9 year-old step brother and some friend went to the church. The younger boys watched and Akdil went to the church to execute the sentence and kill 'the enemy of Turkey and Islam'. Then he hid in his mother's house (the parents got divorced and mother lived alone) and he told her everything. Immediately his mother took him to the barber's to have his hair cut, hoping that nobody would recognise him. In spite of that the police managed to identify and arrest the young murderer. He confessed to the policemen that he had murdered a Catholic priest because he was shocked by the caricatures of Muhammad and that his 'example' was Ali Agca.
The fact that the murder of Fr Santoro was not a surprise but it 'matured' in the atmosphere of hatred towards the West and Christianity, shared by some part of the Turkish society, and of hostility of its radical wings, was confirmed by another incident, which happened several days after the event in Trabzon. Some Catholic priests in Izmir (ancient Smyrna) at the other end of the country were an object of aggression. Seven or eight assailants at the age of about 25 forced their way into the building of the church of St Helen's parish, run by the Franciscans. One of the assailants began strangling a Slovenian priest Martin Kmetec, shouting 'Allah Akbar' and 'This is your end. You are going to die. We will kill you all'. It is not known whether the aim of that nationalistic-Islamic band was only to frighten the priests or to kill them. The fact is that the aggressors left without killing their victim. The police began to watch the church just in case.
But on 11 March 2006 there was another attempt to kill another Catholic priest in Turkey. The incident occurred in the town of Mersin in the south. The assailant attacked a Capuchin priest Hanri Leylek with an 80-centimetre knife. The young Turk came to the presbytery, saying that he wanted to speak to a priest. At first he uttered curses upon him and then draw the knife. However, the monk was able to push the aggressor away and ran away."

Sunday - Catholic Magazine

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Eurlings Critical On Religious Freedom

''No progress has been recorded in religious freedom in Turkey'', said European Parliament's Turkey Rapporteur Camiel Eurlings.

There are ''acute problems in religious freedoms in Turkey'', he said. Eurlings added that ''Turkey has not recorded any progress in religious freedom but quite the contrary...''
Eurlings Critical On Religious Freedom

Monday, May 08, 2006

Christianity in Turkey - All About Turkey

Some Christian history in Turkey you might not know about:

"After the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, many of the early Christians, escaping from persecutions in Jerusalem, came to Asia Minor and settled in different cities like Ephesus, Hierapolis and Cappadocia. St. Paul preached in Perge, Derbe, Lystra, Psidian Antioch, Ephesus (see Letter to Ephesians) and Konya. St. John stayed for a while in Ephesus together with Virgin Mary and, after he returned from Patmos where he was exiled, died in Ephesus. St. Peter settled in Antioch and build the first Christian church carved in a cave. St. Philip settled in Hierapolis but was killed together his family by the Romans.

Christianity was declared as the official religion in 380, during the reign of Theodosius I, and destruction of pagan temples was legalized. Even so, throughout the Byzantine era Christianity had great ups and downs in popularity. Many found the road to piety confusing and assorted schisms between the Roman Catholic church and the Orthodox Byzantine church certainly didn't simplify matters. Add this inter-faith bickering to the "Dhimmi" tax (50 percent of earnings for non-Muslims as opposed to the tithing for Muslim believers) for those living on Ottoman-held lands, no wonder large numbers of peasants converted their faith to Islam. Islam was also a relatively simple path to follow - profess belief in One God and the mission of his Prophet Muhammed, and follow the Five Pillars of Faith.

Gradually, Christianity in Turkey disintegrated, so that when the Islamic Ottomans finally conquered the Byzantine Empire, it was inevitable that what had been a predominantly Christian region would be no more.

Another important fact for Christians is that first Ecumenical Councils were made at Nicea (Iznik today) in the Marmara Region of Turkey, between Bursa and Istanbul."
Christianity in Turkey - All About Turkey

Monday, May 01, 2006

Biblical Turkey

"Throughout the centuries, Turkey came under rulers who for the most part allowed the practice of Christianity, which is why we find many churches standing beside mosques even today. We never expected Turkey to have so many Catholic churches and sites associated with the early Christians, that St. Paul was born in Tarsus, that the Virgin Mary is said to have lived the rest of her life in Meryem Ana after the Crucifixion, that St. John the Evangelist wrote his Bible and was buried at Ephesus, or that it was in this country that St. Paul decided to concentrate his work of Christianization.

We visited Antioch where St. Paul and Barnabas went out on their first missionary journey. It is said that at St. Peter’s Grotto up on a natural hallow on the slopes of Mount Stauris, we were first called Christians."

"Istanbul where the trip began and ended included visits to the old city on the European side of the city with the Byzantine Hippodrome, the Blue Mosque and the 6th century Hagia Sophia Church, the underground cistern, the Topkapi Palace with the biggest diamond in the world made famous by the James Bond movie "Topkapi". And who can forget the Grand Bazaar with its 4,000 shops and goodies so overwhelmingly one could hardly decide what to buy. We also went out on our own to cross over to the Asian side by ferry."
Manila Bulletin Online

Religious Leaders Come Together for Tourism

Part of the problem in Turkey:

The only people recognized as religious leaders are people like these guys.