Monday, December 31, 2007

Turkish police foil plot to kill priest

Turkish police foil plot to kill priest: reports | International | Reuters
Turkish police have foiled a plot to murder a priest, in a case that recalls other attacks this year against Christians in Muslim but secular Turkey, newspapers reported on Monday.

Police in the coastal resort of Antalya detained a young man on Sunday on suspicion of preparing to kill Orthodox priest Ramazan Arkan, who is a Turk, the Milliyet daily said.

The suspect, who was due to appear in court on Monday, told police he had been influenced by a television serial "The Valley of the Wolves", popular among Turkish ultra-nationalists, the paper said.

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Sunday, December 30, 2007

When the Turkish flag becomes a cross!

When the Turkish flag becomes a cross! - Turkish Daily News Dec 29, 2007
Flags are everywhere. On balconies, in shop windows, on taxis, some of them in huge sizes hanging from huge flagpoles and seen from everywhere. What is this symbolism all about? It is not a celebration, it is not a gesture of joy; there are some elements in it involving protest against terror, we can understand that. However, terror and the armed uprising have been routine parts of our lives for quite some time. This "flag love" is a very new phenomenon though. It was not like that before. The Turkish flag has become a symbol like the cross; every Turkish person should have and put it on a visible place in which they reside or where they work. It is the Turkish cross that will be put forward against evil forces! But who are they? Against whom did we take out our crosses? Is this country under invasion? Is this a protest against the "invaders?" Who are they? It is like in protest against an occupation people are showing their patriotism and their determination to resist!

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Saturday, December 29, 2007

Assassination of priests on Parliament's agenda

Assassination of priests on Parliament's agenda - Turkish Daily News Dec 28, 2007
The increasing frequency of assassinations and attacks against Christian clerics in Turkey was on Parliament's agenda yesterday.

State Minister for Religious Affairs Said Yazıcıoğlu said the government is very sensitive about the recent attacks and assassinations against priests in Turkey.

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Christmas ceremony held in the house of Virgin Mary

Christmas ceremony held in the house of Virgin Mary - Turkish Daily News Dec 29, 2007
Approximately 150 Catholics celebrated the birthday of Jesus in the house of the Virgin Mary in the Selçuk district of Aydın Tuesday.

The Catholic Christians came from Istanbul, İzmir, Kuşadası, Didim and Bodrum. They chanted and made wishes for their loved ones by lighting candles.

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We should pray for Western powers to become true Christians: Majlis speaker

Interesting comment, I'm glad he recognizes that not all Westerners are really Christians
tehran times : We should pray for Western powers to become true Christians: Majlis speaker
All people in the world know Jesus Christ as the symbol of peace, love, and justice, however, many Christian powers behave exactly the opposite and they are the symbol of war, cruelty, and enmity, Iranian Majlis Speaker Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel said here on Wednesday.

“We should pray for Western powers to become true Christians,” because currently not only they are not Christians, but also they are acting against Christ, Haddad-Adel stated before a Majlis session.

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Friday, December 28, 2007

Assyrian revival stirs in Turkey

In a corner of 21st Century Turkey, a congregation still worships in the language of Christ.

BBC NEWS | Europe | Assyrian revival stirs in Turkey
At an early morning Sunday church service, chanting in Aramaic fills the air together with the sweet scent of incense. Men pray standing, their palms open to heaven. Most of the women are behind a wooden lattice at the back, their heads covered in scarves. These people are Assyrians and the region they know as Tur Abdin was once the heartland of their ancient Christian church. At the turn of the last century an estimated 200,000 Assyrians still lived here. Today there are fewer than 3,000 left. But recently, there have been signs of a possible revival.

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Trilogy of murder: Conspiracy and beyond (II)

Trilogy of murder: Conspiracy and beyond (II) - Turkish Daily News Dec 26, 2007
In the first part of this series I said it would constitute a conspiracy theory to allege that all these murders are centrally planned and coordinated.

After I wrote the first piece two other terrible incidents happened. A Syriac academic, who was reportedly working on Armenian and Syriac genocide related issues, was killed when his throat was slit and as you all know a catholic priest was stabbed in the stomach while he was conducting a religious ceremony in İzmir. After each incident I kept saying that these incidents would not be the last ones.

I was in Malatya just one day after the massacre of three Christians there and I held a press conference together with the leaders of the Protestant community in which we said, we know this will not be the last incident. And it was not. Murder of the Syriac academic and the assault on the catholic priest will not be the last ones either. This will continue. Maybe until Turkey faces a series of pressure from the outside world!

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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Erdogan: Attacks on Christians in Turkey unacceptable, against Islam

The New Anatolian
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Saturday that attacks on several priests and a publishing house in Turkey are incidents that the government "can never accept."

"The Santoro incident in Trabzon, the incident in Malatya (publishing house incident), and the recent incident in Izmir (an attack injuring a priest). We can never accept them," he told in a gathering in Istanbul to exchange Eid al-Adha greetings.

"Those who are staging them do not know anything about Islam," he said.

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Merry Christmas!

It's all about Him!

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Friday, December 21, 2007

A Christian satellite ministry celebrates

Mission Network News
SAT-7 PARS began broadcasting five years ago under the name of Iranian Christian Broadcasting, with a two-hour weekly broadcast. Four years later, SAT-7 launched a new 24-hour broadcasting channel. In late 2006, the ministry changed the channel's name to SAT-7 PARS to indicate its focus on Persian/Farsi-speaking people located both in and near Iran. The channel also broadcasts four hours of programming in Turkish each day.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The cross and the crescent

Click the link to read all of this article from the Economist.

Turkey and its Christians | The cross and the crescent |
HIS has been a bad year for Orhan Ant. As a Protestant missionary in Samsun, on the Black Sea, he has had death threats and his church has been repeatedly stoned. Local newspapers called him a foreign agent. A group of youths tried to kidnap him as he was driving home. His pleas for police protection have gone unheeded.

Mr Ant is not alone. All over Turkey, Christians are under attack. In January Hrant Dink, an ethnic Armenian newspaper editor, was shot dead in Istanbul by a teenager who said he had “insulted Turkishness”. In April two Turks and a German, all evangelists, were murdered in Malatya. Their killers bound and tortured them before slitting their throats. In December an Italian Catholic priest was knifed by a teenager in Izmir. Another Italian priest was shot dead in Trabzon in 2006.

Many blame the attacks on a new ultra-nationalism, tinged with Islamic militancy, that has swept across Turkey. Unemployed teenagers in the Black Sea region seem especially prone to it. “The plight of Christians is critical,” says Husnu Ondul, president of the Ankara-based Turkish Human Rights Association. Like many others, he believes that the “deep state”, comprising a few judges, army officers and security officials who need enemies to justify their grip on power, is behind the attacks.

That may seem far-fetched. Yet evidence leaked to the media in the Dink and Malatya cases points to collusion between the perpetrators and rogue elements in the police and the army. It also suggests that the Istanbul police were tipped off about Mr Dink's murder a year before it was carried out. “So why did the Istanbul police do nothing to prevent it?” wonders Ergin Cinmen, a lawyer for the Dink family.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Izmir, knifed friar refused to baptise aggressor

TURKEY Izmir, knifed friar refused to baptise aggressor - Asia News
The assailant, who knifed Fr. Adriano Franchini in the stomach this morning, reacted after the latest in a series of refusals of his requests to be baptised. The Capuchin friar, Superior of the Custody of Turkey, did not consider him ready to become a Christian.

Currently Fr. Franchini – a native in Modena – is in hospital in a reserved condition. Eyewitnesses say that the priest was attacked by a “hooligan”, who has been attending the parish for the last three years. The reason behind the attack- according to the young man’s confession to police – the latest refusal of baptism, which he has long desired.

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Hate campaign leads to attack against priest

TURKEY Hate campaign leads to attack against priest - Asia News
Turkey’s press has expressed regrets for the latest incident involving an attack against a Christian clergyman. Fr Adriano Franchini, an Italian-born 65-year-old Capuchin who has been in Turkey for 27 years, was in fact stabbed to the stomach but is now out of danger. Turkish newspapers have however failed so far to take notice of the ongoing defamation campaign against Catholics in the country. Ramazan Bay, the 19-year-old man who carried out the attack, surrendered to police a few hours after the stabbing. He had fled after he carried out his attack in a church in Barakli in Izmir right after mass and in front several witnesses. He was quickly identified as a young Turkish man who had recently expressed a desire to convert to Christianity and complained about the long procedure the Church in Turkey required for conversion. In fact the young man told police that he took the decision to stab the priest after searching the internet for information on Christian activities and watching the last episode of a made-for-TV movie titled The Valley of the Wolves, which focuses on alleged Christian propaganda and proselytising.

The Turkish government shows very little restraint when it comes to censoring those who attack “Turkishness,” but does precious little when it comes to defending Turkey’s secularism and democracy from attacks. Many people, be they non-religious, Christian or Muslim, hope that Turkey’s political leaders might put a stop to this short-sightedness and help instead the Turkish nation show Europe and the world Turkey’s real face, one that believes in freedom, democracy and truth. Only this way can the vicious cycle of prejudice and suspicion between European countries and Turkey be broken, thus allowing the former to open their doors to the latter.

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Monday, December 17, 2007


Compass Direct News
A 19-year-old Muslim youth stabbed an Italian priest in the stomach yesterday after Sunday services outside a Catholic church in Turkey.

Father Adriano Franchini, 65, was hospitalized overnight in the Aegean city of Izmir, and hospital authorities expected to discharge him today, the Anatolia News Agency reported.

According to the daily Hurriyet newspaper, the arrested assailant admitted in his statement to the police that he had been influenced by a recent episode of the popular television serial drama “Kurtlar Vadisi” (Valley of the Wolves). The series caricatures Christian missionaries as political “infiltrators” who pay poor families to convert to Christianity.

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Trilogy of murder: Conspiracy and beyond (I)

Trilogy of murder: Conspiracy and beyond (I) - Turkish Daily News Dec 15, 2007
Let us look at the Father Santora, the Hrant Dink and the Malatya murders from a different perspective. Santora was a Catholic priest in Trabzon. Hrant Dink was of Armenian descent and a well-known intellectual but also he belonged to the Orthodox community. As everyone knows, the missionaries who were brutally killed in Malatya were Protestants. Basically three sets of murders eliminated people who belonged to three different sects of Christianity. If you are a person who likes conspiracy theories you could produce really complicated and plausible conspiracy theories in the face of these murders.

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Priest Attacked, Hurt in Turkey

The Associated Press: Priest Attacked, Hurt in Turkey
A Catholic priest was hospitalized Sunday after being stabbed, the Italian Embassy in Turkey said. Police said they detained the suspected attacker.

The assault was the latest in a series of attacks on Christians in Turkey and was likely to add to concerns about whether the predominantly Muslim country — which is bidding for European Union membership — can protect its Christian community.

The priest, Adriano Franchini, was stabbed after Sunday Mass at St. Anthony's church in the port city of Izmir, said Simon Carta, the Italian consul there.

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Friday, December 14, 2007

German cardinal seeks OK to build church in Turkey

German cardinal seeks OK to build church in Turkey : Religion General
A German cardinal is appealing to Turkey for permission to build a Christian shrine in Tarsus, the birthplace of Saint Paul, a newspaper, the Koelner Stadt-Anzeiger, was set to report Saturday. The Catholic archbishop of Cologne, Joachim Meisner, suggested this as a goodwill gesture to end a dispute in the city about planning permission for a big new mosque for Cologne's Turkish Moslem community.

Cardinal Meisner said a centre for Christian pilgrimage in the Mediterranean port city of Tarsus would be a symbol of religious freedom in Turkey.

"We Christians don't have anything there," said Meisner, who has held back from welcoming plans by Ditib, a Turkish religious affairs agency, to build a grand mosque in inner-city Cologne to replace a crowded existing mosque.

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Turkey : Malatya murder scandal

Turkey : Malatya murder scandal - JOURNAL CHRETIEN
’Turkey at the moment is like a restless sea with several dangerous currents getting stronger and stronger, threatening to create a serious storm.’ We prayed for the storm to be stilled (Matthew 8:23-27). These ’dangerous currents’ are being whipped up by monsters raging with agitation. The stronger one is ’Turkish nationalism’ and the weaker but growing one is ’Islam’. Please pray that they will be fully exposed, confronted and dealt with.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007


Reacting to a storm of media reporting seriously flawed conduct by state prosecutors in Malatya, the Turkish Interior Ministry last weekend opened a judicial investigation into alleged collusion of public officials in the torture and murder of three Christians in the southeastern city last April.

Mounting evidence emerged that the five confessed murderers had direct, repeated links with local police officers, members of the special military forces, a regional council member of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and even a chief public prosecutor. The reports included banner headlines in national newspapers and a leading slot on evening TV news broadcasts for five consecutive days.

Implications swirled over why the Malatya Prosecutor’s Office had ignored obvious leads from telephone records of the suspects and failed to investigate two very detailed, incriminating letters by “informers” who claimed to be close to the perpetrators behind the five young killers.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Turkey investigates possible police collusion in Christian murders

Turkey investigates possible police collusion in Christian murders
Two suspects, Abuzer Yildirim and Salih Guler were quoted by Radikal newspaper as saying that another suspect, Emre Gunaydin, had told them that he had met with police officials who gave him the locations of Christian churches in the city.

According to Radikal, Yildirim said, "I asked him [Gunaydin] who are the police chiefs that you are speaking to, he said: 'Don't ask, take it easy."'

Allegations of police collusion also arose following the murder in January of Hrant Dink, an ethnic Armenian who roused the ire of Turkish nationalists when he describe the killings of Armenians in the early 20th century as genocide –Turkey has always denied genocide.

According to FoxNews, some believe the authorities failed to act on reports of a plot to kill Dink, although no evidence has linked any government or police officials to Dink’s murder.

There are fears that a “deep state” may exist in which a network of informers and ex-officials are linked to organised crime that sometimes targets reformers and other “enemies” of Turkish nationalism.

In addition, Christian leaders in the country have expressed concern that nationalists are promoting hostility against non-Turks and non-Muslims by exploiting the uncertainty of Turkey’s place in the world, reports FoxNews.

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Monday, December 10, 2007

Turkey's Human Rights Situation "Discouraging"

Bianet :: Turkey's Human Rights Situation "Discouraging"
The existence of the Department of Religious Affairs, obligatory Religious Education classes at school, and clothing rules are still problems. There are still attacks on non-Muslims. Cem houses, the places of worship for Alevis, are denoted as “culture centres”.

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Sunday, December 09, 2007

Turkish pastor receives increased protection following hit-list discovery

Turkish pastor receives increased protection following hit-list discovery
Turkish police have increased their protection of a Baptist pastor in the country, after his name was discovered on a hit list being carried by three suspected terrorists.

The suspects were arrested after being found with a cache of weapons. It is believed they were planning on carrying out an attack.

Pastor Erstan Mesut Cevik, who runs a Baptist church in Izmir, was originally put under police protection in April this year after he carried out the funeral service of a murdered Turkish convert to Christianity, reports Baptist Times.

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Saturday, December 08, 2007

Theologian accused of involvement in Malatya murder

Suspects in the investigation of the brutal killing of three Christians at Zirve Publishing House in Malatya in April of last year have links to numerous individuals in the state, including security officers, the police and even prosecutors, but the most surprising link they have is to an academic. Ruhi Abat, a research assistant at Malatya University’s Department of Theology, was accused in a letter -- signed by a man named Ali A. -- of having incited Emre Günaydın, one of the three suspects captured at the site of the murder. The picture above shows Abat in a conference on “Islam, [Christian] Missionaries and Destructive Activity.” Abat refused to comment on the accusations directed at him. Photographs and information related to him have been removed from the Web site of Malatya University’s Department of Theology. Abat’s research focused on missionary activity. He is also the author of an article titled, “The Breaking Points in the Discourse of Dialogue between Religions,” and “The Claims Missionaries Spread about Belief in God,” both available on the Internet.

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Government called upon to shed light on Malatya murders

The investigation and trial of the suspects in the brutal murders of three Bible publishers in the southeastern city of Malatya last April have been marred by serious allegations of cover ups and obstruction of justice, but the government could intervene, according to a number of prominent columnists, political leaders and lawyers. The government has so far remained inactive in the face of what seems to be a process of grave obstruction of justice but could act and change the course of events, columnists, political leaders and lawyers said in their appeals to the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) on Friday.

“The Malatya case shows the usual practice of the protective shield of the state with its security forces and judiciary. The security forces and the judiciary here are protecting each other by not conducting a detailed investigation. Those who are protected are the hit men who say they committed the murders with ‘nationalist feelings’, secret or non-secret services they had contacts with, meaning police and military intelligence units. The common point among all these similar incidents is this protection.”

Öndül said, in addition to the Dink murder, the same pattern was evident in the murder case of Trabzon’s Father Andrea Santoro, killed last year by an ultra-nationalist teenager and the attempt to assassinate Akın Birdal, a former head of the İHD.

Öndül said the murderers in all these cases said they committed the acts out of nationalist and patriotic feelings, but the investigations were never successful because the state prosecutors and judges have the same mentality. “The judiciary’s approach is a one that is state-oriented rather than protecting the rights of the people. Minorities’ differences are perceived as a threat to state security. According to Öndül, the only way to break through this shield is a “strong and determined political will.”

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Thursday, December 06, 2007


It has now emerged that, in the six months preceding the murders, four of the suspects changed their telephones a total of 106 times, suggesting a concerted attempt to avoid surveillance. The cost of changing telephones so frequently has also raised the question of whether they were receiving financial support. Perhaps more alarmingly, the records of the telephones used by the accused showed that those with whom they had been in regular contact included a local council member from the ultranationalist Nationalist Action Party (MHP), someone in the Ankara headquarters of the Special Police Unit, a public prosecutor, and a member of the military (Milliyet, Radikal, Vatan, NTV, CNN-Turk, November 4).

There is nothing to suggest that the institutions themselves were involved in the murders. However, the latest revelations have disturbing parallels with the trial of those suspected of killing Hrant Dink and have raised questions about the prevalence of racist and religious prejudices among those responsible for maintaining law and order. At the trial of Dink’s suspected murderer, it emerged that, despite reporting numerous death threats, Dink had not been offered police protection. More worryingly, telephone records presented to the court suggested that some of those accused of Dink’s murder had close links with elements in the police force in their native city of Trabzon, on Turkey’s eastern Black Sea coast. After the main suspect had been arrested, the Turkish media published photographs taken by the detaining officers, showing him a variety of heroic poses in front of the Turkish flag. Similarly, after a 16 year-old was convicted of the February 2006 murder in Trabzon of the Italian priest Andrea Santoro, his family received photographs taken by detaining police showing their son proudly displaying a Turkish flag (Milliyet, October 5).

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Curtain of mist thickens over Malatya murder case

Phone conservations of five suspects accused of torturing and murdering two Turkish and one German Christian on April 18 in a publishing house in the southeastern province of Malatya have raised serious questions over the shadowy connections among the suspects, prosecutors, police officers and military personnel.

Though the murders first appeared to be motivated by hate toward the three publishers -- Necati Aydın, Uğur Yüksel and Tilmann Geske -- working at Zirve Publishing House, the phone calls made over the last six months prior to the killings by the five suspects -- Emre Günaydın, Hamit Çeker, Abuzer Yıldırım, Cuma Özdemir and Salih Gürler -- have revealed unexpected connections.

A security officer, a chief public prosecutor, a writer, a parliamentary deputy candidate and even members of special military forces are among the figures the suspects conversed with before the murders, noted media reports.

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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Baptist pastor on hit list in Turkey

The Baptist Standard :: The Newsmagazine of Texas Baptists
A Baptist pastor in Turkey has been placed on a death list.

Ertan Mesut Cevik, pastor of a Baptist church in Izmir, the modern name for biblical Smyrna, and Turkey’s third largest city by population, has received increased police protection after his name was found on a list carried by three suspected terrorists. The three, who are arrested, are suspected of planning wide scale attacks after a large cache of weapons was found in their possession.

Cevik has been under police protection since April 2007 after he hosted a funeral service for one of three Christians that was killed in Turkey on April 18. Two of the murder victims, Necati Aydin, 36, and Ugur Yuksel, 32, were Turks who converted from Islam to Christianity. The third man, Tillman Geske, 46, was a German citizen.

The Baptist pastor was also protected after he and the Baptist congregation were accused in a Turkish newspaper article, published after the three murders in April, of engaging in “coercive evangelism” by using money and drugs to attract young people. These charges were denied by the church.

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Saturday, December 01, 2007


Bowing to demands of prosecution lawyers, yesterday the judge presiding over a contrived case against two Turkish converts to Christianity for “insulting Turkishness” ordered 12 more witnesses to testify.

During a 50-minute hearing yesterday in Silivri, 45 miles west of Istanbul, Judge Metin Tamirci summoned two alleged eyewitnesses, five gendarme soldiers, two policemen and three local residents to appear at the next hearing before the Silivri Criminal Court, set for March 13.

Ultranationalist lawyer Kemal Kerincsiz claimed on behalf of his three young plaintiffs that the potential witnesses on his September 4 petition to the court had “information and eyewitness details” pertinent to the accusations against defendants Hakan Tastan and Turan Topal.

The three Silivri residents summoned are listed on the defendants’ computers as people who had requested Christian literature and a visit from a local Bible correspondence course with which Tastan and Topal worked.

The prosecution had previously requested several of these individuals as potential witnesses, but their admission into the case had been denied by the previous judge. Judge Neset Eren withdrew from the case in September after Kerincsiz accused him of improper bias in his handling of the litigation.

“A year has passed, and the court has already heard all the testimonies on both sides of this case,” defense lawyer Haydar Polat told Compass yesterday. “But it is clear from today’s hearing that the court plans to continue this unfounded case for at least another year or more.”

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Display Of Antisemitic, Anti-Christian Koran Verse Created Controversy In Turkey

The Turkish Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) encourages imams to display Koranic verses at the gates of Turkey’s mosques. The verse that the imam of Zeynep Sultan Mosque in the busy Eminonu district of Istanbul chose to display was Maida, 51 that says: “Oh ye, the believers! Take not the Jews and Christians for your friends. They are friends to each other and he who befriends them is one of them. Allah does not guide those cruel oppressors to the path of truth”

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Kidnapped Turkish Priest Freed

BREAKING NEWS: Kidnapped Turkish Priest Freed (WRAPUP) | Turkey | Europe
A Turkish Syriac priest who was kidnapped this week has been released unharmed in southeast Turkey, officials and friends said Friday, November 30, but it was not clear whether a ransom had been paid.

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Friday, November 30, 2007


Compass Direct News
Kidnappers of a Syrian Orthodox priest abducted yesterday in Southeast Turkey have demanded an enormous ransom for his release, church sources said.

Father Edip Daniel Savci, 42, went missing yesterday afternoon while driving north from the city of Midyat to his home at Mor Yakup Monastery in the village of Baristepe. At the monastery he was serving as a foster parent to 12 children and was doubling as village electrician.

“Unknown persons cut him off with a car and abducted him between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m.,” Syrian Orthodox Metropolitan Timotheos Samuel Aktas said in a press release today.

Speaking from Fr. Savci’s monastery this morning, Isa Gulten, principal at a Syrian Orthodox school south of Midyat, said that villagers had found Fr. Savci’s empty car soon after the incident.

Following the abduction, the kidnappers called another Syrian Orthodox priest from Fr. Savci’s mobile telephone and demanded a 300,000-euro (US$443,720) ransom.

“We want 300,000 euros or we won’t release him,” read a text message they sent to the priest, who requested anonymity, according to a source who spoke with him

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

TURKEY: What causes intolerance and violence?

Forum 18 Search/Archive
Intolerance against various groups varies over time. The experience of the community I know best, my own small 3,000-strong Protestant community, illustrates the problems that these communities face. In the case of the Protestants, these ultimately resulted in the Malatya murders. Other communities also suffer intolerance and violence. Because many Protestants are converts from an Islamic background, theirs is a very good "test case" to examine how far tolerance in Turkey can accommodate true religious freedom.

What is the source of the intolerance that has fuelled violence against Christians? I think three trends can be identified:

1. disinformation about Christianity in statements by public figures and through the media;

2. the rise of Turkish nationalism;

3. and the implicit and explicit approval both of the marginalisation of Christians from Turkish society and also of actions – including murders - against them.

All three trends feed off and interact with each other.

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Christian Priest Kidnapped In S.East Turkey

Javno - World
A Syriac Christian priest has been kidnapped in southeast Turkey and police have launched an operation to secure his release, security officials said on Wednesday.

They said the priest, 55-year-old Daniel Savci, was from the Mor Yakup monastery near the town of Midyat and was kidnapped on Wednesday.

An official at the monastery said an unknown person had called the monastery and said they sought a ransom for the priest's release. CNN Turk television said the assailants had ambushed the priest in his car as he travelled to the Mor Yakup church.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Compass Direct News
At the opening day trial of three Christians tortured and killed here in April, attorneys for the bereft families accused prosecutors of “sloppy” investigations that focused on the religious activities of the victims rather than on the crime itself. The 20 lawyers, most of them working pro bono on behalf of the victims’ families and Turkish Protestant churches, spelled out detailed criticisms of the prosecutors’ “irresponsible” investigations at the hearing on Friday (November 23). The plaintiffs’ attorneys objected to the tone of the indictment and investigation, declaring that 16 of the 31 files focused on the religious activities of the Christian victims rather than on the murderers, who tied up, stabbed and slit the throats of Turkish converts Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel and German Christian Tilmann Geske. According to one lawyer quoted by Milliyet newspaper on November 20, this “irrelevant” information looked like an indirect effort by the chief prosecutor “to reduce the charges by making the victims’ attempts to spread their religion look like ‘provocation.’”
According to an article on the Turkish Bianet (Independent News Net) website posted yesterday, the tone of the criminal investigation and biased reporting in the Turkish media marks “a dangerous shift of focus from the presumed perpetrators of a crime to conspiracy theories linking Christian missionaries and PKK [the separatist Kurdish Workers’ Party] activities.”

Bianet fingered the Ihlas News Agency as one major culprit trying to deflect blame from the killers by targeting some of the joint team of well-known Turkish attorneys for their defense of various Kurdish defendants accused of PKK links. Other lawyers were targeted for representing the family of murdered Armenian Christian journalist Hrant Dink or Necati Aydin, who had been falsely accused in 2000 of distributing Christian materials by force.

Two days after the Malatya hearing, the plaintiff lawyers announced they were filing an official complaint over repeated surveillance and interference with their e-mail and telephone communications in the days leading up to the opening of the trial on Friday (November 23).

“When we tried to open our e-mails, we had a message claiming, ‘Blocked by court order,’” attorney Cengiz told Milliyet newspaper on Sunday (November 25). “But if this had been a court order, we couldn’t have accessed them a day later.”
Turkey’s largest circulation newspaper, the daily Hurriyet, featured the wife and children of Necati Aydin in its front-page banner headline the day after the opening day hearing.

“Mommy, when will they kill us?” read the headline, flanked by a photograph of widow Semse Aydin with her 6-year-old daughter Esther in her arms during the murdered pastor’s funeral seven months ago.

“My children are missing their father, and I cannot comfort them,” the widow told the court. “They are asking me if they will also be killed because they are Christians.”

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Judiciary under international spotlight in the murder of Christians in Malatya

The New Anatolian
Christian leaders have said they are worried that nationalists are stoking hostility against non-Turks and non-Muslims by exploiting uncertainty over Turkey's place in the world. The uncertainty — and growing suspicion against foreigners — has been driven by the uneasy EU membership bid, a persistent Kurdish separatist movement and by increasingly vocal Islamist hardliners who see themselves — and Turkey — as locked in battle with a hostile Christian West.

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

Case begins amid growing intolerance to minorities

Turks accused of killing Christians go on trial | Special reports | Guardian Unlimited
"I remember [the accused] attending our Easter gathering of believers. They were boys, not even men," Geske's widow, Susanne, told the Guardian in an interview earlier this year. "In Turkey, you hear so many stories about missionaries: that we are agents of foreign powers who secretly want to break up the state, that we hide $100 bills in Bibles to bribe believers, things that are so untrue."

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In Malatya not Murders but "Missionary Activity" on Trial!

Bianet :: In Malatya not Murders but "Missionary Activity" on Trial!
Judging from the 32 investigation files which have been sent to the joint plaintiffs, it seems that the investigation has focused on "missionary activities" rather than the murders. Bianet has been told that only seven or eight of the folders are concerned with the murder, while the others focus on missionary work.

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Court adjourns Bible publisher murder case

In her testimony before the court, Geske’s wife Suzanna Geske said she has lived in Turkey for 10 years and has always been treated with tolerance and respect. Saying that all of the family’s neighbors, including their neighborhood imam, visited the family house to share their grief after the murder, Geske said, “As a Christian, I see this country as my own. I believe in justice in Turkey and its secular system.”

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Yes, Muslims are indeed 'Christians'

Not really, but a surprising line of thought considering the source:

Yes, Muslims are indeed 'Christians' - Turkish Daily News Nov 24, 2007
In yesterday's Turkish Daily News, there was a photo of a group of Turkish demonstrators who gathered in Istanbul's Taksim Square and held a banner that read, "We are all Christians!" They were protesting against the attacks on Christian communities and especially the savage slaughter of three missionaries in Malatya seven months ago by a gang of ultra-nationalist brutes.

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What is going on in the Malatya massacre case?

What is going on in the Malatya massacre case? - Turkish Daily News Nov 22, 2007
Seven months ago, three Christian missionaries were ruthlessly murdered by a gang of Turkish nationalists in the eastern Anatolian city of Malatya. The killers broke into Zirve Yayıncılık, a Bible publisher, and first tortured and then killed their victims by slitting their throats.

Seven months after the bloody murders, the prosecutor finally brought his case against the perpetrators. For seven long months we could not get any documents from the file because they had been declared confidential. We waited seven months for what? After reading the file, I have come to the conclusion that we waited for nothing! We do not know anything more than we knew seven months ago. So, what did the prosecutor do during that long period?

The prosecutor's mentality:

There are 31 files in this case and just 15 of them comprise information about the murder and the perpetrators. What about the other 16 files? You will not believe, but these files are about the activities of the victims whose throats were slit. The prosecutor retrieved all documents from the computers of the victims and put them in the case file as "evidence." If I did not know the background I would think that there were two gangs fighting each other and the members of one gang killed the members of the other, and that the prosecutor collected evidence about both these gangs! In reality though we are talking about an unbelievable slaughter of three innocent people, whose only wrongdoing was carrying out missionary activities in the wrong place! But the prosecutor collected all information about their missionary activities. If a prosecutor sees missionary activities as criminal then it is not difficult to understand how some people can become crazy and kill these missionaries!

Furthermore, these files, which are public now, may lead to new murders because they include many details on other Protestants who reside in different parts of Turkey. The addresses, emails, telephones of many other Turkish Protestants are in the files, which have already been in the hands of the murderers. The prosecutor failed to make a thorough investigation and he has also put many other lives in danger. Why all this information in the file, I do not think anyone can explain this.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Turkish prosecutor demands life in prison for 5 charged with murdering Christians

Turkish prosecutor demands life in prison for 5 charged with murdering Christians - International Herald Tribune
A prosecutor demanded life in prison for five men charged with killing three Christians at a publishing house that produces Bibles in southern Turkey, the state run news agency reported.

The trial of the five suspects opened Friday, providing another closely scrutinized test of Turkey's judiciary as it seeks membership in the European Union. Observers want to see how Turkey's courts handle signs of religious intolerance in the predominantly Muslim nation.

The five men are accused of killing a German man and two Turks at a Christian publishing house in the city of Malatya. They were charged with "establishing a terror organization and multiple killings," Anatolia said. Two other suspects, who remain free pending a verdict, face lesser charges.

Security was tight at the courthouse in Malatya, where the trial opened Friday, Anatolia news agency said. The trial was quickly adjourned until Jan. 14, as defense attorneys asked for time to prepare their arguments, Anatolia reported. Earlier, the Dogan news agency said defense attorneys were not present.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

European evangelicals pray for Turkish Christians

European evangelicals pray for Turkish Christians :: Inspire Magazine
The European Evangelical Alliance’s (EEA) annual assembly in Greece last week opened with a heart-wrenching appeal from the Evangelical Alliance in Turkey to pray for believers there following the horrific murder of three Bible publishing workers in April.

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EU approves resolution condemning persecution of Christians

EU approves resolution condemning persecution of Christians
The European Union has approved a resolution condemning the persecution of Christians in some parts of the world. According the SIR news agency, Mario Mauro, vice president of the European Parliament and sponsor of the measure, said, “Religious freedom is the test for other freedoms and rights, and the persecution of Christians throughout the world is one of the greatest challenges to human dignity.”

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Sunday, November 18, 2007


Amid fading hopes of EU membership, there are increasing signs that the Turkish authorities are tightening restrictions on freedom of speech. A new set of regulations for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) published in the Turkish Official Gazette on November 1, 2007, makes it compulsory for all commercial ISPs to take measures to prevent access to “illegal content” and use government-approved filters to block users from visiting undesirable websites. In addition, all commercial ISPs are now obliged to record details of all the websites visited by their subscribers and store the data for a period of at least one year. The new regulations have caused outrage in the Turkish ISP community, which has described them as not only limiting freedom of expression but, also as a gross violation of privacy.

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

‘Facebook’ mania sweeps Turkey

This article talks about the growing popularity of Facebook in Turkey. What it doesn't mention is how it is becoming a great way for the small Christian community to connect with each other. Turkish Christians are often isolated and face difficult conditions in their home and work environments. Another aspect is evangelism. I talked to one mature Turkish believer who was looking forward to using it to reconnect with friends she had lost touch with so that she might share her faith with them. At last check there were over 1 million users of Facebook in Turkey.


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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

European Union: Turkey Fails to protect Christians

European Union: Turkey Fails to protect Christians - Catholic Online
As the European Union prepares for a summit in December, its governing commission has criticized Turkey for failing to protect its Christian minorities.

"Attacks against clergy and places of worship of non-Muslim communities have been reported. Missionaries have been portrayed in the media or by the authorities as a threat to the integrity of the country," said a commission report published in early November.

"To date, use of language that might incite hatred against non-Muslim minorities has been left unpunished," it said, adding that non-Muslim religious communities continue to face a lack of legal norms "and restricted property rights."

Most of Turkey's more than 70 million citizens are Sunni Muslims. Christians, who make up less than 1 percent of the Turkish population, often have complained of discrimination in Turkey.

The report said non-Muslims were presented routinely as "not being an integral part of Turkish society," and faced problems managing foundations, recovering property and obtaining construction permits for places of worship.

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Why Muslims Follow Jesus

Why Muslims Follow Jesus
So what attracts Muslims to follow Jesus? Between 1991 and 2007, about 750 Muslims who have decided to follow Christ filled out an extensive questionnaire on that basic question. The respondents--from 30 countries and 50 ethnic groups--represent every major region of the Muslim world. (Copies of the questionnaire are available from The participants ranked the relative importance of different influences and whether they occurred before, at the time of, or after their decision to follow Christ. While the survey, prepared at Fuller Theological Seminary's School of Intercultural Studies, does not claim scientific precision, it provides a glimpse into some of the key means the Spirit of God is using to open Muslim hearts to the gospel. Seeing a lived faith First, we can look at the experiences that most influenced Muslims. For example, respondents ranked the lifestyle of Christians as the most important influence in their decision to follow Christ. A North African former Sufi mystic noted with approval that there was no gap between the moral profession and the practice of Christians he saw. An Egyptian contrasted the love of a Christian group at an American university with the unloving treatment of Muslim students and faculty he encountered at a university in Medina. An Omani woman explained that Christians treat women as equals. Others noted loving Christian marriages. Some poor people said the expatriate Christian workers they knew had adopted, contrary to their expectations, a simple lifestyle, wearing local clothes and observing local customs of not eating pork, drinking alcohol, or touching those of the opposite sex. A Moroccan was even welcomed by his former Christian in-laws after he underwent a difficult divorce. Many Muslims who faced violence at the hands of other Muslims did not see it in the Christians they knew (regrettably, of course, Christians have been guilty of interethnic strife elsewhere). Muslim-on-Muslim violence has led to considerable disillusionment for many Muslims, from those who survived the 1971 war between the Bengalis of East Pakistan and the Pathans, Sindis, and Punjabis of West Pakistan, to Arab and Berber tensions in North Africa, and to Arab herdsmen fighting black African farmers in Darfur. The next most important influence was the power of God in answered prayers and healing. Like most of the factors that former Muslims list, experiences of God's supernatural intervention often increase after Muslims decide to follow Christ. In North Africa, Muslim neighbors asked Christians to pray for a very sick daughter who then was healed. In Senegal, a Muslim marabout (spiritual leader) referred a patient to Christians when he was not able to bring healing. In Pakistan, after a pilgrimage to Mecca did not cure a disabled Shiite girl, she was healed following Christian prayer.

The third biggest influence listed by respondents was dissatisfaction with the type of Islam they had experienced. They expressed unhappiness with the Qur'an, which they perceive as emphasizing God's punishment more than his love (although the Qur'an says he loves those who love him [3:31]). As for Islam's requirement that liturgical prayer should be in Arabic, a Javanese man asked, "Doesn't an all-knowing God know Indonesian?" Others criticized folk Islam's use of amulets and praying at the graves of dead saints.

As with Paul and Cornelius in Acts, visions and dreams played a role in the conversion of many. More than one in four respondents, 27 percent, noted dreams and visions before their decision for Christ, 40 percent at the time of conversion, and 45 percent afterward.

Many Muslims view dreams as links between the seen and unseen worlds, and pre-conversion visions and dreams often lead Muslims to consult a Christian or the Bible. Frequently a person in the vision, understood to be Jesus, radiates light or wears white (one respondent, though, said Jesus appeared in green, a color sometimes associated with Islamic holy persons). An Algerian woman had a vision that her Muslim grandmother came into her room and said, "Jesus is not dead; he is here." In Israel, an Arab dreamed that his deceased father said, "Follow the pastor. He will show you the right way." Other dreams and visions occurred later and provided encouragement during persecution. A Turkish woman in jail because of her conversion had a vision that she would be released, and she was. A vision of thousands of believers in the streets proclaiming their faith encouraged a young man in North Africa to persevere.

Next in attraction for Muslims is the spiritual truth in the Bible. The Qur'an attests that the Torah, the Psalms, and the Gospel (commonly understood as the New Testament) are from God. Even though Muslims are generally taught that these writings became corrupted, they often find them compelling reading and discover truth that they conclude must be from God. The Bible helped one Egyptian understand "the true character of God." The Sermon on the Mount helped convince a Lebanese Muslim that he should follow the one who taught and exemplified these values.

Respondents were also attracted by the Bible's teaching about the love of God. In the Qur'an, although God loves those who love him, his love is conditional. He does not love those who reject faith (3:31-32). There is nothing in the Qur'an like, "This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins" (1 John 4:10), or, "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:8).

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In Turkish mountains, an oasis of inter-ethnic harmony

In Turkish mountains, an oasis of inter-ethnic harmony - Turkish Daily News Nov 10, 2007
Clinging to a craggy mountaintop in southeast Turkey, Mardin is at the geographic heart of a region in the throes of violent conflict between the Turkish army and separatist Kurdish rebels.

But in many ways, residents say, Mardin is a world apart when it comes to inter-ethnic relations.

"We are very optimistic here, people deal with us Kurds very positively," said Mehmet, a Kurdish businessman, over a cup of tea in this ancient city with spectacular views of the Mesopotamian plain.

"It's fine, we have good relations with everyone," said another Kurd, Necmettin, a bellboy at a high-end hotel.

Turks, Kurds, Muslim Arabs and Assyrian Christians live side by side in Mardin, which has been a crossroads of civilizations for more than 1,000 years.

The city is no classic melting pot: ancient madrassas abut 1,000-year old churches and the streets are a babel of Turkish, Kurdish, Arabic and even Aramaic, the language of Jesus Christ.

People are fiercely protective of their identity, but equally proud to belong to one community.

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Thursday, November 08, 2007

Ban on free speech keeping Turkey out of EU

Ban on free speech keeping Turkey out of EU - Times Online
A growing number of prosecutions against writers and academics is damaging Turkey’s case to become a fully fledged member of the European Union, an annual assessment report said yesterday.

The country has made little progress in the past year and its failure to end torture, improve minority rights or guarantee freedom of expression were all highlighted as significant stumbling blocks to EU membership.

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Fearful of war, Turkey's Christian minority gathers in prayer

Catholic World News : Fearful of war, Turkey's Christian minority gathers in prayer
With fears of war mounting in the Middle East, members of Turkey's Christian minority gathered to pray at Antioch, the Fides news service reports.

Conflict between Turkey and the Iraqi Kurdish region would be a disaster for the peoples of the whole region of the Middle East, especially people in southern Turkey, Syria, and northern Iraq. With a growing threat of another conflict, Christian minority communities in Turkey and Syria are praying for peace.

Christians in Aleppo and Antioch came together to pray on the occasion of the anniversary of the death of St. John Chrysostom in 407. Some 330 Christians of different confessions, including 12 Catholic nuns of the Missionaries of Charity, traveled from Aleppo to Antioch for a special Marian prayer in the city's Orthodox church presided by the Greek Orthodox Metropolita Paul Yazici of Aleppo.

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Shooting the messenger

FYI: Turkey has continued to block Unlike their ban against Youtube, the ban against Wordpress has continued. Here is an article about it.

Comment is free: Shooting the messenger
The San Francisco based million-blogger strong blogging platform Wordpress was recently informed by the legal representative of Turkish writer Harun Yahya that under orders from a Turkish court "access to has been blocked in Turkey." The letter listed a number of "defamation" blogs - "all" of which make allegedly "slanderous" remarks against Harun Yahya. This ban is significant for the larger ripple it casts in Turkey's new Islamist democracy.

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The forthcoming European Commission’s Progress Report will complain that there has been no progress in protecting the cultural rights or lives of Turkey’s non-Muslim minorities. It details the continuing obstacles they face in terms of acquiring property, opening places of worship, education, and the training of clergy.

Although it has been vociferous in its support for the right of Muslims to express their religious identity – most notable in its opposition to the current ban on headscarfed women attending university or working in the civil service – the AKP has been less outspoken in defense of the rights of non-Muslims. In September 2007 Yusuf Kaplan, a columnist for the daily newspaper Yeni Safak, which is very close to the AKP and is owned by the father-in-law of one of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s sons, told his readers that Muslims could never be friends with Jews and claimed that Jews were working to undermine Islam in Turkey (Yeni Safak, September 4). More recently, Mustafa Özbayrak, an AKP member of parliament, reacted angrily to a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights calling for an end to the religious discrimination against Turkey’s substantial Alevi Minority (see EDM, October 12) by asking: “What do they want? Next they’ll be asking us to grant rights to Satanists” (Radikal, Milliyet, November 2).

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007


Compass Direct News
Malatya’s Third Criminal Court has set November 23 to open the trial of the confessed murderers of Turkish convert Christians Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel and a German Christian, Tilmann Geske.

All news about the pending trial in the Turkish press last week sensationalized justifications the killers offered for their crimes while under police interrogation, including far-fetched allegations against the victims.

The three Protestant Christians were tortured and killed by having their throats cut on April 18 of this year in the Zirve Publishing Company’s office in the southern province of Malatya.

After six months of confidential investigations, criminal prosecutors in Malatya had filed formal charges against the five accused killers on October 15, demanding the jailed culprits serve three consecutive life sentences in prison for their crimes.

Defendants Emre Gunaydin, Abuzer Yildirim, Hamit Ceker, Cuma Ozdemir and Salih Guler are accused of founding an armed group and murdering the victims in a deliberate, organized manner. The five killers are 19 and 20 years old.

An additional seven persons have also been charged for allegedly “aiding and abetting” the murder culprits. According to reports in the Turkish media, these seven unnamed suspects have not been arrested.

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Sunday, November 04, 2007

Ankara gives glimmer of hope for rights of Ecumenical Patriarchate

TURKEY Ankara gives glimmer of hope for rights of Ecumenical Patriarchate - Asia News
The Turkish government appears willing to open up to finding a solution to the insistent problem of minority rights, in particular regarding the Ecumenical Patriarch, although it may be too early for any celebrations. These were the conclusions drawn by the Patriarch Bartholomew at the end of a second round of meetings in Ankara with Foreign minister, Ali Babacan (see photo), Education minister Huseyn Celik, Justice minister, Ali Sahin, and State minister, Besir Atalay, all of whom are directly involved in the issue of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and minorities in general.

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Friday, November 02, 2007

Istanbul church celebrates 150th anniversary

Istanbul church celebrates 150th anniversary - Turkish Daily News Nov 01, 2007
This weekend, the oldest known international Protestant community of Istanbul and the region, The Union Church of Istanbul, is celebrating 150 years of history in the chapel of the Dutch Consulate, built in 1711.

In the 1800s Istanbul saw an influx of Protestants from different backgrounds, countries, and denominational colorings: There were Evangelicals, Baptists, Dutch Reformed and others to satisfy the different theological palettes of foreigners who had landed in the Ottoman Empire's center of activity. One group of English-speaking protestants that included one of the initial founders of Robert College, Cyrus Hamlin, established a church that met in homes in 1840. The church is now both the oldest known international and interdenominational Protestant church of its kind registered and still running in the region according to the archives of the Association of International Churches in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007


Twenty years ago Turkey’s Kurds did not officially exist and even speaking Kurdish risked arrest. Today, not only can Kurds openly express their ethnic identity but, as a result of mass migration from the impoverished predominantly Kurdish provinces of southeast Turkey to the metropolises in the west of the country, it is now commonplace to hear Kurdish being spoken on the streets of Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, and Antalya. The result for Turkish nationalists has been an increasing siege mentality. For the Turkish middle-classes, ethnic prejudices have been compounded by social snobbery, as the Kurdish they hear tends to be spoken by manual laborers working on the roads and construction sites. For lower income groups, who have yet to derive any real benefit from the recent impressive growth in Turkey’s gross national product, the Kurds are a convenient scapegoat for their own poverty.

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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Turkish father wins fight to get girl out of religious class

Turkish father wins fight to get girl out of religious class - Independent Online Edition > Europe
A Turkish father has won his six-year struggle to have his daughter removed from compulsory religious education classes in a case that highlights the tensions between Turkish secularism and its hopes of European integration.

Hasan Zengin's struggle dates from 2001, when he failed to convince local authorities to exempt his daughter from religious lessons at school. Three years after it agreed to view his case, the European Court of Human Rights has finally ruled that Turkey breached its obligation "to respect the rights of parents to ensure education in conformity with their own religious ... convictions".

Like at least 10 per cent of Turks, Mr Zengin is an Alevi, member of a sect whose beliefs, influenced by Sufism and pre-Islamic practices, are distantly related to Shia Islam. The ECHR described the syllabus as so slanted towards Sunni Islam that it "cannot be considered to meet the criteria of objectivity and pluralism".

Mr Zengin's lawyer, Kazim Genc, believes the judgment could not have been better timed. The rights and wrongs of compulsory religious courses has been heavily debated recently as part of discussions over plans for a new constitution. "The ECHR has solved the problem – religious lessons have to come out of the new constitution," he says.

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Friday, October 19, 2007

Christian killings: 5 face life

Christian killings: 5 face life: World: News: News24
A Turkish prosecutor sought life sentences on Thursday for five youths accused of the gruesome murders in April of three Christians, one of them a German, a report said on Thursday.

The suspects, aged 19 and 20, are expected to go on trial within a month, the Anatolia news agency said.

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Slow pace of 301 disappoints EU

The European Union is “hugely” disappointed with the “slow-motion” approach of the government to amend Turkish Penal Code (TCK) Article 301.

Brussels, which welcomed both the Justice and Development Party’s (AK Party) election victory and the election of Abdullah Gül as president, is now eagerly waiting to see if Ankara will budge on the controversial Article 301, under which many prominent intellectuals have been tried, badly damaging Turkey’s image abroad.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Turkish Schools Must Allow More Religious Tolerance, Court Says Europe
Turkey needs to ensure that religious education in schools is objective and gives additional weight to beliefs other than Sunni Islam, the European Court of Human Rights ruled today.

Hasan Zengin and his daughter Eylem, followers of the Alevi faith, argued the religious culture and ethics classes in Turkey weren't neutral and were incompatible with the country's secular system. The family's request for Eylem to be exempt from the classes was rejected, a decision upheld by national courts.

The Strasbourg, France-based court ruled today that such a refusal breached the European Convention on Human Rights, which says ``the state shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions.'' Turkey should bring its educational system and domestic law into conformity with that legislation, the seven-judge panel said in its unanimous ruling.

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More secular than thou

More secular than thou - Turkish Daily News Oct 08, 2007
Move over, democracy. Now secularism is the concept everyone wants a piece of. At least in Turkey, where it has been one of Atatürk's six principles of the Republic since its founding, but is taking on new meaning and controversy with the predominance in electoral politics of the faith-friendly Justice and Development (AK) Party.

In Turkey the test of those who press for stretching secularism to support religious freedom will be whether they include other religious groups than their own—and those of no religious affiliation—in their concern and sympathy.

We cannot expect that Turkey's grappling with these issues will replicate in any sense what Western countries have already made of them. Yet Turkey's path in reaching its own accommodation of secularism and religious espression, both in Atatürk's time—and before-- and more recently, has already been influenced in part by Western models—and now we can hope to learn from each other, as voyagers in the same buoyant and choppy sea.

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Friday, October 05, 2007


Compass Direct News
Turkish Protestants have reported increasing attacks and threats in recent months despite claims by President Abdullah Gul this week that Christians in Turkey are not targeted. Believers told Compass that threats have increased since two Turkish Christian converts and a German Christian were tortured and killed at Zirve Publishing House in Malatya on April 18. Neighbors have threatened Christian radio station workers in Ankara in recent weeks, and a visitor to Antalya’s Bible Church this summer attacked an elderly member with a chair. Antalya Bible Church pastor Ramazan Arkan said that he is pursuing four court cases against Rasim Eryildiz, a construction worker who began threatening church members in May.

Christian radio station staff members in Ankara have also seen an increase in threats from visitors to their front door since the Malatya attacks in April.

“Actually, it was only after Malatya that this started,” Radio Shema Director Soner Tufan said. “Before, they wouldn’t directly contact us. Sometimes they would fax us or e-mail us, but they wouldn’t even call us on the telephone.”

Tufan said that, since May, at least three times a month men have come to the station’s door and threatened workers. One man ran away when a radio staff member opened the door, but he telephoned the office minutes later to say, “We’ll tear this place down on top of you, you’re doing missionary work.”

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Thursday, October 04, 2007


Compass Direct News
A new judge has prolonged the case of two Turkish converts to Christianity after his predecessor resigned under pressure from the plaintiffs’ ultranationalist lawyer.

At a September 26 hearing, his first in the 12-month case, Judge Metin Tamirci set the Christians’ next court date for November 29. Defendants Hakan Tastan and Turan Topal had hoped for a quick dismissal of charges of insulting “Turkishness” at their last hearing on September 12 after the state prosecutor said in July that there was no evidence against them.

But Judge Neset Eren prolonged the case when he told the Silivri court, 45 miles west of Istanbul, that he was stepping down. He said he hoped to “distance the court’s decision from any form of indecision or doubt.”

Eren’s announcement came after the plaintiff’s ultranationalist lawyer, Kemal Kerincsiz, called for his resignation, accusing the judge of failing to deal with the case impartially. Kerincsiz has raised a number of cases against Turkish intellectuals, including Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk, under article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code for “degrading Turkishness.”

A higher court in Bakirkoy, Istanbul accepted Eren’s resignation on September 13. Defense lawyer Haydar Polat said that despite the change of judge and a new state prosecutor, he was still 99 percent sure that his clients would be acquitted.

“There is no crime to be found, we’ll just have wait and see if the state prosecutor agrees with us,” Polat said.

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Attacks 'political murders'

301 needs changing, says president - Turkish Daily News Oct 04, 2007
Gül described the rising attacks against Christians as "political murders." "There are no attacks targeting Christians in Turkey where people from different religions live in peace. But political crimes have occurred and one of them was against a Christian priest," said Gül. Priest Andrea Santoro was shot dead by a teenager last year in the Black Sea province of Trabzon. "The murderer has been identified and is currently being tried by independent courts," he added.

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Turkish court upholds sentence for priest's killer

Turkish court upholds sentence for priest's killer | World | Reuters
Turkey's court of appeals on Thursday upheld a jail sentence of nearly 19 years for the teenage killer of an Italian Catholic priest, the state Anatolian news agency said. The shooting of Father Andrea Santoro, 61, while praying in his church in the Black Sea city of Trabzon in February 2006 shocked the Muslim nation and drew calls from the European Union for greater religious tolerance in Turkey. A year ago, a Trabzon court found the boy guilty of premeditated murder, illegal possession of a firearm and endangering public security. His family appealed against the jail sentence. The Ankara appeals court confirmed the sentence of 18 years and 10 months on the boy, who as a minor has not been named.

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Tarsus prepares to welcome pilgrims for the Pauline year

TURKEY Tarsus prepares to welcome pilgrims for the Pauline year - Asia News
Tarsus, St Paul’s birth place, is preparing itself to welcome all of those who will visit the city in 2008, proclaimed by Benedict XVI in January last the Pauline Year. On the two thousandth anniversary of the birth of the apostle to the gentiles, the Pope announced “a series of ecumenical, cultural and liturgical events, as well as various pastoral and social initiatives, all inspired as Pauline spirituality”.

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A newspaper owner was shot to death in southeastern Turkey on 22 September, reports IPS Communication Foundation (BIANET).

Kasim Ciftci, owner of the "Hakkari Province Voice" newspaper, was found dead near the ruins of old Van City on 22 September. According to "Yüksekova News", eyewitnesses saw two men arguing near the ruins. The argument turned into a fight, and Ciftci was shot twice.

Meanwhile, Turkey continues to use the judicial system to curb free expression. Journalists are still being charged under Article 301 of Turkey's Penal Code, which makes "insulting Turkishness" a crime punishable by prison terms. Turkish rights groups, including BIANET and the Initiative for Freedom of Expression, have been reporting on the numerous trials and actively campaigning to abolish the law.

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Monday, October 01, 2007


Compass Direct News
Last Sunday night on the way home from church services, a sad little voice came from the back seat of the car.

“Mommy, I miss my Daddy so much. Can’t Jesus bring him back to us?”

Her mother sighed, and then turned from the front seat to explain gently once more to her 6-year-old daughter, “Esther, Jesus decided to take Daddy to heaven, to be with Him. So we have to wait until Jesus takes us to heaven to see Daddy again.”

The little girl thought for a few seconds and then declared, “Well, if Daddy isn’t coming back, then I want to go to heaven too!”

More than five months have passed since Esther Aydin’s father was beaten, tortured and then slaughtered with a knife in Turkey’s eastern city of Malatya by five young Muslims who claimed in initial statements they had done it “for our religion.”

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Time to pray? Or to despair?

Turkey and Islam | Secularists' lament |
Mr Erdogan says he has no immediate plans to get rid of article 301 of the penal code, which was used to prosecute various writers, including Orhan Pamuk, for “insulting Turkishness”. But keeping article 301, say opponents, just confirms that AK is interested only in promoting Islam and defanging the army. The government remains “selective about democracy”, claims Umit Kardas, a former army prosecutor and critic of the generals.

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Will Prime Minister Erdogan Give a Christmas Party with His Parliament?

The Rise of a New Ottoman Empire: The Trap of Interfaith Dialogue
Why are interfaith dialogues held in the West? Shouldn’t they be held where the root of troubles, oppression, and injustice are? One of the most important characteristics of the American society is to be tolerant toward others and to respect one another. The most crucial pillar of the American Constitution is individual rights, an inalienable right. Any one who has been to America knows that there are mosques, synagogues, temples, churches, and chapels, so every devotee is free to worship as they wish. America is not like Turkey where the individual has limited forums to express freely his true thoughts and concerns because of oppressive regimes and where the Turkish government imprisons the individual in his own conscience, rather than allowing open worship. It is a fact that a Christian, Armenian, Kurds or Jew in Turkey has never been a first class citizen; instead, they certainly suffer discrimination. Still many Christians cannot even build their own church to freely worship, and a few months ago three Christians were tortured and killed by the Turkish nationalists.

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Sunday, September 30, 2007

US State Department Report: Turkey mistreats religious minorities - Independent Journalism From Today`s Armenia
A US State Department International Religious Freedom Report released last week criticized Turkey for its continuous policy of imposing restrictions on minority religious groups, particularly the Armenian and the Greek communities, who continue to seek legal recognition of their status.

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Friday, September 28, 2007


Compass Direct News
An e-mail message to several Turkish Protestant leaders in June surfaced in the Turkish press last week, revealing the names of Malatya officials alleged to have plotted the murder of three Christians there last April.

The Firat (Mediterranean) News Agency (ANF) reported on September 18 that an anonymous e-mail message signed simply, “A.A.” had named a colonel in the Malatya gendarmerie, along with an Islamic faculty member, as instigators of the plot to kill the three Christians.

The Malatya revelations were further stoked in the public forum on September 21, when FOX TV’s widely viewed Friday night “Objective” talk show hosted a controversial Turkish folk singer and his lyricist.

Singer Ismail Turut and lyrics writer Arif Sirin are facing possible criminal charges for their racist song “Don’t Make Any Plans,” which appeared earlier this month with video images on website YouTube eulogizing the teenage killer of Armenian Christian journalist Hrant Dink last January.

The song concludes with the words, “If a person betrays the country, he is finished off. The sun of Turks and Islam will never set in the Black Sea.” During the broadcast, Sirin expressed hostile views against Christian missionary activities in Turkey, criticizing the three murdered Christians for “selling snails [forbidden food for observant Muslims] in a Muslim neighborhood.”

“In Malatya missionaries were murdered and killed, that’s out of the question,” Sirin said. “But [they were saying] ‘We are selling snails in a Muslim neighborhood.’ Now look here, you can’t do that! Who are you selling to? I’ll take those snails and shove them up the appropriate place in that man.”

The Alliance of Protestant Churches in Turkey is calling on Christian congregations throughout the country to designate each Thursday in the coming weeks for prayer and fasting for the upcoming murder trial, as well as for other cases in Turkish courts addressing
the rights and freedoms of Christian citizens.

“God has been honored through the martyrdom of Necati, Ugur and Tilmann for their faith,” said Semse Aydin, widow of Necati Aydin. “So we must pray that He will also be honored through this trial, that the truth will come out, and justice will be done.”

Aydin noted that seven years ago, when her husband was jailed in Izmir for 30 days on false charges against his Christian activities, the church prayed and fasted, and the accusers withdrew their complaints at the first court hearing.

“It was really a miracle that these villagers stood up in court and admitted that they had been forced by gendarmerie officials to sign prepared complaints against Necati and his colleague, and that the written statements were not true,” Aydin said.

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Suffering of "Secret Believers" Suffering of "Secret Believers"::By Rebecca Hagelin
For many people around the world, religious freedom is an alien concept. No “First Amendment” protects them. No tradition of religious liberty permits them to worship according to their own consciences. If they go to a church that isn’t the “accepted” church, they risk ostracism, assault, torture, jail … even death.

The fact is, Christians are persecuted around the world on a daily basis -- it’s just that their stories are largely unknown.

In Turkey, police recently arrested a man who set a fire at the entrance to a Protestant church in Izmit and repeatedly fired a gun. The incident was caught on a security camera installed several months earlier -- after three Christians had been stabbed to death. “In the last year, there have been scores of threats or attacks on congregations and church buildings,” according to a report compiled by the country’s Protestant

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

No Trial Yet in "Malatya Massacre"

Bianet :: No Trial Yet in "Malatya Massacre"
On 18 April, three people working for Zirve Publishers, a publishing company for Christian texts, were killed. Five months later, no trial has been opened yet.

10 lawyers to join trial

Lawyer Orhan Kemal Cengiz, who is to join the trial as a third-party for the Deliverance Protestant Churches, said that it has been impossible to reach files because the investigation has been conducted under the seal of secrecy, just like the Hrant Dink trial.

Cengiz has told bianet that a group of ten lawyers from Istanbul, Izmir and Ankara is going to join the trial as third-party plaintiffs.

Five suspects in detention

The three men murdered were German national Tilmann Ekkhart Geske, Necati Aydin and Ugur Yüksel. Five men have been arrested in connection with the murders: Emre G., Salih G., Cuma Ö., Abuzer Y. and Hamit C..

They have been arrested under the charges of "founding and being members of a terrorist organisation", "committing murder as part of terrorist activity" and "depriving people of their freedom".

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Silenced by Compulsory Religion at School

Bianet :: Silenced by Compulsory Religion at School
"Sometimes I am uncomfortable in Religious Education (RE) classes, but because it is compulsory, there is nothing I can do. If it becomes an elective class, I will not choose it."

Thus says an Alevi girl who is at primary school in Eyüp, Istanbul. She has obviously found nothing of her own beliefs in the RE classes, which are mostly designed to teach the tenets of Sunni Islam.

Simsek: State should not be involved in RE

On the other hand, there are also experts who argue that the state should not be involved in RE at all. Emirali Simsek, the General Secretary of the Trade Union of Education and Science Employees (Egitim-Sen) says that RE should not have a place in the constitution.

Compulsory RE classes were introduced in Turkey after the 1980 military
coup. Many Alevi organisations, but also other individuals and experts
have for years called for a change in policy.

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Monday, September 24, 2007

TV Channel Suspended in Turkey for Broadcasting Erdogan's Past Speeches

AK Party Opposition TV Channel Kanal Turk Suspended in Turkey » AKP Watch
Tayyip Erdoğan is trying to erase his past as a radical islamist by pressuring media companies to not broadcast his previous speeches. As a part of new image building strategy, AK Party has zero tolerance those who exposing their past. Earlier journalist Sezai Şengün of Daily Star Newspaper, fined approx. $10,000 for publishing Erdoğan’s photos with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a designated terrorist by US State department, who has participated in and supported terrorist acts committed by al-Qa’ida and the Taliban.

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Being brave enough to devise a civil constitution

At this point I would like to refer to something that shows the boundaries of the intention to prepare a civil constitution. Just like the circles that established guardianship over domestic politics, the European Union is also indifferent to the country’s problems. For instance, when the EU authorities refer to religious freedom, they actually make reference to the demands by the Fener Greek Patriarchy and religious freedom of the non-Muslim minority in Turkey. The EU was never interested in the problems of the majority in Turkey as regards the enjoyment of religious freedoms. Therefore the EU cannot be expected to back a provision outlined in the draft bill to allow headscarves in universities. Such a provision will be 100 percent local and domestic.

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