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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