Monday, December 15, 2008


In the city of Samsun on the north coast of Turkey, the beleaguered congregation of the Agape Church Association struggles against local Islamic hostility toward its presence. In the last three years Agape church members have endured false allegations and verbal abuse from Muslim and nationalist locals. Their pastor has received death threats, and their building has been vandalized, all in an attempt to stop the 30 or so Christians from meeting. Local authorities have also had their part in opposition to the church, threatening it with legal action based on spurious charges. The church was threatened with a lawsuit because members had hung verses of Scripture and a cross on the walls. The Provincial Directorate of Associations inspected the building and told them to remove the offending articles because their rented rooms looked too much like a church. It was this sort of harassment that led the Alliance of Protestant Churches of Turkey (TEK) to write a report on the unfounded obstacles and challenges facing Christian congregations wishing to construct or reclassify church buildings. “The process of becoming a place of worship, although legally possible, is in practice almost impossible,” said a member of the TEK’s legal committee.”
Compass Direct

New school text book encourages religious discrimination

Turkey: New school text book encourages religious discrimination
Turkey’s Ministry of Education has introduced a school text book which Christian Solidarity Worldwide says encourages discrimination of the country’s small Christian community, despite growing international concern over increasing violence against non-Muslims in Turkey.

The book, Primary Education, History of Republic Reforms and Ataturkizm, Lesson Book 8, is aimed at thirteen year olds and was published this year by Devlet [State] Books.

The controversial text describes missionary activity as a threat to national unity by destroying national and cultural values through converting people to another religion. The text accuses missionaries of using natural disasters, such as earthquakes, to serve their own interests and warns children of the subversive aims of missionaries as well as tips on how to recognise their activities.

A spokesperson for the Alliance of Protestant Churches of Turkey said: "To the Turkish State and society, the words ‘missionary activity’ encapsulates not only the work of foreign missionaries, but all Christian activity in the country.

"The state and various groups have for years, through endless disinformation, spread the belief that Turkish Christians are part of a secret foreign plot to destroy Turkey.

"This is the same twisted mindset that has led to numerous attacks on our churches by young people who are convinced that we are CIA agents or similar."

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Turkey teaches anti-Christian discrimination

Religious Intelligence - News - Turkey teaches anti-Christian discrimination
Turkey’s Ministry of Education has introduced a school text book which encourages discrimination of the country’s small Christian community, despite growing international concern over increasing violence against non-Muslims in Turkey.
Turkey teaches anti-Christian discrimination

The book, Primary Education, History of Republic Reforms and Atatürkizm, Lesson Book 8, is aimed at thirteen year olds and was published this year by Devlet [State] Books. The controversial text describes missionary activity as a threat to national unity by destroying national and cultural values through converting people to another religion.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Turk 7 Now Offers Streaming Programs On Demand


Turks around the world can now receive Christian programing on demand. Turk7 will regularly be rotating fresh content on the site.

Film about Turkish Christian history premieres tonight

The Charleston Gazette - West Virginia News and Sports - News - Film about Turkish Christian history premieres tonight 
Filmmaker Victoria Barrett is taking viewers on a journey from the West Virginia hills to the mountains that cradled Christianity.

In her new film "Journey of Faith," the Hedgesville native traces Christian history from biblical roots through the Byzantine Empire, exploring 15 locations in the Republic of Turkey.
Journey of Faith Website

Friday, December 05, 2008

Turkey to allow Alevi faith taught in states schools- AKP deputy

Turkey to allow Alevi faith taught in states schools- AKP deputy
Alevis, the liberal wing of Islam, held its largest rally on record in November in Turkey’s capital, Ankara, to demand the abolishment of the Religious Affairs Directorate, the closure of mosques in Alevi villages and the removal compulsory religious courses in schools.

Alevis are the second largest religious community in the country; although no official statistics are available, it is estimated that 20 million Alevis reside in Turkey.

They claim the Directorate of Religious Affairs is conducting missionary activities to assimilate Alevis into Sunnism by posting imams in Alevi populated villages, and complain their rights are ignored and places of worship not recognized by the state.

"Religion classes should be based on individual demand. If Alevis want to learn Alevi faith in schools, we could pave the way for that," Nihat Ergun, deputy head of the AKP's parliamentary group, told Reuters in an interview this week.

Turkey grants religious holidays to Jewish and Armenian students

Turkey grants religious holidays to Jewish and Armenian students
The president of Higher Education Board (YOK), Yusuf Ziya Ozcan, requested in the mandate sent to the offices of university rectors that Jewish and Armenian students in Turkey be allowed to take a vacation during their religious holidays, Hurriyet daily reported on Tuesday.

Uncertainty Over Future World’s Oldest Monastery

There was uncertainty Wednesday, December 3, over the future of the world's oldest surviving Syriac Orthodox monastery in eastern Turkey, as local authorities and villagers have demanded part of its properties, an advocacy group told BosNewsLife Wednesday, December 3.

The Mor Gabriel Monastery, located near the town of Midyat in Mardin Province, is the target of several court cases, said Middle East Concern (MEC).

On Wednesday, December 3, "Bishop Timotheos Samuel Aktas will defend the monastery against numerous allegations, including claims that major buildings works have taken place without permission," MEC said.

The allegations are denied by the monastery. "One chapel was refurbished some years ago and is generally recognized as one of the most beautiful parts of the complex," MEC said. Later this month, on December 19, a local court was to examine boundary disputes raised by two neighbouring villages. However, "The monastery was built before the villages were founded," MEC stressed.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

BIRDS WITHOUT WINGS By Louis de Bernieres

Bewitching Birds
IN the decade that I was a book merchandiser, I read many of the thousands of titles of every imaginable genre that passed through my hands. But I never ever read historical fiction.

It was the one genre that daunted me because I reckoned the joy of reading would be constantly interrupted by wondering which part was historic fact and which, fiction.

Then Birds Without Wings fell into my hands recently and proved me completely wrong: I was besotted, savouring its 796 pages within a week. Months have passed since I put it down, but it remains resonant, as my mind regularly plays out pieces of this compelling tale of love, friendship, and culture during the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in Turkey after World War I.

Highly recommended!

Friday, November 28, 2008

A Monumental Struggle to Preserve Hagia Sophia

A Monumental Struggle to Preserve Hagia Sophia | Travel | Smithsonian Magazine
Visible for miles across the Sea of Marmara, Istanbul's Hagia Sophia, with its giant buttresses and soaring minarets, symbolizes a cultural collision of epic proportions. (The name translates from the Greek as "Sacred Wisdom.") The structure stands not only as a magnificent architectural treasure but also as a complex accretion of myth, symbol and history. The landmark entwines the legacies of medieval Christianity, the Ottoman Empire, resurgent Islam and modern secular Turkey in a kind of Gordian knot, confounding preservationists who want to save it from decay and restore its former glory.

"For months at a time, you don't see anybody working," said Ahunbay, a professor of architecture at Istanbul Technical University. She had directed a partial restoration of the building's exterior in the late 1990s and is regarded by conservators as its guardian angel. "One year there is a budget, the next year there is none," she said with a sigh. "We need a permanent restoration staff, conservators for the mosaics, frescoes and masonry, and we need to have them continuously at work."

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Last week’s court hearing on the bloody murder of three Christians in Turkey’s southeastern city of Malatya paved the way for further investigations into the connection between the five defendants and shadowy elements of the Turkish state linked to criminal activities.

The 13th hearing at Malatya’s Third Criminal Court on Friday (Nov. 21) in the murders of Turkish Christians Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel and German Christian Tilmann Geske presented little new evidence. No witnesses were called to testify.

The court prosecutor and plaintiff lawyers, however, are pursuing proof that there are links between the murderers and Ergenekon, an ultranationalist cabal of retired generals, politicians, journalists and mafia members under investigation for conspiracy in recent murders.

Silent little churches in the land of St. Paul

TURKEY Silent little churches in the land of St. Paul - Asia News
Since last June, Turkey has seen a constant flow of faithful from various countries around the world: Italy, Germany, Spain, and France, and also from Latin America, Korea, and even Japan. The many pilgrims want to walk in the "footsteps of St. Paul," revisiting the places where the Apostle - the 2,000th anniversary of whose birth is being celebrated this year - was born, lived, and fought and suffered for the Christian communities that had just arisen. Not a day goes by without groups of the faithful passing through Tarsus, Antioch, Ephesus. But too often the eyes of these pilgrims see nothing but stones in the shadow of the many minarets, so that they go home with a strong sense of dismay, if not the conviction that there are no more Christians in Turkey, but only and exclusively Muslims.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

For every Turkish DITIB mosque in Germany build one Christian church in Turkey!

The Society for Threatened Peoples (GfbV) welcomes in the spirit of religious diversity and tolerance the construction of places of prayer for all faiths in our country. It is worth noting that the new mosque in Duisburg falls under the jurisdiction of the Islamist society DITIB, which with its 880 branches is an arm of the Turkish "Ministry of Religious Affairs" in Ankara. At the same time the Turkish administration persecutes and suppresses to the present day the Christian minorities.

"We call for the licence for one Christian church in Turkey for each of the many hundred DITIB mosques opened in Germany. As long as the DITIB propagates the anti-Kurdish and Kemalist ideology and takes no action for freedom of religion in Turkey it damages the reputation of Islam in Germany. Many European Moslems, among them Bosniaks, Sanjaks, Albanians and Roma have already turned their backs on the German DITIB mosques", said Tilman Zulch, General Secretary of the Society for Threatened Peoples. "Our human rights organisation draws attention to the fact that the Turkish state, which is still dominated by Kemalist ideology, is still suppressing and persecuting the indigenous Christians."

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Court links Ergenekon to Malatya murder case

Court links Ergenekon to Malatya murder case
The judge presiding over the brutal murder of three Christians last year in a Malatya publishing house has announced that the indictment against Ergenekon, a criminal organization accused of plotting to overthrow the government, has been merged with the Malatya murder case.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Discovery in Turkey Comes from Major Iron Age Site

Funerary monument reveals Iron Age belief that the soul lived in the stone | The University of Chicago
Archaeologists in southeastern Turkey have discovered an Iron Age chiseled stone slab that provides the first written evidence in the region that people believed the soul was separate from the body.

The Turkification of Turkey

The Turkification of Turkey
Turkey’s Defense Minister Vecdi Gönül made the headlines recently with his remarks on the history of the country’s nation-building process. "One of the great achievements of Atatürk... is the population exchange between Greece and Turkey," he said, speaking at the commemoration of the death of the country’s founder. "Could Turkey be the same national country had the Greek community still lived in the Aegean or Armenians lived in many parts of Turkey?"

These words of the minister -- whose ministry is a most weird one, because it is subordinate to the military that it is supposed to supervise in a real democracy -- implied that he was content with the loss of Turkey’s Armenians and Greeks. The former had been "lost" during the tragic expulsion of 1915, and the latter were "exchanged" with the Turks in Greece in 1923. And according to Mr. Gönül, Turkey became the nation it is today thanks to these designs on its populace. Before criticizing the minister, I think we should simply acknowledge that he was telling the truth.

Yes, in the past century Turkey has been "Turkified" by state power. This was done by the removal of the non-Muslim elements, first, and then by the assimilation of the non-Turkish Muslims into "Turkishness." Turkey’s ethnically conscious Kurds, who are the only "survivors" of this Turkification policy, are today also the focus of the country’s deepest problem.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Christian satellite television sees growth in Turkey

Mission Network News
TURK-7 is an exciting Christian television channel broadcasting quality programming to Turkish-speaking people worldwide.

TURK-7's Michael Glenn says it's a good fit because the Turkish people are hungry for media. "They are second only to the United States in the number of television channels. So they draw in this stuff, in an eager way. Half the population is under the age of 30. They're more media savvy, more in-tune to this kind of thing. Right now, we're doing four hours a day of broadcasting, and our goal is that within two and a half years, we can go 24/7, pumping that Gospel in."

At present, they're able to beam their signal into 70 million viewers in the Republic of Turkey, plus another ten million other Turks in Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East. In addition, TURK-7's web streaming service makes the channel available to viewers throughout the world.

In an area that was nearly 25% Christian a century ago, the population of believers now falls under one percent. Despite changes made to facilitate joining the European Union, there is no indication of increasing religious freedom.

While the Turkish constitution includes freedom of religion, worship services are only permitted in "buildings created for this purpose," and officials have restricted the construction of buildings for minority religions.

Evangelism is difficult, so working alone isn't practical. Because they've partnered with 30 organizations and churches, they're able to do much more in scope. The programs being broadcast give a Christian point of view on a variety of topics using different program formats including documentaries, dramas, children's animations and teaching.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


Two years into a trial for “insulting Turkishness” that has been light on evidence and heavy on mud-slinging at Turkey’s Protestant community, a court proceeding last week brought no progress.

Another witness for the prosecution failed to appear in the trial of Turkish Christians Turan Topal and Hakan Tastan, charged with “insulting Turkishness” and spreading Christianity through illegal methods. Moreover, a Justice Ministry answer to the court about the viability of charges under Turkey’s controversial Article 301 had yet to arrive at the court last week.

In the last hearing in June, Silivri Criminal Court Judge Mehmet Ali Ozcan ordered a review of the two Christian converts’ alleged violations of the controversial article of the Turkish penal code on “insulting Turkishness.” But the court is still waiting for the Justice Ministry to decide whether they can be tried under Article 301 of the penal code.

The judge set the next hearing for Feb. 24, 2009 while the court awaits a response on whether the Christians can be charged under the controversial article.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Battling for religious freedom

BBC NEWS | Europe | Battling for religious freedom
From the outside, it looks just like any other church.

But St Paul's church in Tarsus, south-eastern Turkey, is actually a museum controlled by the government.

Christian campaigners want it to be handed over for religious use.

But the Turkish government has told the BBC that is "out of the question".

The church is so significant because it stands in Tarsus, the birthplace of St Paul. His status as a towering figure in the history of Christianity means the town is a growing centre for Christian pilgrimage.

But at the moment, access to what was once the town's church is tightly controlled by the Turkish tourism ministry.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Turkish Muslim Missionaries Plan to Take America: Fethullah Gülen‘s Missionaries in America

Turkish Muslim Missionaries Plan to Take America: Fethullah Gülen‘s Missionaries in America
Today Gulen’s Islamic party is in charge of the Turkish government, and they seek out those who want to act against Gülen, one by one putting them in jail and naming them “the Erkenekon gang.” For example, the Turkish government has charged the owner of the Cumuhuriyet newspaper, some high military officials, and some other party leaders with various crimes, but this strategy is just another way Gülen is taking revenge and wanting the military to be under the control of the civilians or the police because most of the police chiefs are his followers.

The United States’ law allows Gülen Muslim missionaries to operate easily in America. Gülen does not have to challenge the existing political order; he knows how to achieve his goals without violating U.S. law. Actually, it is much easier to gain followers and then position them in key institutions in the U.S. than it was in Turkey. Because the Constitution of the United States guarantees freedom of religion, Gülen uses that existing system for his Islamic aims. In Turkey Gülen initially had problems and lacked the freedom to gain power because the military did not allow his religious activities to be used as a tool to take over the government. Gülen has always taken advantage of situations and used them as opportunities to spread his global Islamic missionaries’ activities under the platforms of Interfaith Dialogues, opening schools around the world, holding conferences, and starting more house mosques, as in the U.S. Gülen believes the best way to defeat the enemy is to use the enemies’ weapon. What are the enemy America’s weapons? Democratic institutions. Gülen uses them to spread his message; for example, he brings thousands of graduate students from Turkey, at the expense of American taxpayers, to study at American universities.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Turkey denies Christians church

BBC NEWS | Europe | Turkey denies Christians church
The Turkish government says it is "out of the question" for it to hand over a revered medieval church where Catholics want to hold Christian services.

The church, currently run as a museum, stands in the south-eastern town of Tarsus, where St Paul was born.

The Turkish constitution guarantees freedom of religion, but Christian groups in the country believe that in practice they face discrimination.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Muslim wives can use karate against violent husbands

SAUDIA ARABIA Muslim wives can use karate against violent husbands - Asia News
Women can use karate, judo and taekwondo in self-defence against violent husbands, this according to a fatwa that conservatives fear might “stir up rebellion” within families.

Originally issued in Turkey the fatwa was backed by Islamic scholars in Egypt and now has the seal of approval of Sheikh Mohsen al Obeikan, an adviser to the Saudi Ministry of Justice and a member of the Saudi Shura Council.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Murder suspect expected state support

Turkey: Murder suspect expected state support :: Inspire Magazine
Lawyers and judges in the case of three Christians murdered in Turkey in April 2007 are continuing to investigate whether the attack was masterminded by troubled youths or shadowy elements of the Turkish state.

Plaintiff attorneys believe the first witness at the hearing on 16 October, local journalist Varol Bulent Aral, incited the suspected ringleader of the attacks to murder by convincing him foreign missionaries were connected to the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), a domestic outlawed terrorist organisation.

The suspected ringleader, Emre Gunaydin, testified that Aral promised him state immunity for the planned murders. Aral, however, denied promising clemency to Gunaydin for murdering the three Christians.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

World's largets blog hosting service banned in Turkey

A court in south-east Turkey on Friday banned Turkish internet users from accessing Blogger, the world's largest free blog hosting service.
Internet users in Turkey discovered Friday afternoon that the site, which hosts millions of blogs, or web logs, had been blocked. When users tried to view a blogger's page they were redirected to a message which said: "Access to this website has been suspended in accordance with decision no. 2008/2761 of the TR Diyarbakir First Criminal Court of Peace."
No reason for the ban was given.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Turkish nationalism, Ergenekon, and denial of religious freedom

Forum 18 Search/Archive
A court case in Turkey has pointed to the existence of a secretive underground ultra-nationalist organisation Ergenekon, though this might merely be another name for the "deep state". The trial began near Istanbul on 20 October of 86 alleged members – from the police, army, business, politics and the mass media - on charges that they were plotting to overthrow the current Justice and Development Party (AKP) government by 2009.

Ergenekon members are alleged to have maintained deathlists of people, including Christians with a missionary background. The Malatya murder trial is revealing plausible links between Ergenekon, the "deep state" and the murders. But local officials – who are almost certainly not in an Ergenekon-type group – are also hostile to religious freedom. The Ergenekon case is part of a power-struggle between the "deep state" and the AKP government, but it is unclear whether the current trials will advance freedom of religion and belief. Given the threats to the day-to-day security and religious freedom of non-nationalist Turks, whether the government effectively addresses the roots of these threats will be crucial.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Turkey and Secularism: Myth or Reality?

Turkey and Secularism: Myth or Reality?
The rights of Christians and the Alevi Muslims are not equal in today's Turkey. In recent times many Christians have been murdered. For the more numerous Alevi Muslims, it is clear that they face huge discrimination. Secular Turkey is a myth because under the surface we find a different Turkey based on preserving the dominance of orthodox Sunni Islam.

So why do democrats and secularists praise Turkey for being a shining example and evidence that democracy and Islam can work together? Turkey favors Islam over any other religion and religious equality does not exist. On the contrary, modern day Turkey supports Sunni orthodox Islam and persecution of minorities is endemic. Given this, Islam still controls society and Christians and other minorities face harsh times.

Turkish newspaper website blocked after creationist's complaint

Turkish newspaper website blocked after creationist's complaint | World news |
The website of Turkey's third largest-selling newspaper has been blocked following a complaint by an Islamic creationist.

The case will revive concerns about the country's attitude towards internet censorship and press freedom.

A court ruled that Turkish web users should be denied access to the Vatan site after deciding it had insulted Adnan Oktar, a prolific writer who has disputed the theory of evolution.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Orthodox Christian leaders meet at the Ecumenical Patriarchate


Patriarchs, primates and representatives of all the Patriarchal and Autochephalous Orthodox Churches recommitted themselves to overcome intra-Orthodox conflicts as well as to continue theological dialogues with Christians from other confessions at a 10-12 October meeting in Istanbul, Turkey.

Monday, October 13, 2008

TURK-7 celebrates fifth anniversary

Mission Network News
Christian broadcasting company TURK-7 is getting ready to celebrate its anniversary. TURK-7 has maintained a ministry in Turkey for five years, creating the means to encourage Turkish Christians.

"TURK-7 exists to help support the minority Christians who live in Turkey," says David Harder of SAT-7 .

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Ecumenical Patriarch calls for "unity"

Ecumenical Patriarch calls for "unity" | Spero News
With a strong and heartfelt appeal for "the unity of the Church," the only way "to address the problems of the modern world," work began yesterday at the pan-Orthodox meeting in Fanar. The summit was organized by the ecumenical patriarchate, to celebrate the Pauline year, and is characterized by the presence of Church leaders and representatives from the entire Orthodox world, meeting together after many years. Among those present is Patriarch Alexy of Moscow, and for the first time, the attendance of the patriarch of Cyprus has not been blocked by the Turkish authorities.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Orthodox summit in Turkey in the name of Paul

TURKEY – GERMANY Orthodox summit in Turkey in the name of Paul - Asia News
Orthodox patriarchs are meeting tomorrow in Istanbul, in the seat of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, to celebrate the 2,000 years of Saint Paul’s birth. With the announcement that Aleksij II, Patriarch of Moscow will attend, the top leaders of Christian Orthodoxy will thus come together for the first time in many years. They include in addition to the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomeos I, Theodoros II of Alexandria (Egypt), Ignatius IV of Antioch (Syria) and Theophilus III of Jerusalem (Israel). The two-day summit includes meetings and a joint celebration.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Church discovered in Turkey one of worlds earliest

Church discovered in Turkey one of worlds earliest
The Derecik Basilica discovered in north-western province of Bursas Orhaneli town in Turkey in the year 2000 has been claimed as one of the worlds earliest churches that was constructed after Christianity was accepted as an official religion by the Roman Empire.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

"Turkey is at a Crossroad"

"From Tucson to Turkey"
Turkey is a secular nation and it's the only Muslim country in the world that has no state sponsored religion. The younger generation wants more Democratic freedoms while its older and more traditional leaders want Islamic law to rule. There's close to 70 million people in Turkey and 99% of them are Muslim but there's a small number of Jews and Christians scattered in the mix, including the the arch bishop of the Armenian Catholic Church, "I am the arch bishop who is taking care of all the churches in Turkey," he tells us.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Turkey fails on promise to re-open seminary, US says

Turkey fails on promise to re-open seminary, US says - Turkish Daily News Sep 22, 2008
The Turkish government has repeatedly pledged to reopen the Halki (Heybeliada) Greek Orthodox seminary in Istanbul, but has so far failed to keep its promise, a senior U.S. official has said. John Hanford, ambassador-at-large for religious freedom at the U.S. State Department said the United States had been urging and would continue to urge Turkey to reopen the theological university based on Istanbul's Heybeliada Island. "I have personally raised them with the ambassador to Turkey. Our embassy continues to urge the government of Turkey to address these issues, topermit the opening of the Halki seminary, to further expand religious freedom in general," Hanford said, speaking at a news conference late Friday for the release of the department's annual report on international religious freedoms.

Turks conservative but relaxed about it, a poll shows

Turks conservative but relaxed about it, a poll shows
Ninety-four percent of Turks identify themselves as religious, very few are practicing this month's holy fast or regularly pray five times a day, a recent poll showed.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Facebook debate in Turkey

Facebook debate in Turkey - Radio Netherlands Worldwide - The State We're In
Facebook, along with other social networking groups, is set to play a key role in Turkey's attempts to creating a new constitution and a society based on democracy and human rights. But the jury is still out about whether Facebook will empower people and draw them together or simply add to the polarization of Turkish society.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Islamic charity bosses jailed for fraud

The chiefs of an Islamic charity were sent to prison in Germany on Wednesday after the Turkish men had admitted siphoning millions of euros away from alms donated by devout Muslims for the poor.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Malatya victims seek compensation, question whole system

Malatya victims seek compensation, question whole system
The relatives of two Turkish citizens who were brutally killed in Malatya last year filed a joint petition with an administrative court in Ankara last week to open a compensation case against authorities whom they believe are responsible for the murder of their loved ones.

Monday, September 15, 2008


Testimony in the murder case of three Christians here indicates the attack was premeditated for at least two suspects, despite the defense team’s insistence that the killers acted spontaneously.

The 11th hearing on the murders at a publishing house in this southeastern city 17 months ago took place Friday (Sept. 12) at the Malatya Third Criminal Court. Two Turkish Christians who converted from Islam, Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel, and a German, Tilmann Geske, were brutally tortured and killed on April 18, 2007.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Malatya killer might have hinted of murders to girlfriend

Malatya killer might have hinted of murders to girlfriend
The 11th hearing of the trial over the murder of three Christians in the southeastern province of Malatya in 2007 convened yesterday. Two witnesses who knew some of the suspects before the incident, including suspect Emre Günaydın's girlfriend Turna Işıklı, testified at yesterday's hearing.

Işıklı told the court she had stopped talking to Günaydın when she found he had feelings for her but said the two made up later through a friend. In response to a question from the judge as to whether she was aware of Günaydın's political leanings, she said no.

Işıklı was asked during cross-examination what Günaydın might have meant in an SMS message he wrote to her one day before the murders in which he said, "I will be at the interrogation tomorrow." Işıklı said she thought it meant Günaydın would be "questioned" by her father over school-related matters.

Meanwhile, Günaydın shouted at one of the lawyers for the victims' families when the lawyer's phone rang to "Switch it off, you are disturbing my concentration."

Monday, September 08, 2008

Orthodox Christianity under threat

Orthodox Christianity under threat - International Herald Tribune
When Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and his Islamic-rooted party came under fierce fire this summer from secularists, who came close to persuading the country's supreme court to bar both from politics, he called the campaign an attack against religious freedom and a threat to Turkey's efforts to join the European Union.

Yet in nearly six years in power, Erdogan has shown no inclination to extend even a modicum of religious freedom to the most revered Christian institution in Turkey - the Patriarchate of Constantinople, the spiritual center of 300 million Orthodox Christians throughout the world. As a result, Turkey's persecution of the Patriarchate looms as a major obstacle to its European aspirations, and rightly so.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

The Kalenderhane Mosque: a former church with a long history

[SACRED SITES] The Kalenderhane Mosque: a former church with a long history
İstanbul, the former capital of the Ottoman Empire, is home to many mosques that were formerly churches prior to the conquest of the city by Mehmet II in 1453. One such historical jewel is located in the Vezneciler area of Eminönü, though it lacks the fame of the Aya Sofya.

The Kalenderhane Mosque in Vezneciler, close to the Fatih district, is just one of many such examples. Built as a church by the Byzantines, the small mosque first served as a dervish convent after the conquest of Constantinople and then as a mosque

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Turkish municipality recognizes Alevi places of worship

Turkish municipality recognizes Alevi places of worship
The assembly houses at which Turkey's Alevi communities pray, known as cemevis, have been approved as official places of worship in Turkey for the first time with a key decision taken by a regional municipality.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Politics, not religion 'behind Turkey killings'

Religious Intelligence - News - Politics, not religion 'behind Turkey killings'
Politics, not religion, may have been the motive for the killing of three Christians last year in Turkey, according to testimony presented in the trial of five men accused of the murders.
Politics, not religion 'behind Turkey killings'

On Aug 21 prosecuting attorneys requested police investigate possible links between the ultra-nationalist Ergenekon movement and the April 18, 2007 torture and murder of Turkish Christians Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel and German missionary Tilmann Geske in the southeastern city of Malatya.

According to Turkish press accounts of the trial, the alleged ringleader of the Malatya murders, Emre Gunaydin was a member of an ultra-nationalist youth movement, the Ulku Ocaklari, and was linked to a retired general and journalist alleged to be part of Ergenekon network.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Facebook Population: A Global Breakdown

Turkish Digest: Facebook Population: A Global Breakdown
Facebook Population By Region: all numbers current to last Friday (Aug 22nd 2008)

Top 8

1 USA 31,679,380 about 1 in 10
2 United Kingdom 12,216,660 about 1 in 5
3 Canada 9,878,540 about 1 in 3
4 Turkey 3,747,000 about 1 in 20

Central broadcasting system for Islamic call to prayer

Can they just broadcast direct to their cell phones?

Central broadcasting system for Islamic call to prayer - Turkish Daily News Aug 27, 2008
Recently adopted by the Religious Affairs Directorate, a central broadcasting system for "azhan," the Islamic call to prayer, has satisfied many citizens who used to be disturbed by its non-simultaneous broadcast from minarets.

Monday, August 25, 2008


Hellenic News of America
U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has introduced legislation to urge the Government of Turkey to respect the rights and freedoms of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of the Orthodox Christian Church, in accordance with criteria necessary to join the European Union. The Ecumenical Patriarch is the leading figure in the Orthodox Church and has suffered from discriminatory treatment from the Turkish government.

Saturday, August 23, 2008


Compass Direct News
The five young Turkish men accused of torturing and killing three Christians in Malatya last year may have been incited by members of a vast political conspiracy allegedly responsible for multiple murders in recent years. The 10th hearing on the murder of three Christians at a publishing house in southeast Turkey 16 months ago took place yesterday (Aug. 21) at the Malatya Third Criminal Court. Plaintiff attorneys requested the case be integrated with an investigation into Ergenekon, an ultranationalist cabal of retired generals, politicians, journalists and mafia members under investigation for conspiracy in various murders. In January police uncovered and started arresting members of Ergenekon. A criminal investigation has linked them to high-profile attacks, murders and plans to engineer domestic chaos and ultimately overthrow the government. Two Turkish Christians, Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel, and a German, Tilmann Geske, were brutally tortured and killed on April 18, 2007 in the southeastern city of Malatya. Evidence suggests Emre Gunaydin, the suspected ringleader of the murderers, was in contact with at least two people connected to Ergenekon: a retired brigadier general and a journalist. The latter, Varol Bulent Aral, told Gunaydin he saw a connection between missionaries and the Kurdistan Worker’s Party terrorist organization.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Ergenekon indictment to be included in Malatya murders case

Ergenekon indictment to be included in Malatya murders case
The panel of judges hearing the murder trial of three missionaries killed at a Christian publishing house in the eastern province of Malatya last year has ruled to integrate the nearly 2,500-page indictment against Ergenekon, a gang accused of trying to topple the government by force, into the Malatya case.

Monday, August 18, 2008

We are all equal as citizens of the Turkish Republic

Gül: We are all equal as citizens of the Turkish Republic
All Turkish citizens, irrespective of religion or ethnicity, are equal, President Abdullah Gül said on Saturday during a festival of Turkey's Alevi community, a religious group that differs from Sunni Islam with membership thought to number between 6 million and 12 million in Turkey.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Debate on prayer in schools in Turkey

The right to pornography - Turkish Daily News Aug 09, 2008
A new hot debate started this week in the Turkish media with the draft law prepared by Edibe Sözen, a member of Parliament on the ticket of the governing Justice and Development Party, or AKP.
Another suggestion in Ms. Sözen’s draft is the opening of “prayer rooms” in public schools, “for students from all different religious faiths.” The secularist media perceived this as “an attempt to insert Islamic prayer to schools,” and Ms. Sözen responded by saying that she meant “all faiths,” not just Islam.

This is, again, a complex issue. It is nice that Ms. Sözen refers to “all faiths,” but it is also true that more than “99 percent” of Turkey is Muslim, and the prayers rooms, if they will be opened, will all be Islamic ones. So, in real life, the issue is about allowing Islamic prayer in Turkish schools. And it is not easy to give an answer. On the one hand, there is the idea that public schools are supposed to be secular, so they should not promote religious services. But on the other hand, there is the idea that public schools, let alone private ones, should respect the demands of their students to observe their religious practices. Which one is true?

The issue actually cuts down to this question: Should the secular state respect the religious practices of its citizens and make some regulations accordingly? My answer is often yes, because otherwise religious citizens would feel be discriminated against by the state. And they would be alienated.

I recall that the director of my high school would not allow students to go to the Friday prayer by taking a slightly longer noon break. He used to say, “Study at school is more important than prayer at the mosque.” That sort of secularism is an assertive one that seeks to triumph over religion. And it is inevitable for true believers to dislike, and stand against, such a secularism. The wiser way would be to develop a model in which the religious lifestyle would be embraced, as well as the secular lifestyle. And citizens should decide whether they are driven to prayer or porn.

Sümela Monastery: Ancient jewel at the foot of the Black Mountains

Sümela Monastery: Ancient jewel at the foot of the Black Mountainsah
The Black Sea province of Trabzon is known for its beautiful natural scenery, but it is also known for its centuries-old monastery complex. As you arrive at Altındere Valley in the town of Maçka, you will likely catch a glimpse of the Sümela Monastery by gazing down into the valley from far above before you can take in the magnificent view around you: the sparkling stream, the green cloak covering the valley and the Sümela Monastery in all its glory.

The monastery, also known as the Meryem Ana (Virgin Mary) among locals, is a Greek monastery complex at the foot of the Karadağlar (Black Mountains). It is perhaps the most significant attraction of the region. Its full name is Panagia Sümela, or Theotokos Sümela, in some sources.

Monday, August 04, 2008

“Hrant was our Sacrifice as Well”

Hetq Online
The Armenian community of Istanbul is the most isolated when it comes to relations with the Republic of Armenia. The Armenians of Turkey hardly feel the presence of Armenia in whatever sector you wish to name. However, the Armenians in Istanbul and in the hundreds of residences throughout Western Armenia have remained Armenian, even without knowing the language, converting to the Muslim faith, changing their names and surnames and professing to be of another nationality.

The number of working Armenian churches in Istanbul today stands at 36. However, the number of those attending religious services decreases yearly. On any given Sunday, one would be hard-pressed to see a large number of young people at church.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Scary article published this morning in Turkey

All citizens except non-Muslims - Turkish Daily News Aug 02, 2008
While the substance of the nation is Islam, it is forbidden right from the start to speak up about it. And that is certainly the origin of our chronic schizophrenia vis-a-vis secularism

As the central feature of the nation-building process, the Islamic religion excludes the followers of other beliefs and thus considers them anti-nationals. In this sense, the Armenian, the Greek and the Jew are the innate "others" of the nation, its natural adversaries. Since the creation of the Turkish nation, non-Muslims had no place in citizenship, but non-Turkish Muslims have theirs as long as they turn Turkish and overlook their identities of origin.

The religious root of the nation does not disturb the secular individual, quite the contrary. In this context, the Christian missionary is a common enemy. He/she is dangerous for the Muslim's religion and the secular's nation. The conversion of a Muslim fatally hurts the nation as much as the Muslim congregation. Although there is no problem in the country with Muslim missionary activity that converts others into Islam and hence "Turkifies" them, the Christian missionary presents a clear lethal threat.

Let's take the assassination of Father Santoro or the Zirve publishing house massacre in the city of Malatya. Didn't one of the perpetrators involved in the Malatya case answer, "They are Christians, we are Turks," to the attorney's question of what he meant by "they" while he was talking about protestant missionaries? All these people, including the murder suspect of the slain Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink, disclose an arrogant tranquility after the completion of a noble religious/national duty. Ali Koç, one of the attorneys involved in the Malatya case, says, "The office of the prosecutor is trying to legitimize the case more than they are trying to unveil it." That is to say, to eliminate a missionary is almost an obligation for a Muslim in order to save the religion and the nation.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The time of Saint Paul – Apostle to the Nations

Sunday - Catholic Magazine
In the Church we have begun the Year of St Paul, which will last till 29 June 2009. We are facing a very important time, a wide-angle reflection on Christianity, which was enormously influenced by St Paul. What we read about this Apostle in the Acts and in his Letters, which are an extraordinary theological work, interpretation of God’s Revelation, testifies to the fact that we can hardly imagine the Church and Christianity without the teaching of St Paul. The Year of St Paul is a good occasion to look at the work of evangelisation. This disciple of Christ took to heart Christ’s calling to apostleship. Throughout centuries he has been an example of missionary involvement, which resulted from his absolute love for Christ. We constantly draw from St Paul; we base our teaching on his theology and take him as a model of evangelizer.

Turkey's church-state fracture

Turkey's church-state fracture -
Particularly since 9/11, the West has liked to see Turkey as a symbol of what a democratic Islamic country might look like. Lately that ideal seems threatened by clashes between Turkey's secular and Islamist factions that are a sobering reminder that the church-state separation -- in countries where religion has ruled -- is no easy thing.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Bombing widens division in Turkey

Mission Network News
Deadly twin blasts in Turkey this weekend heightened insecurities over the secular-religious rift.

SAT-7's David Harder says partner TURK-7 feels the pressure. "Turkey is in a very tense time. The ruling political party is on trial right now to prove that it should exist. It's a very complicated scenario. Nobody knows how it will play out. That is a big threat in the background to the stability of the country."

The Constitutional court's decision could shut down the Justice and Development Party's government for alleged Islamism. Doing away with it would fly in the face of the nationalist thinking that ‘"o be Turkish is to be Muslim, and to be Muslim is to be Turkish."

Analysts think any changes to the 85-year-old system could trigger months of political upheaval. Already, the rumblings can be felt in the streets. Add to that the shock of the terror attacks, and the tensions go up even higher.

Christians are often singled out in times of sectarian violence. While the Turkish constitution includes freedom of religion, worship services are only permitted in "buildings created for this purpose," and officials have restricted the construction of buildings for minority religions.

The few who dare to profess Christ face harassment, threats and prison. Evangelism is difficult. According to a 2007 report from I.N. Network, a ministry working in the country, the number of believers reportedly declined from 22% to only .2% between 1900 and 2000, and most of these Christians are non-Turkish.

Even so, the TURK-7 team shares the hope of Christ through programs produced in Istanbul.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Turkey uses religion to lure tourists

Turkey uses religion to lure tourists - The National Newspaper
Forget about sun, beaches and all-inclusive hotels. The hottest travel trend in Turkey is religious tourism, as such sites as the house of Mary, mother of Jesus, the church of the original Santa Claus and the ancient hometown of St Paul are attracting a growing number of visitors.

Although Turkey is a predominantly Muslim country today, many important events in Christian history and tradition took place in Anatolia, a heritage that authorities and tour operators have identified as a source for additional visitors and revenue.

“These are different tourists from those you find in [beach hotels in] Antalya,” said Fugen Kolsal, the owner of Oktogon Tourism, a travel agency in Istanbul that specialises in “biblical tours” and other offers for visitors interested in the history of early Christianity. “They are older, more conservative, they are open for the country and its people, they have more money, and they reach places where normal tourists will never go.”

A Religious Tourism Project, conducted by Turkey’s tourism ministry, aims to “increase the number of visitors to important centres” of religious history, most of which are connected to Christianity, the ministry said in a statement on its website.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Turkish Minister Discusses Status of Religious Freedoms

Turkish Minister Discusses Status of Religious Freedoms
Foreign Minister Ali Babacan once more reaffirmed his support for the remarks he made at the European Parliament last May and said that there were serious problems in Turkey regarding freedoms.

"Some of them have been solved, but there are still many problems to be solved in coming days," Babacan told the private NTV channel.

Replying a question on the status of religious freedoms in Turkey at the external relations committee of the European Parliament in May, Babacan said that not only non-Muslim minorities in Turkey had problems regarding religious freedoms but the Muslim majority experienced similar problems as well.

Turkey Authorities "Supported" Murders Of Christians, Trial Observers Claim

Turkey Authorities "Supported" Murders Of Christians, Trial Observers Claim | Turkey | Europe
Netherlands-based Open Doors, a group investigating the plight of reportedly persecuted Christians, said it has learned that a key witness, Metin Dogan, has told a court that at least four influential politicians and officials were involved in killing German Tilman Ekkehart Geske and Turks Necati Aydin, and Ugur Yuksel.

The three Christian workers were found in April last year, tied up and their throats slit.

Dogan said he was approached by ultranationalist movement Ulku Ocaklari to carry out the murders with a knife. “If it’s done with a gun, it cannot be arranged with the police,” he was reportedly told. The movements chairman, Burhan Coskun, allegedly promised Dogan to provide two assistents who he was to kill after murdering the Christians.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


Despite new court testimony naming a web of ranking local officials behind the slaughter of three Christians in Malatya last year, defense lawyers for the alleged murderers attempted to turn last week’s hearing into an investigation into Christian missionary activities.

The defense also pursued a line of questioning linked to a farfetched conspiracy theory, based on the murderers’ claims that the Malatya office of Zirve Publishing Co. was secretly linked to the illegal Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) terrorist group.

But the firsthand testimony of a prosecution witness claiming to know personally the instigators of the deadly plot dominated Friday’s (July 4) hearing, with plaintiff lawyers concluding this put them “one step further” in unraveling the case.

Playing to rising anti-Christian sentiments in 99 percent Muslim Turkey, the murderers’ attorneys peppered four of the six witnesses testifying at hearing with probing questions about their personal religious beliefs and involvement in Christian activities.

“Don’t bother with the murders, tell us about missionary work!” shouted a sarcastic headline on the front page of Taraf newspaper the morning after the trial.

It was the eighth hearing in the case, trying five murder suspects caught at the scene and two accomplices for the April 18, 2007 murders of Turkish Christians Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel and German Christian Tilmann Geske in a Christian publishing office in southeastern Turkey.

Although the presiding judge accepted most plaintiff objections to irrelevant defense questions, the day-long hearing was punctuated by recurring, heated shouting matches across the courtroom between the two ranks of attorneys.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Turkish Government Denies Water to Church in Ankara

Turkish officials continue harassing legal church in an attempt to force it to close

The Turkish government is now attempting to shut down the Batikent Protestant Church in Ankara by shutting off the church building's water supply.

On June 18th an official from the government office of the Ankara Department of Water came with an order to take out the water meter from the Batikent Protestant Church. The reason cited in the order to remove the water meter was because of alleged unpaid water bills dated between Aug 27, 2007 and June 6, 2008. However, between 2005 and 2007 the Batikent Protestant Church won several court decisions granting them the right to have free water from the Government.

In Turkey, the government gives mosques free water. However, Turkey's constitution is based on secularism, and thus it seems logical that whatever rights a mosque may have to free water should be afforded to churches as well. Accordingly, in 2002, when Pastor Daniel Wickwire founded the Batikent Protestant Church of Ankara for Turkish-speaking Christians, he applied to the Municipal Government of Ankara asking for free water.

This request for free water was denied by the local government, so Wickwire and the church's Turkish Pastor Ali Pekta? opened a series of court cases going all the way up to the Supreme Court where they eventually won the right for the church to have free water. Not only did they win the right to have free water provided to the church, but the Supreme Court ordered the Ankara Department of Water to repay all of the water bills the church had paid since it opened.

Despite the Supreme Court's ruling, the Turkish government has refused to repay the church for their previous bills and continued to harass them by sending water bills and attempting to remove their water meter on 10 different occasions. Twice this left the church without water, and the water was turned on only after the church paid the water bills that it did not rightfully owe.

ICC reported on a different attempt by the government to shut down Batikent Protestant Church in a press release earlier this month on June 10. On June 2, police delivered a government order to shut down the church in three days because it was in violation of the zoning code. However, the church had already won a court case on this same issue. Yet again, they have been forced to open another expensive counter court case in order to stop its impending closure.

The opposition faced by Batikent Protestant Church is part of a wider problem. The present government of Turkey has been enacting new laws designed to close down existing churches and make it difficult to open new ones.

Jeremy Sewall, Policy Analyst at ICC, said, "Adding to its human rights violations, the government of Turkey is also lacking in creativity. They could at least invent a different pretense to try to shut the church down than ones that it has already lost. For the government to completely disregard its own court decisions reveals either an impotent court system or a deeply conflicted political struggle within Turkey. Either way, their decision to childishly harass Batikent Protestant Church is an embarrassment to their country."

Saturday, June 28, 2008


Twenty months after two Turkish Christians went on trial for allegedly “insulting Turkishness and Islam,” a local criminal court has requested a Justice Ministry review of one of three charges in the case. On Tuesday (June 24), Silivri Criminal Court Judge Mehmet Ali Ozcan ordered a review of the two Christian converts’ alleged violations of the controversial Article 301 of the Turkish penal code. Accused of spreading Christianity by illegal methods, Hakan Tastan and Turan Topal were charged in October 2006 under Turkey’s Article 301 for denigrating “Turkishness.” Regardless of the Justice Ministry decision on the Article 301 charges against Tastan and Topal, the Silivri court will continue its prosecution of the case under the other two charges: reviling Islam and compiling information files on private citizens. Oddly, both teenage witnesses for the prosecution testified that they did not know the defendants and had never even seen them before facing them in the courtroom on Tuesday. “Neither the defendants nor anyone else has tried to approach me with propaganda about the Christian religion, and no one has given me written or visual materials,” 18-year-old Emin Demirci told the court.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

In Turkey, Bitter Feud Has Roots in History

In Turkey, Bitter Feud Has Roots in History -
As Turkey’s governing party braces for a high court ruling that could close it down and bar many of its members from politics, party officials like to talk about what they did that caused so much trouble.
“Watch out, you’re talking to a sinner,” said Sadullah Ergin, an official in the party, Justice and Development, whose founders, some of them former Islamists, now want Turkey to be a more open society for practicing Muslims.

Mr. Ergin’s offense, detailed in a more than 160-page indictment of the party and its officials that has paralyzed Turkish politics since it was filed in March, was saying that a ban on women wearing head scarves in universities violated human rights, adding his signature to a draft law that helped cancel it and talking about it on a television talk show.

Most of all, his crime lay in his association with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the leader of the party, known as A. K., the initials of its Turkish name. With its control of the presidency, the Parliament and the government, the faction has come further than any other in modern Turkey in breaking the grip of the secular establishment on power.

The indictment accuses the party of trying to turn Turkey, a secular democracy, into an Islamic state, a charge that Mr. Ergin contends is “political, not legal.”

Even Turkey’s liberals, who would be among the first to speak out against Islamic activism in government, agree with that assessment. Many see the case as the last stand by Turkey’s secular old guard — a powerful class that includes the military and judiciary — that is against the ropes and trying desperately to hang on to power. The military’s attempt to stare down Mr. Erdogan last year led to a pro-A. K. retaliation at the ballot boxes, and now it has turned to its judicial allies to try to stop Mr. Erdogan. A ruling by the constitutional court is expected in the next few months.

“They are playing their last game,” said Baskin Oran, a professor of international relations at Ankara University. “The military is no longer able to make coups. The last line to hold onto is the constitutional court.”

Thursday, June 19, 2008

'Good Muslims' should listen to top cleric

'Good Muslims' should listen to top cleric - Turkish Daily News Jun 18, 2008
Recently, we were forcefully reminded that we all must love Atatürk -- or we face prosecution and must stand trial. Insult and blasphemy can always be discussed, but “loving/not loving someone no matter who he is” should be a matter in which the state should not get involved, especially in the form of lawsuits and prison sentences.

That "someone" can be Atatürk or Prophet Mohammed. In democracies people should have a right to chose whom to love or not love, including the founder of the state or a prophet.

The truth is, if we are talking about democracy and civil liberties everyone should be able to express love or hate for the founder of the state, the state, the monarch if there is one, the prime minister, the president, the chief of general staff, the Pope and even a prophet – "holiness" cannot give religion immunity against "people not loving it." Avoiding forceful conversion of non-Muslims or atheists into Islam is one of the virtues of the religion of Mohammed.

Prosecuting someone because she does not love Atatürk is so amusingly childish. And so is the Kemalist columnist who writes that “… the prosecution is stupid but the girl who does not love Atatürk must be insane.” Just like someone who does not love Atatürk should not be prosecuted, s/he cannot be humiliated as an "Islamist loony." Sadly, the Turks, regardless of which side of today's ideological division line they belong to, are centuries away from the basic notion of tolerance. In fact, that sharp division is only driving them away from tolerance./blockquote>

Turkish Pastor Facing Jail On "False" Charges

Turkish Pastor Facing Jail On "False" Charges | Turkey | Europe
Pastor Orhan Piçaklar of the Samsun Agape Church in the Black Sea coastal city of Samsun found a notice Sunday, June 15, notifying him that he was a suspect in a court case and requiring him to come immediately to give testimony, said US-based advocacy group International Christian Concern (ICC) with Website

When he arrived at the public prosecutor’s office the pastor apparently discovered that charges against him had been hand-written and included a false identity number. When he asked the prosecutor why he had opened a case on this basis, he was allegedly told: “Because there are crazy people around.”

ICC said the "vague remark" probably means "that the prosecutor is trying to save his own skin from Muslim radicals who would target him if he was seen to be 'soft' on Christians."

There was no immediate comment from the prosecutors office. ICC said the anonymous accuser, using a hidden camera, had also taken pictures of a baptism and a wedding blessing ceremony at the church. Charges against him included "Insulting the prophet of Islam, Mohammed", "Insulting the police" and "Performing a marriage ceremony in the church," ICC said, citing the hand-written letter.


Piçaklar has denied the charges, saying that never insulted anyone "because the New Testament commands Christians to respect all people." In addition, he reportedly said that he didn't perform a marriage ceremony, but only a "celebration and blessing of a couple who were already married."

ICC said it fears the pastor could receive jail time for these charges, although it was not immediately clear how much time the prosecutor is asking for him to serve. In published remarks, Piçaklar said, "I am not afraid as for the Lord in everything I can do everything. But please pray for my family because they will be in desperate straits if anything happens to me." He reportedly added that he believes, "The Lord will not allow them to be left alone, because the Lord here is daily growing His church, Satan is restless and creating problems.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Church ordered to shut down in Turkey

Church ordered to shut down in Turkey (
A church in Turkey's capitol city of Ankara is facing more legal persecution from the government.

The Batikent Protestant Church has been served notice that it will have to shut down soon -- which presents an odd set of circumstances. Jeremy Sewell, a policy analyst for International Christian Concern, says the church has already fought many legal battles to exist.

"The church has won this right by fighting approximately 15 different court cases, many of which have gone to the Supreme Court of Turkey over the past six years," he conveys.

Yet the latest lawsuit involves the same issues. Turkey's government is secular, and there is a constitutional guarantee of religious freedom. Sewell says it is shocking that the Turkish government "... [w]ould be so blatant in their violation of religious freedom when the courts have already ruled that this church is legal and can stay open."

Friday, June 13, 2008

Controversial ex-priest claims to be social engineer

Controversial ex-priest claims to be social engineer
Çınar's anti-missionary propaganda is blamed by some for the death of Italian priest Andrea Santoro, who was killed by a teenager on Feb. 5, 2006, in his church in the northern Black Sea port city of Trabzon. The murderer had he was alarmed by debates on television over missionary activities in Turkey.

The reports of Çınar's army affiliation have raised the question of whether the military did indeed pay a spy to encourage aggression against Christians in the mostly Muslim nation.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Former priest turned Muslim turns out to be military man

Former priest turned Muslim turns out to be military man
A former Turkish priest who had been working with foreign missionaries and then converted to Islam was actually an intelligence officer with the Turkish Land Forces, a Turkish daily has reported, but he has denied acting as a "provocateur."
"Records from the Emekli Sandığı Mersin regional office show that Çınar had been registered on Aug. 16, 1992 as a 'special sergeant' with the record number of 706661XX and his premiums have been paid regularly," stated the daily.

The story indicated that the Emekli Sandığı office confirmed that Çınar is a member of the Turkish Land Forces. The Emekli Sandığı is only for public personnel and individuals who cannot pay their own premiums. Press consultant for the Association of the Turkish Protestant Churches İsa Karataş said they were not concerned about Çınar's statements as long as such statements do not put forward slanderous information about their community.

"If he is really an informant, this is not a big surprise to us. We know that our churches have been closely watched, we are not complaining about this. We want the state to know what we are really doing but we want such informants -- if there are any -- to report the truth to whatever organization they are working for," Karatas said in a written statement to Today's Zaman.

Malatya trial reveals unsettling implications for believers

Mission Network News
So while the government may claim ignorance, Open Doors' Carl Moeller says, "If they're watching such a tiny group of Christians so carefully, it's impossible that they would not also be aware of clandestine ultra-nationalists or terrorists wanting to attack them. So even though terrorist groups may be carrying out these attacks, it is with the knowledge that the government possesses, that the government is not intervening and protecting Christians."

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Request for tape recordings denied in Malatya murder case

Request for tape recordings denied in Malatya murder case
At the seventh hearing of the case in Malatya on Monday, lawyers for the plaintiffs stated that Transportation Minister Binali Yıldırım had said the suspects were captured as a result of audio recordings and asked that the court subpoena the records of such activities either from the Ministry of Interior or Ministry of Transportation. But the court rejected the demand on the grounds that it would not add anything beneficial to the case.

Church fights for life in its 16th court battle

Church fights for life in its 16th court battle
One of the very few legally operated Protestant churches in Turkey is fighting for its life – again. The church has battled through 15 court cases in the predominantly Muslim nation over the last 6 years, and it's about to become 16. Last week 2 police officers approached the pastor of Batikent Protestant Church in the capital city of Ankara and served him with a notice that church had 3 days to close its doors.The problem – this time – is that the church is supposedly violating zoning codes by operating in a building not approved as a place of worship.

Last year, the church faced the same charge and won their case in court against the Yenimahalle Municipal Government. The current police notice is forcing the church to battle again over a case it has already won.

The founding pastor of the church, Daniel Wickwire, told International Christian Concern, "It is very obvious that what is happening to our church is a pre-meditated, continuous and jointly orchestrated direct attack against the church as a whole in Turkey by the right-wing Islamic government (AK Party) that is currently in control."


All seven suspects on trial for the brutal murder of three Christians in Turkey in April 2007 appeared in court yesterday – each one protesting his innocence and incriminating one or more of the others. The hearing in eastern Turkey marked the first time the five jailed murderers and two accused accomplices have appeared together in court to be cross-examined over contradictions among their individual court testimonies. In addition to the five accused murderers – Hamit Ceker, Cuma Ozdemir, Abuzer Yildirim, Salih Gurler and Emre Gunaydin – two others, Kursat Kocadag and Mehmet Gokce, face charges as accomplices. Turkish Christians Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel and German Christian Tilmann Geske were tied up, stabbed and tortured for several hours before their throats were slit at Zirve Publishing offices. Four of the suspects have said they were afraid of Gunaydin because of his alleged connections with local police and mafia figures, coupled with his violent threats against them and their families if they tried to pull out of the plot. The court’s first attempt to untangle the defendants’ contradictions was hamstrung by Gunaydin’s refusal to answer any questions by plaintiff attorneys.

Friday, June 06, 2008

University researcher admits Turkish security forces monitor missionaries.

Testimony taken by Malatya prosecutors last week corroborates a letter e-mailed to Turkish Protestant church leaders a year ago naming alleged perpetrators behind the savage murder of three Christians in April 2007. University researcher Ruhi Abat confirmed to prosecutors that he was in direct contact with three military officers named in the informant’s June 2007 e-mail and that gendarme officials were tracking Christian missionary activities in Malatya. Turkish Christians Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel and German Christian Tilmann Geske were tied up, beaten, tortured with knives and left with their throats slashed by five young men on April 18, 2007. Abat reportedly named Cmdr. Mehmet Ulger, Maj. Haydar Yesil and Mehmet Colak as the gendarme officials he contacted, sometimes in person and sometimes by telephone. “Abat’s statement raised questions about what kind of investigations the security and gendarme were carrying on regarding missionary activities, which are not a crime,” a Milliyet article observed.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Religious Affairs Directorate presses YÖK to found international faculty of theology

Religious Affairs Directorate presses YÖK to found international faculty of theology
The Directorate of Religious Affairs continues, as it has for quite some time, to press the Higher Education Board (YÖK) to establish an international faculty of theology, a project devised for the improvement of relations between different religious and cultures, according to the directorate’s deputy director, Mehmet Görmez.

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Tuesday, June 03, 2008


EurasiaNet Civil Society - Theologians Take Conservative Turkish Clothing Designer to Court
Two liberal theologians have taken Turkey’s most famous Islamic clothes designer to court, alleging the couturier is exploiting religion for personal profit. The case is highlighting the growing tension between Islam and the country’s market economy.

Dubbed "Allah’s tailor" by the press, Mustafa Karaduman long ago earned the odium of Turkish secularists for his successful mass-marketing of the brightly-colored headscarves and ankle-length coats that have become a trademark of conservative urban women.

But what angered the two Turkish theologians -- Ilhami Guler and Suleyman Bayraktar -- was the name of the company that Karaduman established in the 1980s. "Tekbir" refers to the core statement of Muslim belief -- "there is no God but God."

"Jesus was upset by the sight of the money-lenders in the Temple, and I’m upset by the thought of a new generation of Muslims for whom Tekbir means expensive headscarves," Guler says.

Monday, June 02, 2008

About freedom of religion in Turkey

The New Nation - Internet Edition
Freedom of religion and worship is one of the fundamental human rights that everyone should enjoy regardless of race, ethnicity, nationality and religious preference. The right to believe in a particular religion and practice its rituals are recognised is by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the European Convention of Human Rights. The 1981 UN Declaration on Religious Tolerance and Non-Discrimination and 1990 Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam also underline the significance of freedom of religion for a plural world and urge states and societies to respect and protect these basic rights.

Given the universal status of freedom of religion and freedom of worship, how can we make sense of what is happening in Turkey where wearing a headscarf is banned in universities and a number of attacks took place targeting non-Muslims?

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Turkey passes law for alternative language TV channel

Turkey passes law for alternative language TV channel
Turkish parliament passed a law Thursday to launch a 24-hour TV channel on State-run TRT with Kurdish-language programming along with some other dialects and languages, including Arabic and Farsi.

Minister: Muslims not free in Turkey

Minister: Muslims not free in Turkey | WORLD | NEWS |
Turkey's foreign minister has come under fire at home for telling the European Union Muslims were not fully free to practise their religion in Turkey.

Turkish Christians in distress

Turkish Christians in distress - Radio Netherlands Worldwide - The State We're In
Pastor Ihsan Ozbek does his best to shield his flock and his young children from the daily threats that arrive at his doorstep. Leading one of the largest congregations of the tiny Christian minority in Turkey, Ozbek has watched a troubling transformation of the relationship between his parishioners and the large Muslim majority in recent years.

A surge of religiously motivated violence has resulted in the violent murder of three church members and brazen attacks on priests and has created a general sense of isolation and trepidation amongst Turkish Christians. This has been compounded by a growing nationalist sentiment in Turkish society that Christians seek to undermine the nation's sovereignty by promoting a faith that is seen by many as Western.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Secular Turks attack religious council's code for women

Secular Turks attack religious council's code for women | World news | The Guardian
A powerful state body regulating the role of Islam in Turkey has come under fire over an article on sexual behaviour that equated flirting with adultery and condemned women for wearing perfume.

Secularists and women's groups hit out after the directorate of religious affairs (Diyanet) published the article on its website setting out recommendations for proper sexual conduct.

Invoking the prophet Muhammad, it put the onus squarely on women by urging them to cover up and behave modestly to avoid provoking male sexual desires.

"Women have to be more careful, since they have stimulants," the article stated. "The women communicating with strange men should speak in a manner that will not arouse suspicion in one's heart and in such seriousness and dignity that they will not let the opposite party misunderstand them, that they should not show their ornaments and figure and that they should cover in a fine manner."

On the use of perfume, it continued: "His highness the prophet Muhammad did not think kindly of women who put on perfumes outside their homes and go strolling and saw this as immoral behaviour."

The article said women and men should not be alone together unless married and questioned the role of females in mixed-gender workplaces. It blamed "social and moral" decline in the west for the legalisation of abortion.

The article was widely condemned in the pro-secular media. Yusuf Kanli, a columnist in the English-language Turkish Daily News, said it reflected a "very primitive mindset", adding: "Is this mentality at all different with that of the Taliban that placed Afghan women behind chadors?"

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Bible correspondence website connects with more people

Mission Network News
Bible correspondence courses have a long history of success in Turkey, and the Internet is increasing their impact.

AMG International made contact with almost 20,000 people through newspapers and the Internet in 2007, and a record 450,000 different people visited the its correspondence course website in Turkey. An article on the website titled “What should I do to become a Christian?” was read more than 17,000 times.

Visitors to the website may also chat one-on-one with a Christian chat operator. This ministry provides personal explanations of the Gospel to visitors, some of whom decide to become Christians or get baptized. Over 2,000 chat conversations took place in 2007.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Why don't mosques produce an annual report?

A Turk asks a question about the financial accountability of mosques in Turkey:

Ertugrul Ozkok: Why don't mosques produce an annual report?
This report raises in my mind the question of "Can places of worship have annual reports, budgets and balance sheets?" My answer is: "Yes". And they should because: When these earnings of a place of worship are not clearly and openly presented to the religious community, the funds that are collected from the well-meaning religious community can be used for unrelated activities; these adverse activities are slowly leading to the deterioration of society.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Catholics hope Turkey opens church for St Paul Year

Catholics hope Turkey opens church for St Paul Year | International | Reuters
The Roman Catholic Church hopes a year dedicated to Saint Paul, born two millennia ago in Tarsus in today's southern Turkey, will bring signs of more religious tolerance in the mostly Muslim but secularist country.

On The Rise of Islamic Rule in Turkey

On The Rise of Islamic Rule in Turkey | EuropeNews
According to one of the eighty Islamic theologians involved, “The Koran is our basic guide. Anything that conflicts with that we are trying to eliminate.” According to Mehmet Görmez, a senior lecturer at Ankara University, “We want to bring out the positive side of Islam that promotes personal honor, human rights, justice, morality, women’s rights, respect for the other.” To promote the spread of Islam in the 21st century, the Turkish theologians want to redefine how Muslims must practice Islam.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Flinders University students plan to excavate Biblical site

AdelaideNow... Flinders University students plan to excavate Biblical site
FLINDERS University students could be among the first to uncover the last remaining unexcavated site connected to the New Testament.

After 10 years' work on the project, Flinders theology and archeology students, led by College of Divinity lecturers Dr Michael Trainor and Dr Alan Cadwallader, could begin excavating the site with Turkish scholars in December.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Turkish society’s perception of Christianity (2)

The problem with this study is the sample is only 90 people. You can't take 90 people out of a countries population and make sweeping generalizations about the entire country.

They were asked how they would feel if they had Christian neighbors or if there was a church in their neighborhood and their neighbors attended this church's services. The findings from these questions overlap with the answers from the questions about overall perceptions of Christianity. A large majority of participants stated that they would not be bothered by Christian neighbors or the existence of a church in their neighborhood. Of the study's participants, only five respondents said they would feel uneasy having a Christian neighbor. These participants said they were worried such a neighbor might "set a bad example for their children."

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Turkish society’s perception of Christianity (1)
Kudret Bülbül*

"Turkish Society's Perception of the West" (Seta Yayınları: 2008), a study conducted by Bekir Berat Özipek, İbrahim Kalın and myself, tried to find answers to these questions. The study employed in-depth interviews with more than 90 participants who were selected from among ordinary people in 10 provinces across Turkey, and the interviews contained questions that inquired into the perceptions that have recently dominated Western public opinion.

To sum these results up, in the first approach
to Christianity, participants tend to use a reverent language toward
Christianity. The second approach defines Christianity as "a different
religion." The third approachhighlights that Christianity "has been

Thursday, May 15, 2008


All five culprits arrested last spring for the savage murder of three Christians in eastern Turkey have proclaimed their innocence, declaring they did not personally kill any of the victims.

In their court testimonies completed Monday (May 12) at the sixth hearing before Malatya’s Third Criminal Court, the five young Turkish men have defended themselves by blaming each other for the killings.

All have insisted that they had not planned to murder anyone and that no individuals or group instigated their raid on the Zirve Publishing Co. office in Malatya on April 18, 2007.

Main Article

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

No plans to return church, says Turkey

Religious Intelligence - News - No plans to return church, says Turkey
There are no plans to return the Byzantine St Paul’s Church in Tarsus to the Roman Catholic Church, Turkish government officials said last week.
No plans to return church, says Turkey

On May 10, the Turkish Daily News reported that officials from the town of Tarsus said they were unaware of any request made by Cologne's Archbishop Cardinal Joachim Meisner on behalf of the German Catholic Bishops’ Conference to return the Church of St Paul to ecclesiastical control.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Germany to Turkey: Show Some Respect for Christians

PoliGazette » Germany to Turkey: Show Some Respect for Christians
If the West sees that Christians are truly tolerated in Turkey, the attitude towards Turks will become more positive. It is that simple. Many people in the West say about Muslim immigrants who ask of them to change because the population is changing “why should we? When we go to your country you won’t change for us either. If Christians want to exercise their freedom to worship as they see fit in the countries where these Muslim immigrants come from, they often run into trouble.”

Mosque for church bid in faith barter

Mosque for church bid in faith barter - Turkish Daily News May 09, 2008
German bishops calling for the rededication of a former church in Tarsus feel that it would be very helpful toward the acceptance of Turks in Germany if a sign of acceptance of Christians were to be seen in Turkey. Yet, others feel that this reciprocity amounts to a veiled threat.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Turkey told to return ancient church

Religious Intelligence - News - Turkey told to return ancient church
ROMAN CATHOLIC leaders will support mosque building in Germany, if the Turkish government returns the Church of St Paul in Tarsus to church control and permits the construction of a pilgrimage centre.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008


Three men, one of them armed with a gun and wearing gloves, threatened a Protestant church and its pastor in the Turkish capital city of Ankara yesterday. The culprits fled in a car before police could be summoned.

The attempted attack marked the seventh incident in the past four months of threatened violence against Turkey’s tiny Protestant community, most of whom are former Muslims who converted to Christianity.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Turkish Alevis fight back against religion lessons

Turkish Alevis fight back against religion lessons | International | Reuters
Dancing to express their piety, the young women and men in a solemn circle are part of a Turkish religious community whose members say they are fighting assimilation by the government.

Turkey's largest religious minority, some 15 to 25 million people across the country share the Alevi faith. It has roots in Islam but is steeped in shamanist tradition, and has never been recognized by the Turkish state.

Monday, May 05, 2008

US report raps state control over religion in Turkey

TODAY'S ZAMAN - US report raps state control over religion in Turkey
A US religious freedom watchdog group has displayed a critical approach towards understanding secularism in Turkey while taking note of significant restrictions on religious freedom for Muslims as well as for religious minority communities.