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.