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.