Thursday, December 17, 2009

Plot Targeting Turkey’s Religious Minorities Allegedly Discovered

Compass Direct News
Chilling allegations emerged last month of a detailed plot by Turkish naval officers to perpetrate threats and violence against the nation’s non-Muslims in an effort to implicate and unseat Turkey’s pro-Islamic government.

Evidence put forth for the plot appeared on an encrypted compact disc discovered last April but was only recently deciphered; the daily Taraf newspaper first leaked details of the CD’s contents on Nov. 19.

Entitled the “Operation Cage Action Plan,” the plot outlines a plethora of planned threat campaigns, bomb attacks, kidnappings and assassinations targeting the nation’s tiny religious minority communities – an apparent effort by military brass to discredit the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). The scheme ultimately called for bombings of homes and buildings owned by non-Muslims, setting fire to homes, vehicles and businesses of Christian and Jewish citizens, and murdering prominent leaders among the religious minorities.

Turks Threaten to Kill Priest over Swiss Minaret Decision

Compass Direct News

In response to a Swiss vote banning the construction of new mosque minarets, a group of Muslims this month went into a church building in eastern Turkey and threatened to kill a priest unless he tore down its bell tower, according to an advocacy group.

Three Muslims on Dec. 4 entered the Meryem Ana Church, a Syriac Orthodox church in Diyarbakir, and confronted the Rev. Yusuf Akbulut. They told him that unless the bell tower was destroyed in one week, they would kill him.

“If Switzerland is demolishing our minarets, we will demolish your bell towers too,” one of the men told Akbulut.

The threats came in reaction to a Nov. 29 referendum in Switzerland in which 57 percent voted in favor of banning the construction of new minarets in the country. Swiss lawmakers must now change the national constitution to reflect the referendum, a process that should take more than a year.

The Swiss ban, widely viewed around the world as a breach of religious freedom, is likely to face legal challenges in Switzerland and in the European Court of Human Rights.

There are roughly 150 mosques in Switzerland, four with minarets. Two more minarets are planned. The call to prayer traditional in Muslim-majority countries is not conducted from any of the minarets.
Fikri Aygur, vice president of the European Syriac Union, said that Akbulut has contacted police but has otherwise remained defiant in the face of the threats.

“He has contacted the police, and they gave him guards,” he said. “I talked with him two days ago, and he said, ‘It is my job to protect the church, so I will stand here and leave it in God’s hands.’”

Meryem Ana is more than 250 years old and is one of a handful of churches that serve the Syriac community in Turkey. Also known as Syrian Orthodox, the Syriacs are an ethnic and religious minority in Turkey and were one of the first groups of people to accept Christianity. They speak Syriac, a dialect of Aramaic, a language spoken by Christ. Diyarbakir is located in eastern Turkey, about 60 miles from the Syrian border.

At press time the tower was standing and the priest was safe, said Jerry Mattix, youth pastor at the Diyarbakir Evangelical Church, which is located across a street from Meryem Ana Church.

Mattix said that threats against Christians in Diyarbakir are nothing out of the ordinary. Mattix commonly receives threats, both in the mail and posted on the church’s Internet site, he said.

“We’re kind of used to that,” Mattix said. He added that he has received no threats over the minaret situation but added, “I wouldn’t be surprised if we do.”

Mattix said the people making threats in the area are Muslim radicals with ties to Hezbollah “who like to flex their muscles.”

“We are a major target out here, and we are aware of that,” Mattix said. “But the local police are taking great strides to protect us.”

Mattix said he also has “divine confidence” in God’s protection.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Turkey Feels The Pain Of Swiss Minaret Ban

Turkey Feels The Pain Of Swiss Minaret Ban | HULIQ

The Swiss Minaret ban has drawn many critical voices from around the world. The majority of Muslims in Switzerland are from Turkey and some from the Balkans. Turkey feels the minaret decision pain as number of Christian churches (namely Armenian and Greek) in Turkey are either closed or turned to museums.

Turkey, on the other hand is one of those countries where the opposite problem exists. While most Muslim countries and many Christians strongly criticized the Swiss Minaret vote, no one in the Muslim world or even in Europe seems to really care about the situation of the Christian churches and seminaries for preparation of schools in Turkey.

Churches Turned Into Museums in Turkey

While many Christian churches operate in Turkey number of others are closed or turned into museums. Halki Seminary, the main school of theology of the Eastern Orthodox Church's Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, was closed in 1971 and not opened to this date.

The most beautiful church of the Orthodox Christianity, the cathedral of Hagia Sophia was turned into a mosque, and now a museum in Istanbul. Hagia Sophia was converted into a museum in 1935 by the Republic of Turkey. One begs the question, "Why not turn it back to a church and give it back to the rightful owner, which is the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Turkey." In fact, this church is so beautiful and awe inspiriting that it served as a model for many Muslim mosques, like Sultan Ahmed in Istanbul.

Consider the St. Sophia Museum, which was built in covered Greek cross architecture during the reign of King Manuel I Kommenos in 13th century. Today, St. Sophia church is converted into a museum and is located in 3 kilometers west of Trabzon. The "conversion" of this church into a museum took place in 1964.

To the credit of the current Turkish government it should be noted that some churches, such as the Armenian church in Aghtamar Island in the Eastern Turkey are restored. However, they are not houses of worship yet.

How different is the Swiss Minaret ban from Turkey's restoring the Armenian Church Aghtamar, turning it into a museum and not yet allowing to put a cross on the top of the church building? Turkey completed the controversial restoration of Aghtamar Armenian Church in 2006. Armenian religious leaders invited to attend the opening ceremony opted to boycott the event, because the church was being reopened as a secular museum.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Survey: 59% of Muslim Turks Against Allowing Other Religions to Meet Openly, Exchange Ideas

Survey: 59% of Muslim Turks Against Allowing Other Religions to Meet Openly, Exchange Ideas | EuropeNews

More than Half in Turkey Oppose Non-Muslim Religious Meetings

ISTANBUL -Survey finds nearly 40 percent of population has negative view of Christians. More than half of the population of Muslim-majority. Turkey opposes members of other religions holding meetings or publishing materials to explain their faith, according to a recently issued survey.

Fully 59 percent of those surveyed said non-Muslims either "should not” or "absolutely should not” be allowed to hold open meetings where they can discuss their ideas. Fifty-four percent said non-Muslims either "should not” or "absolutely should not” be allowed to publish literature that describes their faith.

The survey also found that almost 40 percent of the population of Turkey said they had "very negative” or "negative” views of Christians. In the random survey, 60 percent of those polled said there is one true religion; over 90 percent of the population of Turkey is Sunni Muslim.

Ali Çarkoglu, one of two professors at Sabanci University who conducted the study, said no non-Muslim religious gathering in Turkey is completely "risk free.”

"Even in Istanbul, it can’t be easy to be an observant non-Muslim,” Çarkoglu said.