Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Another obstacle to justice in the Malatya deaths

As it relates to the Malatya murder case in Turkey, the refrain "Justice moves very slowly" is becoming all too common.

April 18 marked four years since the brutal murders of three Christian missionaries in the bookstore they ran.

Delay after delay slowed the process until the case appeared to have stalled out. Then, on March 23, police arrested 27 people in six days for their connections to Ergenekon and the Malatya slayings. Rody Rodeheaver with IN Network says, "I think there was a lot of hope on the part of the plaintiff's attorneys that with the recent movement against Ergenekon and the arrest of 20 people, they were hoping that would really lead to a possible merger of the case in Malatya and the case against Ergenekon."

Subsequent investigation linked the Ergenekon (Deep State) to the slayings in such a way that they began to look like an ordered "hit" from the highest levels of government.

Now, word is that the prosecutor who has overseen the investigation into Ergenekon from the beginning is no longer on the case. Zekeriya Oz has apparently been promoted to deputy chief prosecutor of Istanbul. He joins three other prosecutors digging for the truth who were removed from the investigation. Rodeheaver says, "Since there've been all of these changes in the makeup of the people who are taking the lead in some of these investigations, it's unfortunate and will probably lead to more delays."

These events are disappointing to the Christians in Turkey. The seeming lack of energy with which this case has been pursued also sends a message to believers that not only are they second-class citizens, but that the government may not protect them from the nationalists. "All of these things tend to create emotional insecurity. When you see these things happen over and over again, it's just human to be concerned."

However, says Rodeheaver, from what he's seen of the national Church, "If you're a Christian, you really need to trust in the sovereignty of God and know that your days really need to be ordered by your Savior."


Sunday, April 24, 2011

‘Monstrosity’ in Kars is striking back

We can see from the cables disclosed by WikiLeaks that the prime minister and some ministers were present at the National Security Council (MGK) in 2002 when missionary work was being defined as an internal threat and that they took part in this decision.

In light of the information we have today we understand that having the MGK define missionary activities as a “threat” was part of a big plot against the government. I have tried to explain this in my earlier articles. After the classification of missionary activities as a threat in 2002, a campaign was launched against missionaries that resulted in attacks against them. The great plan was this: The deep state would create a connection between the presence of an “Islamic party” in power and attacks against Christians. In this way, the world would see the intolerant nature of “Islamists” and Europe would cut off its support for the government. The attacks on Christians were being used to lay the groundwork for a coup against the government.

In Turkey, all political parties have been influenced by nationalism to varying degrees. Even though the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) is a political party that consists mainly of religious Muslims, it also has a nationalist component. Those who planned coups aimed to use missionary work as a scapegoat to seize religious people and push them towards a nationalist course, which they managed to do to a certain degree.

Nationalism in Turkey is a dominant idea in the mentality of Turkish society, which several surprised foreign observers have come to realize. Even though the intensity of nationalism rises and falls from time to time, it remains an unchangeable, main current in the background of the political scene.

Of course there are many reasons for why nationalism is as strong as it is. Turkey’s “founding myth” is based on the struggle for the independence of a state that is encircled by enemies and under the occupation of foreign forces. Turkish nationalism emerged quite late, which is why it is very reactive. Since Turkey became a racially diverse country, the concept of “being a Turk” was defined through religion rather than race. A Turk was a Muslim, or more precisely, a Turk was not a non-Muslim. This is a key part of the issue; modern Turkey was constructed on the expulsion and exclusion of non-Muslims from these territories. The modernizing force that excluded non-Muslims also kept Islam and Muslims under its control. I have tried to explain how all these things happened in the past many times.


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Christian missionaries in Turkey become targets for militant nationalist

When a Protestant minister in the city of Izmir left his church one day this month, he saw a man pointing a weapon at him and shouting: "Stop proselytizing! You will pay!"

The attacker in front of the Dirilis Kilisesi, or Church of the Resurrection, was quickly overwhelmed, but the incident on the evening of April 1 was a reminder of the hatred that some radical Turkish nationalists feel for Christian missionaries. Radical nationalists in Turkey are not opposed to Christian missionaries for religious reasons, Ferhat Kentel, a sociologist at Istanbul's Bilgi University, said about the hatred against missionaries.

"It is an effort by nationalists to create enemies, a perception of threat," Dr Kentel said. "It has nothing to do with Islam. It is an ideological phenomenon." He said the fear of missionaries was "a symbol for dangers coming from outside". Turkish nationalists see Islam as a unifying force of the country that will be undermined if Christians are allowed to proselytize.


Thursday, April 07, 2011

Big Changes Open Politics to Turkish Minorities

Markus Urek was 15 when his Syriac Christian family grew so fearful for the lives of their children in Turkey that they sent them abroad.

Syriac Christians have lived in southeastern Anatolia for almost two millennia, but over the past decades they have dwindled to a tiny minority in the Turkish republic, their numbers reduced by poverty, persecution and the war fought between Kurdish rebels and the Turkish Army on their ancestral homeland.

Mr. Urek spent years shuttling between Germany, Turkey and the United States to complete his education before returning to settle in Ankara last year.

Now he is running for Parliament. “If I am elected, I will be the first Syriac deputy in the history of this country — not only in the Turkish Republic, but the Ottoman Empire as well,” Mr. Urek, 33, said in an interview. “Turkish democracy has improved. That’s why I have the courage to try.”

Just eight years ago, such a run for office would have been unthinkable, Mr. Urek said. “Every Syriac knew it was impossible to be in Parliament, that’s why no one tried.” Now, he said, “I think I have a chance.”

Mr. Urek, a devout Christian, is hoping for a place on the ticket of the Islam-rooted Justice and Development Party, or AKP, Turkey’s governing party, which he credits for much of the country’s political progress.

Turkey is preparing for a general election on June 12, and though little suspense surrounds the outcome, the campaign reflects just how radically this society has transformed itself in the past decade by widening individual, religious and ethnic rights under Turkey’s bid to join the European Union.


Monday, April 04, 2011

Zirve as litmus test for Ergenekon

Last week, it published correspondence displaying how paranoia about missionaries and Christians in Turkey was manipulated by Ergenekon, and with the publication of this correspondence, the big picture of the murder of Christian missionaries in Malatya was completed. And prosecutor Zekeriya Öz was “promoted” away from the Ergenekon investigation the day he touched on the “theologians” factor that provided the link between the missionary issue and the Zirve massacre. The timing of his removal was really meaningful.

We have been informed that the US Embassy in Ankara sent a letter to Turkish officials, expressing their concerns about the emerging harsh discourse targeting minorities and Christian missionaries, particularly in 2005, and warning that it may lead to violence. In his letter to then-State Minister Mehmet Aydın, then-US Ambassador to Turkey Eric Edelman said: “As you will recall, during our meeting I had said that I was concerned that Turkish officials’ anti-Christian discourse, coupled with a general rise in nationalist sentiments, may pave the way for violence against Christians. Shortly after our meeting, I learned that two assailants threw incendiary bombs at the International Protestant Church in Ankara early in the morning on April 21.”

On April 1, 2005, political counselor in Ankara John Kunstadter sent a cable to Washington, reporting two years before the Zirve Massacre that the situation in Malatya was very serious. He wrote that he went to Malatya on March 22, 2005, and met the members of the Protestant community there. A Christian British national told him that the Protestant community in Malatya consisted of 20 people from four families and they were concerned about the recent increase in publications against Protestants in local papers during the past 18 months.

By looking at future developments in the Zirve case, we will understand whether the Ergenekon investigation is going to continue at full speed, as officials promised, after the removal of prosecutor Öz.

So I call on everyone to watch this historic case attentively.