Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Fierce battles in southeast Turkey hedge in Christians

One of the oldest churches in the world sustained damage last week in the intensified fighting between the Turkish government and Kurdish separatists.
Rocket-propelled grenades destroyed a portion of the wall surrounding the Virgin Mary Church in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir on 28 Jan. The Syriac Orthodox church is 1,700 years old.

Fr. Yusuf Akbulut, the priest of the church, was sheltered with his family at his home located on church grounds during the attack.
Violence has engulfed Diyarbakir's Sur district, the location of the church, since early December. The government issued an evacuation order 26 Jan. due to pitched street battles between armed militants from the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and Turkish forces.
Akbulut, who has overseen the church for 23 years, initially refused to evacuate. He and his wife remained in the building until 28 Jan., saying he feared the church would be leveled in an aerial bombardment if left empty.
“We wouldn't have left the church. But when we looked [on the street] and saw that land mines and rockets were exploding non-stop, we knew that we couldn't stay,” he told World Watch Monitor. “Our house was shaking and we thought it would collapse.”
The power, electricity, and water were cut off. It was time to flee.
Akbulut dialed 155, the police emergency line. He was told that his neighborhood was a no-go area, barricaded off to civil authorities. The operator gave him instructions on how to escape. They stepped out on the street cautiously, with Akbulut waving a white flag. Nobody was there.
Whole buildings were collapsed, reduced to piles of rubble. "It was like a war zone,” he said.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Turkish textbooks encourage intolerance

A report by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has found that Turkey's textbooks encourage intolerance towards non-Islamic religions while reinforcing negative stereotypes.
According to Barnabas Aid, the report reveals that Turkey's religious ed textbooks teach students only what Islam believes about Judaism and Christianity and not what Jews and Christians themselves believe.
(Worthy News) - Theoretically, Turkey allows non-Muslims to be exempted from compulsory religious education if their religion is on record with the state. But parents have complained that some schools have refused to allow their children to be exempted.

Turkey: Christian Refugees Live in Fear

Around 45,000 Armenian and Assyrian Christians (also known as Syriac and Chaldean) who fled Syria and Iraq and have settled in small Anatolian cities in Turkey, are forced to hide their religious identity, according to the Hurriyet daily newspaper.

Since the Islamic State (ISIS) invaded Iraqi and Syrian cities, Christians and Yazidis have become the group's main target, facing another possible genocide at the hands of Muslims.

Anonis Alis Salciyan, an Armenian who fled Iraq for Turkey, told Hurriyet that in public, they pretend to be Muslim.

"My husband and I fled [Iraq] with our two children one year ago with around 20 other families. There was pressure on us in Iraq," Salciyan said, recalling that her husband, who ran a jewelry shop in Iraq, is now unemployed. "We have relatives in Europe. Only thanks to their support are we getting by. Our children cannot go to school here; they cannot speak Turkish."

What makes the plight of Christian refugees in Turkey even more tragic is that the ancestors of some of those refugees were driven out of Anatolia by the Ottoman authorities and local Muslims a century ago, during what are known as the Armenian Genocide and Assyrian Genocide of 1915.

Another family, Linda and Vahan Markaryan, also fled to Turkey with their two children. Their home in Baghdad had been raided by ISIS jihadists.

"My daughter, Nuşik, seven, stopped talking that day. She has not spoken since. We are working hard to provide her treatment, but she still will not speak," Linda Markaryan said, adding that it was hard for them to practice their religion. "We have to conduct our prayers at home."

Islamic jihadist armies invaded Middle Eastern and North African lands starting in the 7th century. The indigenous, non-Muslim, peoples of those lands have doubtless forgotten what safety, security and religious freedom mean.

In every country that is now majority-Muslim, there are horror stories of violent subjugation, rapes, slavery and murder of the non-Muslim people at the hands of jihadists.

Christians have existed in Syria since the earliest days of Christianity; today, after the raids of ISIS, they are fleeing for their lives.

Turkish Court Rules Government Failed to Protect Christians Killed in Malatya

A Turkish court ruled on Tuesday (Jan. 26) that the government was negligent in its duty to protect three Christians who were tortured and killed in 2007 and ordered it to pay damages to the victims’ families.
The Malatya Administrative Court ruled that, nearly nine years ago, the Interior Ministry and the Malatya Governor’s Office ignored reliable intelligence that Turkish nationalists were targeting the three Christians days prior to the April 2007 killings.
Five young men with alleged links to Turkish nationalists killed three Christians on April 18, 2007, in the office of the Zirve Publishing House in Malatya in southeastern Turkey. Ugur Yüksel, 32, and Necati Aydin, 36, both Turkish converts from Islam, and Tilmann Geske, 45, a German national, were bound, interrogated about their Christian activities and then mutilated and killed with knives, according to court evidence.
According to several Christians close to the victims, one or more of those accused of the killings cultivated relationships with the three Christians, one even going so far as to pose as a new convert to the Christian faith.
The court also ordered the Interior Ministry to pay the families close to 1 million Turkish lira ($333,980) in damages.

Susanne Geske, Tilmann’s widow, and her three children were awarded $105,000 for emotional distress and $5,500 for physical harm. The remainder of the damages were awarded to Aydin’s wife and Yüksel’s father.
Geske said Wednesday that the concept of a monetary award for the death of her husband and her children’s father is lost on her, as no amount of money will bring him back or fill their loss.
“Four-hundred thousand lira for someone being killed is baffling, funny,” she said. “And anyway, although the money is welcome, we’re not yet believing we will see the money.”
Geske said government appeals to the court-ordered award, if filed, could take years to settle. After taxes, civil fees and lawyer’s fees are assigned, the amount her family receives could be greatly reduced.
The Geske family filed its civil case with others in 2008, around the same time criminal proceedings began against the five men accused in the killing. The civil ruling offers some resolution, but the criminal case grinds on with little hope of resolution.