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Persecution In Turkey Described As Worsening Despite New Law

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  • Persecution In Turkey Described As Worsening Despite New Law

    By Peter Lamprecht

    Baptist Press News, TN
    Aug 31, 2005

    ISTANBUL, Turkey (BP)--Bektas Erdogan never expected his Christian
    faith of 11 years to jeopardize his career as a fashion designer
    in Turkey.

    Hired five months ago by a designer jeans company in the Beyazit
    district of Istanbul, Erdogan was assured by his Muslim employer that
    he would be evaluated on the basis of his work, not his religion.

    After his first collection sold successfully in Russia, Erdogan thought
    the phone call he received from his employer -- asking him to come to
    work on a Sunday afternoon -- boded well. Maybe there was a surprise
    company dinner.

    But that evening at the shop, his employer angrily accused him of
    "missionary work" and "brainwashing," according to an Aug. 30 report
    by Compass Direct news service.

    The employer, with the help of two employees and a relative, beat
    Erdogan for two hours, Compass reported; the men repeatedly struck
    the designer's head and face with their fists and the butt of a
    pistol. Three times Erdogan's employer attempted to shoot him, but
    the gun failed to fire, Compass reported.

    "He really wanted to kill me. It wasn't just to scare me," Erdogan
    told Compass, recounting that he prayed for help and meditated on Bible
    verses while his attackers threatened to murder him and hide his body.

    The two co-workers released the 32-year-old Erdogan with a swollen
    and bloody face around 9 p.m., warning that they would kill him
    later. Since then, he has received three anonymous phone calls
    threatening his life, Compass reported.

    Erdogan told Compass he did not report the Aug. 7 incident to police,
    fearing that his employer's ties with local officials might make
    him the target of further aggression. He also felt that once the
    authorities learned he is a Christian, they would be unwilling to help.

    Erdogan told Compass he believes that his employer's anger stemmed
    from shop employees' interest in Christianity. During his last three
    months at the job, Erdogan said, "Almost every meal [at work] became
    a question-and-answer session about my religion."

    Erdogan is not the only victim of what Compass described as an
    increasingly overt, anti-Christian sentiment within Turkish society.
    On the same day that Erdogan was attacked, according to Compass,
    Istanbul police beat two Protestant converts in their early 20s and
    told them they could not be both Turks and Christians.

    Umit and Murat-Can, who asked to have their last names withheld,
    were on their way to one of Istanbul's 25 Turkish-speaking Protestant
    churches on Aug. 7 when they saw American David Byle and his 3-year-old
    daughter surrounded by a small crowd of police and civilians.

    Byle had been exercising the legal right to distribute Christian tracts
    on Istiklal Caddesi, one of Istanbul's main pedestrian thoroughfares,
    when two plainclothes policemen accosted him. According to Compass,
    one of the officers grabbed Byle's chin and shouted at him for
    distributing literature, quickly drawing a crowd of police and

    When the two Christians tried to intervene on behalf of Byle, whom they
    recognized as a member of a local church, a scuffle broke out between
    Umit and one of the plainclothes policemen. According to Murat-Can,
    about 15 policemen forced Umit to the ground, where they kicked and hit
    him before handcuffing him and carrying him inside a nearby building.

    "That's when I first realized they were police," said Umit, whose
    plainclothes attacker never identified himself as an officer. The
    officer continued to beat Umit for three minutes before taking him to a
    local police station with Murat-Can, who had followed the group inside.

    "They never showed us any ID or read us our rights," Murat-Can told
    Compass as he described the following hour in the police station.
    After finding 100 Christian tracts in Murat-Can's backpack, police
    accused the youths of being "missionaries" bent on "dividing Turkey."
    Although finally releasing them without filing any formal report,
    they told the young men they could not be both Turks and Christians.

    In another incident in July in Eskisehir, 120 miles southeast of
    Istanbul, three strangers in a park assaulted Protestant Salih
    Kurtbas. According to Compass, they attacked him from behind at 6
    p.m. as he waited for an anonymous caller who had asked to meet and
    discuss Christianity.

    Shortly after arriving home with a bloody nose, split lip, black
    eyes and a swollen ear, he received an irate phone call from his
    attackers. Compass reported that they accused him of missionary
    activity and threatened to kill anyone associated with a local U.S.
    businessman whom they claimed was spreading Christian propaganda.

    According to Compass, Eskisehir evangelicals have faced constant
    delays in obtaining legal permission to start the city's first
    Protestant church. "We applied to the governor and haven't received
    an answer, and the city government has said that the building
    is not up to earthquake safety standards," Kurtbas told Compass.
    "Everything's kind of gone downhill."

    Kurtbas didn't even think of going to the police after the attack,
    explaining, "If they found out that I was a Christian, nothing good
    would have come of it." Umit also wanted to avoid further problems
    with authorities, fearing that legal proceedings might hurt his
    brother's chances of entering the police academy.

    "These sort of attacks are not shocking for me," admitted Orhan
    Kemal Cengiz, legal consultant for Turkey's Alliance of Protestant
    Churches. "I was expecting them ... but [Christians] should take this
    very seriously."

    With European Union membership talks looming Oct. 3, Turkey is
    attempting to improve its human rights image. A package of legal
    reforms passed in June reasserted freedom of religion, instituting a
    three-year prison sentence for anyone obstructing the expression of
    religious beliefs. But the EU has remained skeptical, challenging
    officially 99-percent-Muslim Turkey to implement these religious
    freedoms among its non-Muslim minority communities. Fewer than 100,000
    citizens follow the ancient Christian traditions of the Armenian,
    Greek and Syrian Othodox churches, which remain exclusively ethnic

    By contrast, the emerging community of an estimated 3,500 Turkish
    Protestants challenges the centuries-old perception that to be a Turk
    is to be a Muslim.

    Over the last 10 months, violence against Protestant Christians in
    Turkey has become publicly visible, prompting former U.S. Ambassador
    to Turkey Eric Edelman to make formal inquiries with Ankara officials
    in April and again in June regarding 10 incidents.

    "Turkey is not aware of the gravity of the problem," Cengiz, of the
    Protestant alliance, said. "Some officials have good intentions, but
    I have a strong suspicion that they don't really grasp the freedom
    of religion issues."

    While most Turkish Protestants remain reluctant to open court cases
    for fear of further persecution, others feel that the church can gain
    from aggressive legal action without undermining its message of love.

    "I'm a big fan of opening a court case," Isa Karatas, the Protestant
    alliance's spokesman, told Compass. "When we look at things from a
    Christian perspective, of course we need to be forgiving. But this
    is not an obstacle for us to pursue our rights."

    Cengiz, the alliance's legal consultant, also advises that abuse
    victims go to court to protect themselves. "If you do not file a
    case against the police, you may find yourself before a court or
    even in jail, in spite of the fact that you are the victim of police
    misconduct," Cengiz said. Turkish law enforcers often sue abuse
    victims preemptively, Cengiz said, in order to shield officers from
    legal prosecution.

    Turkish Protestant church leaders have opened seven libel cases
    this year against three TV stations to combat accusations aired
    nationally. Statements on the television programs claimed that local
    Christians spy for foreign governments that pay Turks to change
    their religion.

    In the face of anti-Christian rhetoric from some government officials
    and the latest attacks against Protestants, many Turkish Christians
    admit that they are not expecting either the government or society
    to change overnight.

    "There is a segment of the government that supports anti-Christian
    sentiment, but along with this section is a larger segment that
    opposes it," Karatas told Compass. He said that if Christians who
    suffered persecution for their faith "would open court cases now,
    I believe they would receive support from the government."

    "In theory we have a free environment," Umit told Compass 10 days
    after being beaten by the police. "I don't think that there is a
    problem with the state. But the Turkish people have not yet understood
    democracy. They still see the state as a father. They don't know that
    it's meant to serve us. Therefore, when people working for the state
    say something bad about Christians, the people believe it."

    Despite ongoing death threats, Erdogan has no plans to leave the
    country. When asked how he felt about losing his job, enduring
    a severe beating and being threatened with death -- all in one
    evening -- he smiled. Even if his situation doesn't improve, he said,
    "God tells me to rejoice, because He can bring glory to His name."
    --30-- Peter Lamprecht is a writer for Compass Direct, a news service
    based in Santa Ana, Calif., focusing on Christians worldwide who are
    persecuted for their faith. Used by permission.
    [url][/url] - [COLOR="Red"]Armenian[/COLOR] [COLOR="Blue"]Genealogy[/COLOR] [COLOR="Orange"]Forum[/COLOR]

  • #2,1518,478955,00.html

    By Annette Grossbongardt in Istanbul

    Turkish converts to Christianity fear for their lives after the brutal murder of three people at a Christian publisher. Angela Merkel has called for Ankara to promote religious tolerance, while secular intellectuals ask why the 99-percent Muslim country can't put up with a few Christians.,00.html

    "In Germany, Turks residing there have opened up more than 3,000 mosques. If in our country we cannot abide even by a few churches, or a handful of missionaries, where is our civilization?" wrote Ertugrul Özkök, editor-in-chief of leading secular Turkish daily Hürriyet, in a hard-hitting editorial on the murders. "Where is our humanity, our freedom of belief, our beautiful religion?" he asks.
    "All truth passes through three stages:
    First, it is ridiculed;
    Second, it is violently opposed; and
    Third, it is accepted as self-evident."

    Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)