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Media ignores assault on monks, reports prostitution charges against church

The fact that a boy armed with a long knife had threatened two monks, and youth rehearsing for a Passion play, was ignored. The boy also broke a door and stole a cell phone. He was arrested and later released by police.

Mersin (AsiaNews) – It seems as if a media campaign against the Catholic Church in Turkey is well and truly under way. This has been confirmed by the way in which the aggression – fortunately without serious consequences – against youth and monks in the parish of Mersin by a young man armed with a long knife. Fr Hanri Leylek, one of the monks at the parish, wrote to AsiaNews: “Some newspapers said ‘the boy entered the Catholic Church, accusing the church of prostituting boys with girls coming to the church’, as if this was the main news”, thus leaving the attack aside.

What really happened was that “on 11 March, at around 7pm, while we were holding a rehearsal for the play of the Passion of Christ in the convent of the parish, a youth, of around 22 years, came in and mixed with the youth of the parish, and then elbowed his way into the convent. There were around 25 teenagers there, aged between 15 and 19 years. One of the boys called me, telling me there was a stranger creating problems, who wanted to talk to a priest. I went out of the room and started to talk to him; seeing that he was saying disjointed things and threats, I asked him to go outside. He refused and only threatened all the more, swearing.
All this was happening in the corridor of the convent, where by now, the teenagers had gathered around. At this point, I decided to call the police. The telephone is in a booth in the corridor. I picked up the receiver and dialed the number of the police. All of a sudden, I saw the young people scatter and this youth came to the telephone booth with a sort of scimitar (a knife around 80 or 90cam long, used to cut Turkish doner kebabs) – it had been hidden behind his back – which he started to threaten me with.”

Fr Leylek continued: “I put the phone down and tried to calm him. Anyhow, if he wanted to, he could have harmed me; I was able to come out from the booth. In the meantime, Fr Robert too had come into the corridor. This time, the boy turned on Fr Robert and threatened him, clutching the knife.
I managed to sneak out and to go to the police station near the church. Even Fr Robert tried to keep the youth calm. Then the boy turned towards the hall where the young people had rushed to. He broke the glass of the door with the long knife, opened the door and started to rummage in the jackets of the teenagers, taking a cell phone with him.
The teenagers had left the hall and had locked themselves about the place, in rooms and bathrooms. The boy continued to shout and threaten. Within five minutes I was back in the convent with three or four policemen. They crossed the boy on the stairs of the convent. He threatened them too and they tried to talk to him to calm him down. In the meantime, journalists and a dozen police reached the scene. There was some 15 minutes talk and finally the boy surrendered to the police.”

“This was the second attack on our parish of Mersin . The first took place two months ago at around 4am. Another youth, tall and well-built, kicked down the two doors of the convent and forced his way in. He too wanted to talk to a priest.

However, he was not armed and he was very calm. We went to see what happened when we heard his cries. Two of us started to talk to him and I went to call the police; he went with them without resisting. The boy had also burned books in our parish information office.”

“The news was given by two newspapers the following day as a news item: ‘A thief entered the Catholic Church to steal but when he met the priest, he threatened him with a knife. Then everything ended with the arrival of the police’. However, other television news said: ‘The boy entered the Catholic church accusing the church of prostituting boys with girls coming to church’ (giving this news, the television showed clips of the boys and girls who had come for the rehearsal of the play). As if this was the main news.” The priest added: “A short while ago, the unexpected conclusion, we learned that the boy had been released because there was no reason to keep him in prison. As the Catholic Church, we organized a press conference today, inviting local and national journalists.”

The account of Fr Leylek confirms that in Turkey , there are elements seeking to instill in people’s minds the idea that the Church is “converting” Turks and posing a threat. Thus, less than month after the killing of Fr Andrea Santoro, on 28 February, the national daily Vatan, reported that Fr Andrea used to distribute dollars to draw youth to church. And other national news media continue to talk about missionaries and their proselytism, about the distribution of money and making other inferences, without ever revealing the identity of interested parties. Some say this approach hides the political struggle of religious fundamentalism against the current Turkish government and its resolve to take Turkey into Europe .