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Christians in Turkey Fear More Attacks After Killings at Publishing House

ICC Note: This article helps explain the mindset of anti-Christian attitudes in Turkey, and how the Turkish media have created an atmosphere of hostility towards Christians.

By Benjamin Harvey, Associated Press Writer

First Coast News

4/21/07 Turkey (AP) – The slayings of three Christians in this eastern town highlight Turkey ‘s uneasy relationship with its minorities, and Christians expressed fear Thursday that growing nationalism and intolerance could lead to more violence against them.


The attack Wednesday added to concerns in Europe about whether the predominantly Muslim country — which is bidding for European Union membership — can protect its religious minorities.

Christian leaders said they worried that nationalists were stoking hostilities against non-Turks and non-Muslims by exploiting growing uncertainty over Turkey ‘s place in the world.

The uncertainty — and growing suspicion against foreigners — has been driven by the faltering EU bid, a resilient Kurdish separatist movement and by increasingly vocal Islamists who see themselves — and Turkey — as locked in battle with a hostile Christian West.

“Our lives are in danger because of this mind-set,” the Rev. Ihsan Ozbek, pastor of the Kurtulus Church in Ankara , told a news conference in Malatya . He said there was a “witch hunt” under way against Christians and other minorities.

Nationalists, who have long dominated public debate in Turkey , have also begun to call for Turkey to withdraw its EU bid and make its own way in the world. Some young men indoctrinated with a vision of Turkish greatness — and with a view of the West as intent on keeping the Islamic world weak — view non-Muslims with suspicion.

“The problem is our education and our media,” Mustafa Efe, head of Mujde FM, or Miracle FM, a Christian broadcasting station, said after traveling to Malatya to meet Protestant pastors. “They always say Christianity is dangerous because Christians are trying to break up Turkey .”

Christians make up just a fraction of 1 percent of Turkey ‘s population of 71 million.

“There is this general atmosphere of fear — that Turkey will be segmented,” said Orhan Kemal Cengiz, a human rights lawyer who represented one of the slain Christians, Necati Aydin, 26, in an earlier court case. Aydin was charged with insulting Islam and spent a month in jail after he was found distributing Bibles in the Aegean city of Izmir .

Hurriyet newspaper quoted one unidentified suspect as saying: “We didn’t do this for ourselves, but for our religion. Our religion is being destroyed. Let this be a lesson to enemies of our religion.”

Besides the five suspects detained Thursday, four others were taken into custody at the publishing house Wednesday, as well as a fifth who underwent surgery for head injuries after he apparently tried to escape the crime scene by jumping from a fourth-story window. All were in their late teens or early 20s.

Since last year, Turkish youths have killed a Roman Catholic priest while he prayed in a church in Trabzon , threatened other priests and killed a prominent Armenian Christian editor in Istanbul .

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