Giving hope to persecuted Christians since 1995
Select Page

Wikileaks: and again the missioners in Turkey

Times.am presents a range of documents on the missioners in Turkey and the attitude towards them in that country.

ICC Note:

“Imams across Turkey delivered a sermon March 11 depicting Christian missionaries as part of an organized force aiming to ‘steal the beliefs of our young people and children.’ The sermon, part of a broader effort to combat the ‘threat’ of missionaries, further accused missionaries of improperly ‘taking advantage” of social problems and natural disasters to divert Muslims from their faith,’ reports Times.am.

Classified by Polcouns John Kunstadter; reasons 1.4 b and d.

4/18/2011 Turkey (Times.am) – ¶1. (U) Summary: Under instructions from the GOT’s Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet), imams across Turkey delivered a sermon March 11 depicting Christian missionaries as part of an organized force aiming to “steal the beliefs of our young people and children.” The sermon, part of a broader effort to combat the “threat” of missionaries, further accused missionaries of improperly “taking advantage” of social problems and natural disasters to divert Muslims from their faith. Our EU contacts say they are concerned about the sermon, and predict the GOT’s approach toward non-Muslim religions will pose problems for Turkey’s EU candidacy. The day after the sermon, an anti-Christian group threatened an Ankara church, although it is not clear whether the threat was related to the sermon. End Summary.

Missionaries Depicted As New Crusaders

¶2. (U) The sermon, while not using the term “missionary,” implies that missionaries in Turkey today are trying to achieve what the Crusades failed to accomplish in centuries past (see full text starting para 7). It criticizes missionaries for “taking advantage of” problems such as ethnic discrimination, poverty, and natural disasters to turn Muslims away from “the only religion in the presence of Allah.”

¶3. (U) Imams across Turkey delivered the sermon under instructions from the Diyanet, which distributed the text to mosques. The Diyanet, the GOT agency that oversees Turkey’s mosques, routinely provides imams with content for the Friday sermon. The March 11 message marked the opening gambit in the Diyanet’s acknowledged program to combat the perceived “threat” of missionaries. We have discussed the Diyanet’s approach to missionaries with Diyanet Vice President Mehmet Gormez (reftel), whose influence is clearly visible in the sermon text. Gormez has acknowledged to us the right of missionaries to operate in Turkey, but vows to “educate” Turks so that they do not fall prey to missionaries seeking to exploit their “ignorance.” When we asked him how the Turkish Government would react if Western countries conducted similar public campaigns against Muslim proselytizing, he asserted that Muslims migrate to the West to earn money, not convert Christians. The March 11 sermon emphasizes the monotheistic nature of Islam, and implies that Christians are not monotheists; Gormez has averred to us that a Muslim would have to give up monotheism to convert to Christianity, because Christians believe in the Holy Trinity.

Anti-Christian Group Sends Email Threat

¶4. (U) The day after the sermon, a group calling itself the Turkish Revenge Brigade sent an email to the International Protestant Church of Ankara calling missionaries “dogs trying to divide the nation” and concluding that “therefore your murder is seen as an obligatory Islamic duty.” The email does not make reference to the sermon. Ihsan Ozbek, pastor of the Church, told us the anti-Christian group has sent him many such emails over the years, but has not carried out any attacks on Christians in a decade. “The purpose of the author of this message is to cause fear,” Ozbek stated in an email. “Of course, this doesn’t mean they won’t do small things.”

EU Contact: GOT “Paranoid” About Christians

¶5. (C) We discussed the sermon with diplomats from the German, Dutch and Danish embassies, which have been following the GOT’s treatment of missionaries in the context of Turkey’s EU accession drive. The diplomats agreed the sermon represents an unacceptable approach to Christianity. They also said the anti-Christian message will give ammunition to those in Europe who argue that Turkey’s Islamic faith and intolerance toward other religions render it unqualified for EU membership. “This is the number-one argument used by opponents of Turkish membership,” the Danish diplomat said, adding, “this is not going to be well received in Copenhagen.” Our German colleague emphasized that German officials are fed up with PM Erdogan’s repeated complaints that the EU is a “Christian club.” He said such comments are particularly hypocritical given the GOT’s “paranoid” reaction to the small number of Christian missionaries in Turkey. The diplomats said religious freedom is one of the weakest areas in the GOT’s reform efforts, and predicted it will become an obstacle at some point in Turkey’s EU accession effort (Note: We will report septel on the overall lack of progress on religious freedom. End Note).

[Full Story]