ICC Note: As Ramadan approaches its final two weeks, members of a Catholic Church in Turkey are fearful of hostilities directed towards Christians. St. Stephanos Church has recently been the target of verbal threats and property damages including threats from a knife-wielding young man over the past two months. The parishioners are worried these light acts of aggression could give way to more hostile actions. The aggressive behavior has also led to several members of the church to stop participating in services.
07/17/14 Turkey (Morning Star News) – Members of a Catholic church in Istanbul fear an attack after Muslims verbally assaulted and threatened them during a baptismal service and destroyed church property in the last two months.
After two incidents at St. Stephanos Church, parishioners said they are waiting to see if hostilities will escalate into violence during what remains of Ramadan, when religious persecution has been known to increase in Muslim-majority areas. The annual Ramadan, an Islamic month of day-time fasting, ends in Turkey on July 28.
The two previous attacks have caused some members of an already small congregation to stop participating in services, at least temporarily. In May a group of young men under cover of darkness destroyed audio equipment, stole other items and set a fire in the building, and on June 15 Muslim intruders pushed their way into the baptismal service and yelled obscenities, with one brandishing a knife and threatening to stab a parishioner.
Though not inflicting physical injury, the attacks reopened psychological wounds in light of fatal attacks on Catholics and other Christians in Turkey. With anti-Christian hostilities growing in Turkey, one church member said more attacks are expected.
“It’s not the first, and it won’t be the last,” said the parishioner, who requested anonymity for security reasons.
In the incident during the baptismal service, congregation members said, eight Muslims came onto church grounds and screamed obscenities and anti-Christian epithets at those inside. Some members of the group went into the church building and, as they walked around, shouted at those in attendance.
The Muslims told those at the church to “Go away” because “Turkey is Muslim.”