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[vc_row][vc_column][vc_custom_heading text=”Three individuals describe how constant persecution has impacted their lives.” use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_single_image image=”123617″ img_size=”full” add_caption=”yes” alignment=”center”][vc_column_text]This story was originally published in the April issue of ICC’s Persecution magazine.

04/21/2021 Turkey (International Christian Concern)A priest prays in a cave, wishing his kidnapped parents will return home. A woman survives a blast flattening her city, but finds herself a prisoner of war. A scholar spends his days in jail, simply for speaking about historical truths. Did they have the misfortune of surviving?

As Turkey expands its anti-Christian sentiments into other regions, Christians from diverse backgrounds are being impacted by the invasions.

Or is the resilience that helps them survive these difficulties the same resilience that brings hope for a thriving future?

Mourning the Unknown: An Assyrian Priest
An Assyrian priest, Father Ramzi, travels throughout Turkey and brings hope to his congregation, several of whom were displaced by ISIS. Last year while on the road, his parents, Hurmuz and Simoni, were kidnapped. A brief official investigation revealed nothing. “Life became so hard for my family,” he said. He prayed in cave churches around the hillside, his face buried in Scripture as he cried for their safe return home. “I still have faith in God. I can’t blame God because it is not the work of God. It is the work of the sons of evil.”

A few months pass. His brother discovers their mother floating dead in a nearby river. The investigation reveals nothing. His family searches on their own, eventually discovering some of their father’s personal items. Is he alive, is he dead? Why aren’t the authorities helping?

No answers, just deadening silence. Turkey had turned its back on Father Ramzi’s pleas for justice and for answers.

“How in one year [do they not] know who killed my parents?” he asks. “We don’t feel safe in our village, in our country. No one cares about us.” Though his parents are gone and his family is struggling, he must travel again to help tend the church. He has a flock to shepherd, but asks God constantly, “How can I forgive if no one says sorry or confesses?”

Trapped by Genocide: An Armenian Prisoner

At the time of writing this article, Meral was in prison and her status was unknown. She is now free and living in Lebanon. Updated details can be found here. 

Genocide doesn’t observe boundaries. In 1915, genocide forced Armenian Christians to flee the area that is now Turkey and resettle in Lebanon, where they formed a community. Today they are under increasing pressure from Turkey and terrible local governance. Meral, a middle-aged Armenian woman, dreamed of a good future. Just days prior to emigrating to Artsakh, an explosion flattened much of Beirut. It confirmed her belief there is no future for Armenians in Lebanon.

The future looked bright as she made plans to open a Lebanese Restaurant in Artsakh. But soon war came. Azerbaijan, backed by Turkey, invaded and again pursued genocide. Armenian Christians were under threat. Meral became a refugee, abandoning her belongings. However, winter was coming. She needed her clothes and supplies. Meral traveled back to Artsakh, but never returned. Her sister shared, “Meral would never go off without telling me. She would have told me where she was.”

Her sister contacted everyone, finally discovering on Christmas Eve that Meral was held prisoner by Azerbaijan. “I don’t know how this will end. The European Court says it has no right to interfere… It can only confirm that Meral is in Baku. We are waiting for nothing else. We are tired of waiting.”

Every day, evidence grows of Azerbaijan’s mistreatment of prisoners of war: beatings, body mutilations, executions, etc.

But as of this writing in February, there is still no word of Meral. What is she experiencing, and will she ever be reunited with her family?

Counting Time: A Greek Scholar
“I was not anxious when I was detained, and I am still not. But it is a strange thing not to see the face of justice.” Two years have passed since Osman Kavala penned these words from a Turkish prison. More recently, he shared, “the passing of time does not normalize the gravity of this unlawful practice, which by itself has become a parallel punitive action; it only exacerbates it. Every single day I spend deprived of my freedom brings a far greater loss for me.”

Kavala’s family were farmers from Greece who were forcibly relocated to Turkey as part of the 1923 population exchange. This exchange removed ethnic Muslim Turks and Greek Christians, resettling them in their new respective countries. The scars of this exchange is felt among both communities. Reconciliation and speaking the truth about the genocide became a cornerstone of Kavala’s life’s work. Now, he is incarcerated for it.

Over 1,000 days have passed since his imprisonment. International bodies urged Turkey to release Kavala, with no success. “The measures taken against him pursued an ulterior purpose, namely to reduce him to silence as an NGO activist and human-rights defender, to dissuade other persons from engaging in such activities and to paralyze civil society in the country,” said the European Court of Human Rights.

Perseverance Despite Persecution
The priest, the prisoner, and the scholar have joined their ancestors in facing difficult circumstances. But their determination to prevail and to live remains undeterred. Persecution continues in a seemingly endless cycle, but so also does resilience.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1612365598089{margin-bottom: 0px !important;}”]

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