|The Dirisu home church located in Istanbul’s Şişli district. Many Christian clerics say police officers keep watch at their door during mass. (DAILY NEWS photo)|
There is creeping Islamism in Turkey . . . . not that Muslim Turks were ever friendly to the Christians they had conquered
In the wake of an attack against an Istanbul Protestant Pastor, Christian Clerics in Turkey say they feel alarmed at the accelerating number of such incidents and even hesitate to open their doors to peopleChristian clerics in Turkey have expressed their anxiety regarding the growing threats they face in wake of an attack against Pastor Semih Serkek of the Protestant “Lütuf” (“Grace”) Church in Istanbul’s Bahçelievler district on April 7.
“Attacks against Christian clerics drop off for a while, then they begin to re-energize. [Such attacks] have begun to accelerate again in recent days. We hesitate when opening our doors and welcoming the faithful inside,” Pastor Krikor Ağabaloğlu of the Gedikpaşa Armenian Protestant Church in Istanbul told the Hürriyet Daily News.
Attack on Easter
Three unidentified individuals attacked and beat Serkek on the night of April 7, immediately after an Easter service. “They were three people around the age of 18. They wore [prayer caps] on their heads. They forced the door open and said they were going to kill me unless I recited the ‘Kelime-i Şahadet’ [Islamic confession of faith]. I received a severe blow to my chest,” Serkek told the Daily News. The attacks were not coincidental, according to Serkek, who had also served as a mentor to the three victims slain in the Malatya Zirve Publishing House incident in eastern Turkey.
Pastor Orhan Picaklar of the Agape Protestant Church in the Black Sea province of Samsun also said he has been living with a personal escort 24 hours a day for the past four years, since a plot to assassinate him first came to light. “Police [officers] keep watch at the door during mass; the believers are afraid to enter the church due to the threat to their lives,” he said.
The make-shift church, located inside an apartment building, also came under attack about a month ago, Picaklar said, adding that the congregation was chagrined at being stuck in an apartment. “[The authorities] gave the green light to the construction of a new church in 2004, within the framework of the European Union harmonization laws, although with the pre-condition that it must be no smaller than 2,500 square meters. We have no budget. We appealed to establish a church building 1,000 square meters in size, but did not receive approval for it.”
Ağabaloğlu said that in the case of his church, the state intentionally refused to grant permission for the construction of a church building. “They are trying to stymie the spread of Christianity in this way.” (Hurriyet Daily News)
Freedom of Religion in Turkey
From an article by Sahin Alpay
In its 2012 annual report, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom listed Turkey among 16 “countries of particular concern for the reason that Turkey violated freedom of religion “systematically and egregiously.”
In Turkey there are many restrictions on religious freedom that are not at all compatible with a democratic order.
The state monopolizes and controls religion. Regardless of their religious beliefs, all citizens have to finance the Directorate of Religious Affairs (DİB), which represents official (Sunni-Hanafi Islam), through the taxes they pay. The Constitution assigns DİB the function of promoting national unity. Proposing the exclusion of DİB from state administration is a cause for the closure of political parties. DİB controls all religious activity, and centrally determines even the content of the Friday sermons to be read in the mosques.
Christians on edge in Turkey
While DİB is financially supported by general taxes, other religious groups don't receive a penny of state aid. The largest religious minority, the Alevis, have been allowed to open their houses of prayer, or cemevis, only during the last two decades, but they still lack legal status. Certification to open a cemevi is still up to the arbitrary permission of municipalities.
Furthermore , the Apostolic, Catholic and Protestant Armenian, Greek Orthodox, Assyrian, Catholic and Protestant churches, the Jews, Bahais, Yazidis, Shiites and other religious groups don't have legal status, don’t have the right to train their clergy, and are all subject to the arbitrary practices of authorities.
Maybe worse than legal restrictions on religious freedoms is the situation whereby citizens refrain from disclosing their religious identities for fear of retribution. Most Alevis had to hide their religious identity until the 1990s. Many Sunni Muslims still feel the necessity to conceal which Sufi order, religious community or movement they belong to. Citizens who have discovered their Armenian origins have only recently begun to dare get baptized. (Todays Zaman)
|Turkey may have been "secular" under Mustafa Kemal Ataturk's followers, but that does not mean there was ever true Freedom of Religion.|