RIGHTS > Christian clerics alarmed at growing threats, persecution in Turkey

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News

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 people

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This file photo shows 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

This file photo shows 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

Vercihan Ziflioğlu Vercihan Ziflioğlu vercihan.ziflioglu@hurriyet.com.tr

Christian 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.”


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Notice on comments

mara mcglothin

4/13/2012 8:08:34 PM

JRC It is true that there is a segment of Turkish society(mainly people who have traveled and been educated abroad) that haveno problem with other nationalities, races, and religions. I have witnessed this first hand.

mara mcglothin

4/12/2012 6:34:53 PM

It shouldn't be police that guard these churches doors, BUT Imams. The "community" preaches interfaith dialogue and understanding, so maybe it is some of the community who should stand shoulder to shoulder with the Imams.

mara mcglothin

4/12/2012 4:00:25 PM

JEREMY It is NOT general society that has a problem with other faiths! It is the backward, pious, village people who are the ones that have been inflamed by the AKP that commit these kind of crimes. Istanbul "secular" society still has no issues.

jeremy last

4/11/2012 12:14:10 AM

There are about 65,000 Christians and 75 million Muslims in Turkey. Yet the latter feel insecure. If this is not fascism, I don't know what is. Don't you realize there are millions of Turks (forget Muslims) in Europe?


4/10/2012 3:46:06 PM

I always laugh when Turkish people tell me how tolerant and non-racist Turks are. The brain washing they've received at Turkish schools seems permanent.

Rebecca Ileri

4/10/2012 3:11:38 PM

What I'm curious about is why this story has not been covered in the Turkish-speaking press?

Rimon Tree

4/10/2012 2:38:29 PM

Erdogan and his party are ruining Turkey and leading her back to middle ages at the best! All that has been achieved so far is draining off. No chance for EU, it's a pity!I know so many decent people in Turkey, why not have a Turkish spring NOW!

Faruk Beisser

4/10/2012 10:20:04 AM

The result of AKP politics! Iran, here comes Turkey!

Peter Lambson

4/10/2012 2:19:33 AM

So much for Turkey's claims of being a tolerant society.
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