Attackers Critically Injure Turkish Christian

Friday, October 31, 2003

Hospitalized Victim Slips into Coma

by Barbara G. Baker

ISTANBUL, October 31 (Compass) -- A Turkish convert to Christianity who was severely beaten for distributing New Testaments last week in his hometown of Orhangazi in northwestern Turkey has slipped into a coma in critical condition.

Yakup Cindilli, 32, was hospitalized on October 23 after a savage attack by three individuals who inflicted heavy blows on his head and face. Although he was initially coherent and able to talk with his family, he went into a coma during his second day in the hospital.

According to doctors attending him at the Bursa State Hospital, Cindilli’s coma has resulted from a blood clot that formed in his brain from his injuries.

Local police have identified and apprehended three suspects in the crime, all jailed by order of the public prosecutor reviewing the case. No date has been set for a hearing on the expected criminal charges against the accused.

Both Cindilli and a colleague identified in local Turkish newspapers as Tufan Orhan were reportedly distributing New Testaments at the time of the attack. One news headline declared, “Two Youths Beaten for Doing Missionary Work.” Both were left semi-conscious in an open lot in Orhangazi after their attackers fled.

According to an October 26 account in the national Milliyet newspaper, Cindilli and Orhan were beaten for “doing missionary propaganda.” One of the suspects, Metin Yildiran, is president of the local chapter of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), Milliyet reported. The other two men were identified as Huseyin Bektas and Ibrahim Sekman.

A far-right political party accused of “neo-fascist” activities during Turkey’s violent 1970s, the MHP has historically linked its platform with an Islamic-tinged version of nationalism.

According to local believers, Cindilli first expressed interest in Christianity about two years ago when he made a telephone call to “Alo Dua,” a prayer hotline ministry begun by local Protestant Christians after Turkey’s devastating 1999 earthquake.

After reading the New Testament and coming to faith in Christ, Cindilli began writing poems and songs. “He was a very faithful believer, living by himself out there,” an Alo Dua staff member told Compass. “He went on with the Lord, and we would talk and pray with him over the phone.”

Cindilli occasionally traveled to Bursa, about 30 miles from Orhangazi, to visit the Protestant fellowship there. His family was opposed to his new faith, throwing out all his Christian books and warning him that he must give up his new beliefs.

Earlier this year, Cindilli transferred to Istanbul, where he found a job and attended the Maltepe Protestant Church for several months. In mid August, he returned home to Orhangazi, where he began to work on interior construction jobs.

When Cindilli last visited the pastor of the Bursa Protestant Church about a month ago, he had asked for some New Testaments for distribution. “I don’t know Yakup very well,” the pastor told Compass, “but he is a very courageous man. We are very upset that this has happened to him, and we are praying that he will recover.”