Report: Missionaries 'Cover Turkey Like a Spider's Web'

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Christians are accused of promoting ethnic divisions.

by Barbara G. Baker

ISTANBUL, June 22 (Compass) -- Intelligence agencies within the Turkish state have concluded in a new report that Christian missionary activities inside the country have a second motive, parallel to their spread of Christian propaganda.

According to a June 11 article in Cumhuriyet newspaper, the state believes that foreign missionaries are also promoting ethnic divisions, particularly among the Kurds.

Declaring that missionaries “cover Turkey like a spider’s web,” the report accuses them of focusing on sensitive regions of the country and using the cover of “faith tourism” to target lower-income citizens, youth, children and women.

As part of a recently disclosed intelligence report entitled “Reactionary Elements and Risks,” the state’s assessment of missionary activity was coupled with a separate analysis of Islamist terrorist groups and their known leaders active within Turkey.

Currently, foreign missionaries were said to be increasing their pace in the Black Sea and eastern Anatolia regions of Turkey, Cumhuriyet noted. In search of potential converts, the report said, missionaries were targeting the ethnic Kurdish and Laz communities, as well as adherents of the Alawite sect.

According to the report, the majority of foreign missionaries come from South Korea, the United States, England, New Zealand, Australia, Germany, Sweden and Romania.

They were said to represent Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox groups of Christians, as well as Jehovah’s Witnesses and Baha’is.

In addition, the report stated that in recent years, Turkish and foreign citizens were cooperating to form non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) in the Turkish Southeast, where it was noted that church members make up “an important portion” of the staff of these NGOs.

Addressed in the report were concerns about Bible courses being formed under the guise of “investigative” studies, as well as individuals going door to door distributing religious books, brochures and magazines. Occasional seminars and meetings were also being organized, the report said.

Istanbul was identified as Turkey’s missionary headquarters, although places of worship were known to be established in Ankara, Izmir, Eskisehir, Antalya, Hatay, Mersin and Kusadasi, the report said.

In the intelligence report, Jehovah’s Witnesses were said to be presenting themselves as the true and only pure Christians, while Baha’is reportedly focused on developing relationships with state officials, journalists, progressive businessmen and people in the performing and fine arts.