Turkey Arrests Street Evangelists For "Insulting Islam"

Monday, April 30, 2007

By BosNewsLife News Center

ISTANBUL, TURKEY (BosNewsLife) -- Turkish police reportedly released an American Christian from prison late Friday, April 27, after he and three other evangelists were detained in Istanbul this week for charges that included "missionary activity" and "insulting Islam."

Compass Direct News, a Christian news agency investigating reports of persecution, said David Byle was released more than 48 hours after he was arrested along with a Korean and two Turkish Christians. The Korean was due to be deported, but more detains were not immediately known, Compass Direct News said.

The arrests come amid a tense national debate over the legitimacy of Christian missionary activity, sparked by the gruesome killing of three Christian men my Muslim militants at a Christian publishing house in southeastern Turkey last week. "Missionaries are more dangerous than terror organizations," Niyazi Guney, Ministry of Justice director general of laws, reportedly commented only a day after the murders.

Police detained the four men after a young woman, angered that her male companion was discussing Christianity with the evangelists, complained to police that the group was "disturbing the peace," Compass Direct News quoted Byle as saying.


"With about 40 people in front of me, I said that I had just come back from the funerals in Malatya and Izmir and I met with the widows of the Christians who were killed [on April 18 at a Christian publishing house in Malatya]," Byle reportedly added. "I said I was amazed with how gentle they were and how forgiving they were of their husband’s killers."

Byle reportedly said that no one in the crowd had a problem with his message when he told them that forgiveness was the only hope for the world. It was only during follow-up conversations that difficulties arose for the street preachers, he reportedly said. “The gal [who complained to the police] happened to be linked to a right-wing group," Byle said in comments from jail.

Among the detained was also a man identified as Muharrem Kavak, while others apparently requested anonymity for security concerns. Two of the four Christians were released within hours, while Byle and the Korean were reportedly held till late Friday, April 27.


Byle said that an official police report charged the evangelists with “missionary activity”, disturbing the peace and “insulting Islam”. A representative from the US Consulate in Istanbul confirmed the charges to Compass Direct News after visiting the police station where Byle was being held yesterday.

"The third charge is missionary activity, but that’s not against the law, so I’m not sure how they are going to work that one," the unidentified official was quoted as saying.

This was not an isolated incident, Compass Direct News claimed. In September 2006, Byle and a team of five street evangelists were reportedly physically attacked while in Istanbul’s Kadikoy district. Their assailants escaped after inflicting only minor wounds, and local police helped the Christians receive treatment at a nearby hospital.

Christians comprise about 0.2 percent of Turkey’s predominantly Muslim population, and the arrests were expected to add to concern within the embattled community. (With BosNewsLife Research).

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