Turkish Christians Fear Nationalism After Murder And Threat

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

By Worthy News Europe Bureau

ISTANBUL, TURKEY (Worthy News) -- Turkish Christians remain concerned about rising nationalism and hostility towards non-Muslims in Turkey,  following the killing of a Christian businessman and the attack against an evangelist, Worthy News monitored Tuesday, August 11.

In the most recent reported incident, Turkish Christians and media said a 24-year-old street seller assaulted a man on grounds he was proselytizing Christianity, holding a knife to his throat in downtown Istanbul before surrendering to police.

The incident, the latest in a series of attacks against Christians in Turkey,  happened Monday, August 3, on a busy avenue in Istanbul's Kadikoy district, apparently before the eyes of dozens of passers-by.

The assailant -- identified as 24-year-old pirate CD's vendor Yasin Karasu -- wrapped a Turkish flag around the head of Ismail Aydin, 35, put a knife to his throat and shouted "This is Turkey, you cannot distribute Bibles here," the Haberturk newspaper said.


Christians said it was difficult for him to breathe in heat that reached the low 30s Celsius (90s F) last week. “Do you see this missionary dog?” the attacker was overheard yelling at the crowd. “He is handing out gospels and he is breaking up the country!”

The stand-off lasted for 20 minutes before the police persuaded the assailant to surrender, witnesses said.  Karasu has reportedly told police he was angry with Aydin for converting to Christianity and engaging in missionary activities, but the Vatan daily suggested the assailant was mentally disturbed.

Proselytizing is generally viewed with suspicion in Turkey, whose population is predominantly Muslim, with tiny Greek Orthodox, Catholic, Armenian and Jewish communities, concentrated in Istanbul.

It came just shortly after a German businessman died after a Turkish Muslim with a history of mental illness stabbed him in the middle of a crowded street.


The attacker, identified as Ybrahim Akyol, stabbed Gregor Kerkeling in the chest after following him out of a church in Istanbul's central Beyoglu district, according to video footage of the church's security cameras.

Akyol reportedly confessed to the prosecutor that he "woke up that morning and decided he would kill a Christian.” Investigators said the attacker followed Kerkeling out of the church building and asked him for a Turkish lira.

When Kerkeling refused and gestured him away, Akyol allegedly stabbed him in the heart and chest area before passersby intervened. “I wanted to kill a Christian that day and was visiting churches for this reason,” he later told prosecutors, according to Turkish media.

The violence are no isolated incidents. An Italian Roman Catholic priest was shot dead in 2006 and three Protestants -- a German missionary and two Turkish converts -- had their throats slit in 2007.

Two Catholic priests have been stabbed and several churches have reported harassment and threats.

The incidents has underscored concerns over religious tensions in Turkey, which is seeking to join the European Union.  Christians comprise about 0.2 percent of Turkey's predominantly Muslim population, according to several estimates.