Young Muslims in Turkey Murder Three Christians
In a bold initiative Thursday, Pastor Ihsan Ozbek, chairman of the Alliance of Protestant Churches in Turkey, led a press conference broadcast live from Malatya by CNN-TURK and shown simultaneously on several other TV channels.
Flanked by the churches' legal representative, Orhan Kemal Cengiz, and Istanbul pastor Bedri Peker, Ihsan distributed a forthright press release to the Turkish media headlined, "A Horrible Brutality, But Not a Surprise."
"Yesterday, Turkey was buried in the darkness of the Middle Ages," Ozbek declared.
He compared the nation's ongoing conspiracy theories and missionary phobias to the witch-hunts of the Middle Ages.
"We know this will not be the last [martyr]. But with all our hearts we wish it would be the last," Ozbek said.
First Convert Martyrs
Wednesday's deadly attack was the first known martyrdom of Turkish converts from Islam since the founding of the Turkish Republic in 1923.
But it was the third tragic incident targeting Christians in Turkey in the past 15 months to spark major international media coverage. Last year an Italian Catholic priest was shot to death while kneeling in his church in the Black Sea port city of Trabzon.
This past January, a prominent Turkish journalist of Armenian Christian descent, Hrant Dink, was murdered in Istanbul.
Over the past three years, top government officials have been accused of fanning growing hostility against non-Muslims by openly criticizing Christian missionary activities. Local prosecutors and police authorities are often reluctant to pursue reported incidents of vandalism or threats against church buildings or personnel.
The last deadly attack targeting Turkish converts to Christianity took place in Gaziantep in 1997, when an extremist Islamist group bombed a Christian bookstand at a local fair, killing a small child and injuring many bystanders. The culprits were arrested and sentenced to heavy prison terms.
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