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For the first time in 550 years, Christianity inside Turkey is growing in numbers and influence. But its recent growth comes at a high price: since February 2006, radicalized Muslims have killed five Christians—the kind of cold-blooded martyrdom not seen in decades.

Modern-day Turkey's 73 million citizens, 98 percent of whom are Muslims, are experiencing social and political upheaval. The country is attempting to improve its economic and human-rights record in order to join the European Union. Turkey's relations with the United States are strained as an ally in the war in Iraq, and because of Congress's aborted effort to pass the Armenian genocide resolution. Also, Turkey's border disputes with Greece over land around the Aegean Sea, as well as violent skirmishes with Kurdish rebels on its southern border, keep this nation's formidable military on highest alert.

This is the context in which a handful of Islamic radicals targeted Christians as "enemies of the state" because of their association with Western groups and their alleged support of Kurdish rebels. The five killed within the last two years were:

• Andrea Santoro, a Catholic priest killed in February 2006. A 16-year-old youth shot Santoro as he was praying in the Santa Maria Church in Trabzon, Turkey.

• Hrant Dink, a Turkish-Armenian newspaper editor. In January 2007, a teenager gunned down Dink, who had been convicted of "insulting Turkishness" two years prior.

• The three Malatya martyrs: Necati Aydin, a Turkish pastor; Tilmann Geske, a missions worker from Germany; and Ugur Yuksel, a new Christian convert from Islam. In April 2007, young radicals feigning curiosity about Christianity killed the three men by slitting their throats at a Christian ...

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Jesus in Turkey
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January 2008

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