Turkey's Christians under Siege.
Turkey's Christians under Siege : : Middle East Quarterly. The brutal murder of the head of Turkey's Catholic Church, Bishop Luigi Padovese, on June 3, 2. Christian community. This is not wholly surprising. In the post- 9/1.
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Islam and acts of violence despite much evidence to the contrary. For all President Barack Obama's high praise for its . Unless Ankara is prepared to combat the widespread . Rejecting the church's historic dhimmi status as a protected religious minority under Islam—which reduced it to little more than a submissive worshipping agency with no other legitimate activity—he viewed Turkey's European Union candidacy as a golden opportunity for winning significant concessions from Ankara and pinned high hopes on the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops, which took place in Rome in October 2. While confirming the Second Vatican Council's positive shift in attitude toward Judaism and unequivocal rejection of anti- Semitism, the Middle Eastern bishops sought to enhance the security of their flocks by playing an anti- Israel card and criticizing Israel—the one country of the region with a growing Christian population—with a directness that was not employed in relation to any Islamic state, no matter how repressive. Had it not been for his murder, the bishop would have traveled to meet the pope in Cyprus on the very next day for the launch of the synod's Instrumentum laboris, the Vatican's strategic plan for reviving Christianity in its Middle Eastern cradle, to which Padovese was a substantial contributor. Though written in low- key Vatican jargon, the Instrumentum laboris is full of radical implications for Turkey and the broader Middle East.
The key to harmonious living between Christians and Muslims is to recognize religious freedom and human rights. Bush and Obama administrations have praised as a model for the Islamic world—as the answer. He worked in the clear knowledge that . But neither President Abdullah G.
Together with Spanish prime minister Jose Luis Rodrigues Zapatero, the Turkish prime minister and leader of the ruling Islamist Peace and Justice Party (AKP) has been a principal architect and cosponsor of the U. N.'s flagship program to promote a global . If Western diplomats spoke at all about the bishop's murder, it was in the same hushed tones that are used when referring to Turkey's Armenian genocide of World War I, its subsequent use of terror against remnant Christian communities and Kurdish villages, its 1. Cyprus and subsequent ethnic cleansing of the occupied Christian population, and its blockade of neighboring Armenia. Well aware of the absence of backing from Western powers, the Vatican acted swiftly to avoid confrontation with Turkey. Notwithstanding an early observation by Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi that the murder highlighted the . In a statement broadcast on Vatican Radio on the same day, Lombardi negated his previous comment by stating that .
He admitted that he still had ? Benedict XVI provided a motive when he explained, . At Regensburg, the pope broached one of the key issues obstructing harmonious relations between the Muslim and non- Muslim worlds: the sensitive question of violent jihad as a legitimate means of advancing the Islamic faith. To be sure, he did not retract a single word uttered at Regensburg, and his apology was more of a regretful explanation than an admission of error, but his humble and appeasing demeanor was conciliatory enough to salvage his church's dialogue with Islam and keep the door open to Istanbul. Since then, he has taken extraordinary pains to temper his language and make flattering gestures to avoid frenzied Muslim responses. Consider Benedict XVI's November 2. Turkey—his first as pope to a Muslim- majority country.
While reiterating the Vatican's customary plea for religious liberty, his remarks were overshadowed by his gestures of goodwill aimed at underscoring his esteem for Islam and Turkey's Islamist government, notably his prayer facing Mecca in Istanbul's Blue Mosque and his praise for Erdo. Anti- Christian violence remains a powerful factor in influencing the language of the church as it struggles to balance its fundamental, unwavering advocacy of religious freedom and opposition to killing in the name of God with the pursuit of dialogue with Turkey and other Muslim majority states.
The Plot Thickens. Not all Christians in Turkey accepted the denials and obfuscation of Ankara and the Vatican about the circumstances surrounding the murder. Foremost among them was the archbishop of Smyrna, Ruggero Franceschini—Padovese's successor as head of the country's Catholic Church—who rejected the official explanation of his colleague's murder and maintained that the pope had received . In the hope of ascertaining the true facts, he immediately visited the scene of the crime, subsequently telling the press that he could not accept the .
He also dismissed the claim that the assassin was a Catholic convert, confirming that he was a non- practicing Muslim. The very modalities of the murder aim to manipulate public opinion. But since coming to power in 2. Erdo. Show trials are already underway.
Deep state documents released by the prosecution, if taken at face value, point to Ergenekon as a source of anti- church activity, including the torture and Islamic- style ritual murder of three evangelical Christian book publishers in the town of Malatya in April 2. Andrea Santoro—shot and killed in his Trabzon church in February 2. Witnesses report that the convicted killer, a 1. Antonio Lucibello, had similarly argued that there was a mastermind behind Santoro's murder. Like their counterparts in most of the Islamic Middle East, Turkey's Christians are effective hostages to the arbitrary actions of powerful elites, made up of Islamic state and non- state actors who collectively monopolize violence.