Christians At Bible Publishers Have Their Throats Cut

Suna Erdem In Istanbul

The Times/UK
Source: Turkish News, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Asia News
April 19, 2007

Knife-wielding attackers slit the throats of three people at a
Christian publishing house in conservative eastern Turkey yesterday.

One of the dead men was of German origin, the local governor said. Two
other men were taken to hospital, one with knife wounds to his throat,
back and stomach, the other with a head injury after jumping from
a third-floor window to escape. The hospital in the town of Malatya
said that both were in a critical condition.

Police have detained four men for the attack, which took place in the
early afternoon. Television footage showed a policeman tackling one
man while another man covered in blood was carried to an ambulance
on a stretcher.

The killings came less than three months after the murder of a
prominent Armenian journalist.

The Zirve publishing house, which the Turkish media says is owned
by two South Africans, Gert Martinus de Lange and Stephen Smithdorf,
had been the target of nationalist protests for allegedly distributing
Bibles and proselytising.

Halil Ibrahim Dasoz, the Governor of Malatya, said the authorities
were also investigating possible Islamist links, because the method of
killing was reminiscent of attacks by the Turkish arm of the militant
Islamist group Hezbollah.

Officials from Zirve say they had been the target of threats for
some time and had been intending to ask for protection. They deny
any missionary aims.

Martin de Langue, a former official, reportedly said two years ago
that the public in Malatya was being provoked against Christians and
foreigners. The small community of Turkish Protestant Christians, as
opposed to Greek and Armenian minorities, comprises eager converts
with a missionary bent. Although proselytising is not illegal in
mainly Muslim Turkey it is regarded with hostility.

The attack came as two Turkish evangelical Christians in Istanbul
attended a hearing of their trial under the notorious article 301 of
the penal code, which the West condemns as a restriction on expression,
after being accused by nationalists of insulting Turkey and Islam.

The European Commission has condemned the attack as "horrendous". The
EC has long called on Turkey to offer better protection and rights
for its minorities.

The attack comes at a time of great tension in Turkey over secularist
worries that the Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a former
Islamist firebrand who now says he is a conservative democrat, will
announce he is running for President in next month’s elections. This
would cement the grip of his Justice and Development Party (AKP)
on the top jobs in the land. Hundreds of thousands of secularists
marched at the weekend to prevent what they believe would result in
an assault on the secular nature of the state.

The AKP MP for Malatya said the attack in his constituency could have
been an act of provocation aimed at creating greater turmoil.

"There are people within Turkey who want extraordinary tension to
reign in the country," the MP. Munir Erkal, said.

Threat to faith

There are 100,000 Christians in Turkey. Last year two employees
of a Bible correspondence course were charged with insulting
Turkishness". It was alleged they were bribing Muslims to convert,
promoting promiscuity and denigrating the Turkish army. Odemis
Protestant Church in Izmir was attacked with Molotov cocktails in

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