PRIEST OF ASSYRIAN CHURCH THREATENED IN TURKEY
December 10, 2009
Following a referendum banning mosque minarets in Switzerland, three
unidentified persons visited the 1,750-year-old Assyrian/Syriac Church
of Virgin Mary in Diyarbakir, Turkey, and allegedly threatened the
priest, Yusuf Akbulut, by saying, "Switzerland is banning minarets
and we will ban bell towers to you. You will demolish the bell tower
by next Friday."
Akbulut informed the police of the threat to demolish the bell towers.
He is now receiving protection by the police, and made the following
"Last Friday, i.e. on the 4th of this month [December], my church and
I were threatened. Three persons in their forties visited the church
at 14:00 hours last Friday. They knocked on the door of my house
inside the church and asked me to come outside. In the courtyard of
the church, these three persons that I do not know asked me if the
church had a bell tower. When I told them that it did, they said,
"You will demolish this bell tower. Switzerland is banning minarets
and we will ban bell towers to you. You will demolish this bell tower
by next Friday." When I told them that this was a historic church with
an ancient bell tower and that the foundations (directorate) and the
state would react, they said for the second time, "Go and complain
to whoever you want. This bell tower will not remain here. We will
take the necessary action," and left. Then I filed a complaint to the
police. Now the police are seeking the three persons who threatened
me by checking the camera records."
Noting that he would not destroy the 600-year-old church bell in any
way, Akbulut stated that the minaret ban in Switzerland had nothing to
do with him, and added: "We, the Syriacs, have been living in these
territories for 6-7,000 years. We have a deep-rooted history. Who
can dare demolish this bell tower by asserting the minaret ban in
Switzerland as a pretext? We do not approve of the minaret ban.
Switzerland should let them construct minarets in mosques. Everyone
has the right to worship freely. We all pray to God."
Noting that five families resided in the church, and around 10 other
Christian families were in the city center of Diyarbakir, Akbulut said,
"As the Syriac community, for centuries we led a peaceful life with
the other people residing on these territories. We never did any harm
to anyone. It is very wrong to hold us accountable for the minaret
ban in Switzerland."