Mali: Christians driven out of northern Mali by Islamist rebels *Turkey: No justice 5 years after brutal murder of 3 Christians

April 25, 2012 by  
Filed under Asia, newsletter-asia, Persecution, Turkey

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Mali, April 23, 2012: Christians in Mali are in desperate need of aid after being forced to flee their homes when Islamists rampaged through the north as part of a violent rebel takeover.

Ethnic Tuareg rebels, including Islamist movement Ansar Dine and a separatist group, seized control of northern Mali following a military coup that overthrew the government on 22 March. Boko Haram, the Islamist group that is waging war against Christians in Nigeria, have also been involved in the fighting.

A Barnabas Fund contact in Mali said:

Horrible crimes have been made against the population: massacres, rape of women, obligation to wear the veil, chasing Christians. All the churches were destroyed in Gao and Timbuktu. All the believers had to flee towards the south, leaving their homes and giving up all their goods.

The heavily armed rebels ransacked and looted homes, vandalised churches and occupied a Bible school in Gao. Ansar Dine, which has links to al-Qaeda and wants to turn Mali into an Islamic state, is imposing sharia law on the region.

More than 215,000 people have been displaced from their homes, many of them crossing into Burkina Faso and Mauritania. Many Christians went to the capital, Bamako; an association of missions and churches has set up a crisis committee to help the refugees who are in urgent need of food, clothes and other essential supplies.

Their plight is compounded by severe food shortages in the Sahel, of which Mali is a part, that have caused prices of basic foodstuffs to double, and even treble in some areas. UN agencies and NGOs have expressed deep concern that the rebel takeover of northern Mali could further exacerbate the food crisis.

Barnabas Fund is providing corn and rice for hundreds of Christian refugees. We are also supplying medicines for children and traumatised women, and covering housing costs for some families.

Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, International Director of Barnabas Fund, said:

Our brothers and sisters in Mali are in a desperate plight. Forced to flee their homes to save their lives amid a violent Islamist takeover that includes the specific targeting of Christians, they are distressed and in great need. The Church in Mali is rallying to help, but in the midst of a grave food crisis, resources are limited and expensive. They therefore need practical support from Christians overseas. Please help us to meet this urgent call today.

Please pray

– That the interim president, Dioncounda Traore, sworn in on 12 April, will be able to restore order in Mali and end the rebellion in the north.

– For all those who have been forced to leave their homes as a result of the rebel takeover; pray that they will find refuge, and receive the food and other essentials that they need.

– For churches in the south as they seek to help their brothers and sisters from the north; pray that the Lord will strengthen them and give them all the resources they need.

– barnabas team

Turkey: No justice 5 years after brutal murder of 3 Christians

Turkey, April 20, 2012: As the fifth anniversary of the murders of three Christians at a publishing house in Turkey is marked this week, those responsible for their deaths are yet to be brought to justice.

Memorial services were held at the grave sites of Necati Aydin, Ugur Yuksel and German national Tilman Geske on Wednesday 18 April, five years to the day that they were brutally murdered at the Zirve Christian publishing house in Malatya, eastern Turkey. 
The three men were discovered bound to chairs by their hands and feet; each of them had been brutally stabbed and had their throats cut. Ugur was still alive when they were found but died later in hospital from his many wounds.

Five men, aged 19 and 20 at the time, were arrested at the scene and charged with murder. They each carried a note that read, “The five of us are brothers, we are going to death, we may not return. Give up any legitimate claim against us.”

Their trial opened in November 2007, and there have been 38 hearings since then but no verdict in the case. It has been complicated by attempts to identify those who instigated the murders.   

At a hearing in February, the judges announced that an indictment was being prepared against those suspected of masterminding the killings and would be ready for the next hearing, scheduled to begin on 9 April. But the indictment is not yet ready, so the case was postponed until 18 June. Former local military police commanders and other officials, who are already in custody, are expected to be named.

There were concerns that the perpetrators could be released because, under Turkish law, accused parties who are not formally convicted and sentenced within five years are exonerated. But this law does not apply in terrorism cases, and the Malatya murders have been designated as such. 

In its 2012 annual report, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) named Turkey as one of the world’s worst violators of religious freedom. Among the concerns raised about the country were “the delay of trials through lengthy procedures and the lack of convictions on some high profile cases”; the Malatya case was named as one of them.  

The shocking crime attracted high media coverage, and Tilman’s widow, Suzanne Geske, was interviewed on Turkish television shortly afterwards, where she expressed her forgiveness of her husband’s murderers. The couple had three children.

Necati was also married and had two children. Ugar was engaged; his fiancée has since married another Christian man.

– barnabas team

Turkey: Christian clerics alarmed at growing threats *Live your faith in the marketplace, cardinal tells business leaders

April 11, 2012 by  
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Turkey, April 11 2012: In the wake of an attack against an Istanbul Protestant Pastor, Christian Clerics in Turkey say they feel alarmed at the accelerating number of such incidents and even hesitate to open their doors to people.

Christian clerics in Turkey have expressed their anxiety regarding the growing threats they face in wake of an attack against Pastor Semih Serkek of the Protestant “Lütuf” (“Grace”) Church in Istanbul’s Bahçelievler district on April 7.

“Attacks against Christian clerics drop off for a while, then they begin to re-energize. [Such attacks] have begun to accelerate again in recent days. We hesitate when opening our doors and welcoming the faithful inside,” Pastor Krikor Ağabaloğlu of the Gedikpaşa Armenian Protestant Church in Istanbul told the Hürriyet Daily News.

Attack on Easter

Three unidentified individuals attacked and beat Serkek on the night of April 7, immediately after an Easter service. “They were three people around the age of 18. They wore [prayer caps] on their heads. They forced the door open and said they were going to kill me unless I recited the ‘Kelime-i Şahadet’ [Islamic confession of faith]. I received a severe blow to my chest,” Serkek told the Daily News. The attacks were not coincidental, according to Serkek, who had also served as a mentor to the three victims slain in the Malatya Zirve Publishing House incident in eastern Turkey.

Pastor Orhan Picaklar of the Agape Protestant Church in the Black Sea province of Samsun also said he has been living with a personal escort 24 hours a day for the past four years, since a plot to assassinate him first came to light. “Police [officers] keep watch at the door during mass; the believers are afraid to enter the church due to the threat to their lives,” he said. The make-shift church, located inside an apartment building, also came under attack about a month ago, Picaklar said, adding that the congregation was chagrined at being stuck in an apartment. “[The authorities] gave the green light to the construction of a new church in 2004, within the framework of theEuropean Union harmonization laws, although with the pre-condition that it must be no smaller than 2,500 square meters. We have no budget. We appealed to establish a church building 1,000 square meters in size, but did not receive approval for it.”

Ağabaloğlu said that in the case of his church, the state intentionally refused to grant permission
for the construction of a church building. “They are trying to stymie the spread of Christianity in this way.”
– hürriyet daily news

Live your faith in the marketplace, cardinal tells business leaders


Cardinal Peter K. Turkson

Cardinal Peter K. Turkson

France, April 09, 2012: Christians should integrate their faith with their work in the private sector, the head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace told business leaders as he launched a new teaching document.

“Humanity is to make creation serve its needs through the transformative power of work,” Cardinal Peter K. Turkson told 2,000 Christian businesspeople in Lyon, France. “In its exercise of business, therefore, humanity would become a ‘rock’ that sustains creation through the practice of love and justice.”

“And this appears to be really the vocation of the Christian business leader: to practice love and justice and to teach the business household for which he or she is responsible to do likewise, for the sustenance of all creation, beginning with our brothers and sisters.”

Cardinal Turkson addressed the 24th International Christian Union of Business Executives (UNIAPAC) World Congress on March 30, taking up themes of the pontifical council’s new document “Vocation of the Business Leader: A Reflection.”

He described the 30-page text – which grew out of a February 2011 seminar on Pope Benedict XVI’s social encyclical “Caritas in Veritate” – as “a helpful guide to business leaders seeking to grow in the virtue of charity as befits their vocation.”

A major problem for Christians in the modern world, according to the document, is the temptation of a “divided life” – involving a “split between the faith which many profess, and their daily lives.”

This separation of faith from professional life “is a fundamental error which contributes to much of the damage done by businesses in our world today” – including the neglect of family life, an “unhealthy attachment to power,” and the “abuse of economic power” that disregards the common good.

The pontifical council’s critique of the “divided life” is rooted in the words of Christ himself, who taught that “no one can be the slave of two masters … You cannot love both God and money.”

“Business leaders who do not see themselves serving others and God in their working lives will fill the void of purpose with a less worthy substitute,” the text notes. “The divided life is not unified or integrated: it is fundamentally disordered, and thus fails to live up to God’s call.”

The suggested remedy involves a greater awareness of the Church’s social teaching, and an embrace of the “universal call to holiness” in the professional sphere.

“A devout spiritual life is absolutely indispensable,” Cardinal Turkson told business leaders in his Lyon address. “One should be receiving the sacraments and praying frequently. When the spiritual gifts are sought, they will give one the grace to live an integrated life, and keep one from living a divided life.”

The justice and peace council’s new document notes that these are “not optional actions for a Christian,” nor are they “mere private acts separated and disconnected from business.”

Rather, by approaching work through the eyes of faith, lay people can continue Christ’s mission within their field of employment.

As Cardinal Turkson notes in the preface to “Vocation of the Business Leader,” the Church “does not relinquish the hope that Christian business leaders will, despite the present darkness, restore trust, inspire hope, and keep burning the light of faith that fuels their daily pursuit of the good.”

In Lyon, the cardinal told business leaders that an economic paradigm “centered on capital gains” has been shown to be obsolete.

Instead, he urged entrepreneurs to focus on doing God’s will in the private sector – meeting “the needs of the world with goods that are truly good and truly beneficial,” and organizing work “in a manner that is respectful of human dignity.”

– cna/ewtn news