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

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

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