February 2017 Persecution Magazine (4 of 4)

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FEBRUARY <strong>2017</strong><br />


COOKED!<br />

Turkey’s Islamist President<br />

Puts the Final Nail in<br />

the C<strong>of</strong>fin <strong>of</strong> 100 Years <strong>of</strong><br />

Democracy<br />

PERSECU ION.org<br />


The<br />

Perfect<br />

Excuse:<br />

A Coup Attempt and an<br />

Islamist President Send<br />

Turkey Spiraling Towards<br />

Radical Islam<br />

Since the attempted coup in Turkey on July 15, 2016,<br />

the people <strong>of</strong> Turkey are uneasy, stressed, confused,<br />

mistrusting, and see little hope for their country in the<br />

near future.<br />

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FEBRUARY <strong>2017</strong><br />


Hagia Sophia<br />

Meaning “Holy Wisdom”<br />

in Latin, Hagia Sophia<br />

was built near the center<br />

<strong>of</strong> Istanbul in 537 AD<br />

originally as a church,<br />

then converted to a<br />

mosque, and is now a<br />

museum. Flickr Creative<br />

Commons image by user<br />

Pedro Szekely.<br />

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Feature Article<br />

On July 15, 2016,<br />

Turkey reported<br />

that factions<br />

within its military<br />

had attempted and<br />

failed to overthrow<br />

the increasingly<br />

Islamist government<br />

<strong>of</strong> President<br />

Erdogan.<br />

Many long-term Turkey watchers had serious<br />

doubts as to whether it was a real coup. It<br />

was seen by many as a classic false flag operation<br />

(a covert government-initiated operation<br />

to create public pressure or justification for a<br />

desired military response) that was designed<br />

by Erdogan to defang the only Turkish institution<br />

capable <strong>of</strong> opposing him.<br />

The failed coup allowed Erdogan to declare<br />

Turkey to be in a state <strong>of</strong> emergency in order<br />

to completely purge every possible opponent<br />

<strong>of</strong> his rule, real or imagined. The military<br />

and nearly every aspect <strong>of</strong> Turkish society<br />

has been affected. Thousands <strong>of</strong> teachers,<br />

judges, lawyers, police, military personnel,<br />

journalists, academics, and others have been<br />

suspended or arrested.<br />

It was the perfect justification for Erdogan<br />

to assume the role <strong>of</strong> dictator, placing the<br />

nail in the c<strong>of</strong>fin <strong>of</strong> almost 100 years <strong>of</strong><br />

secular government in Turkey and putting this<br />

80-million strong Muslim nation on the fast<br />

track toward radical Islam.<br />

This has had a huge impact on Turkey’s<br />

small number <strong>of</strong> Christians. On July 20, only<br />

five days after the coup attempt, ICC spoke<br />

with a missionary from Istanbul who accurately<br />

predicted the downfall we’ve witnessed<br />

in the country to date.<br />

“Honestly, this is probably the worst case<br />

scenario for Christians living in Turkey,”<br />

the missionary explained to ICC at the time.<br />

“Christians will probably be among those targeted<br />

because their lack <strong>of</strong> adherence to Islam<br />

could be seen as a threat to the government.”<br />

Christians in Turkey now find themselves<br />

in a country where the government<br />

has indefinitely suspended the concept <strong>of</strong><br />

democracy in the name <strong>of</strong> national security.<br />

It is in this Turkey that ICC is seeing an<br />

“The mosques are our barracks,<br />

the domes our helmets, the minarets<br />

our bayonets and the faithful<br />

our soldiers. . . “<br />

Poem recited by Turkey’s Chief Islamist and<br />

President Erdogan<br />

“Christians will probably be among those targeted<br />

because their lack <strong>of</strong> adherence to Islam could be seen<br />

as a threat to the government.”<br />


increased crackdown against Christians, especially<br />

affecting those from outside Turkey.<br />

Andrew and Norine Brunson<br />

On October 7, 2016, Andrew and Norine<br />

Brunson were detained by the Turkish government.<br />

The Christian couple has lived in<br />

Turkey for more than 23 years, running a<br />

church under the full knowledge <strong>of</strong> local<br />

authorities. It was a huge surprise when the<br />

couple was summoned to the police department<br />

and taken into custody.<br />

The Brunsons’ phones were confiscated<br />

and they were denied legal counsel. No family<br />

or friends, lawyers or even the US State<br />

Department were allowed contact with them.<br />

Twelve days after their arrest, Norine was<br />

released. However Andrew was held for<br />

over two months and, at time <strong>of</strong> writing, had<br />

been transferred to a formal prison facility<br />

and accused <strong>of</strong> membership in an armed terrorist<br />

organization.<br />

“This is disconcerting to Americans living<br />

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FEBRUARY <strong>2017</strong><br />


here,” said Mark* (name changed for security),<br />

a missionary in Turkey, “as it seems that now<br />

if anyone is detained, it will be indefinitely and<br />

that America will or cannot do anything.”<br />

Ryan Keating<br />

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Top Recep Tayyip<br />

Erdogan, the<br />

president <strong>of</strong> Turkey,<br />

assumed the <strong>of</strong>fice<br />

on August 28, 2014.<br />

Wikimedia image.<br />

Bottom Left Anticoup<br />

protesters after<br />

the July 15, 2016<br />

Turkish coup d’état<br />

attempt in Bağcılar,<br />

Istanbul, Turkey.<br />

Wikipedia image.<br />

Bottom Right<br />

General Erdal<br />

Öztürk (left) was<br />

arrested over alleged<br />

involvement<br />

in the coup attempt.<br />

Wikipedia image.<br />

In October 2016, Ryan Keating’s residency<br />

visa was revoked. Turkey banned him for<br />

life after 10 years <strong>of</strong> living and studying incountry.<br />

Keating, 39, was refused reentry to<br />

Turkey after being in London for 10 days.<br />

“It was [a] shock to be taken into custody, and<br />

to hear that I was being given a lifetime ban,”<br />

Keating told World Watch Monitor. “No explanation<br />

was given, even when I asked about it.”<br />

Keating was forced to sign a coded document<br />

that clarified that he was being banned<br />

due to “national security” issues. This is one<br />

<strong>of</strong> the many ways in which the government is<br />

targeting Christians in Turkey.<br />

Shortly after Keating’s deportation, the<br />

Turkish government passed an emergency<br />

order that allows the Ministry <strong>of</strong> Interior to<br />

rid the country <strong>of</strong> anyone it deems a threat<br />

without judicial order or review.<br />

“There is a growing expectation among<br />

many in the missionary community that ‘they<br />

will be next’ concerning deportation or detainment,”<br />

Mark explained.<br />

Spiritual Oppression<br />

It’s believed that the Christian population<br />

<strong>of</strong> Turkey, once two million strong, now<br />

stands at just 120,000, less even than in ultrarepressive<br />

Iran.<br />

Since Erdogan’s party took power in 2002,<br />

the education system has been gradually transformed<br />

into a pro-Islamic training ground,<br />

with Erdogan himself urging the creation <strong>of</strong> a<br />

“devout generation” <strong>of</strong> Muslim Turks. With<br />

the firing <strong>of</strong> thousands <strong>of</strong> teachers, judges,<br />

and government employees after the coup,<br />

many believe that graduates <strong>of</strong> far more radical<br />

Islamic schools will now be chosen to fill<br />

the vacant positions.<br />

In 2007, three Christians were tortured and<br />

murdered by Islamic radicals who, despite being<br />

known by local authorities, have largely remained<br />

free to live and travel for the past eight years.<br />

Several leaders <strong>of</strong> the Turkish Church are<br />

laying low and advising their congregations to<br />

do the same. This may be precisely why we are<br />

seeing a greater attack against Western churches<br />

as opposed to grassroots congregations.<br />

Additionally, expressions <strong>of</strong> Islamic devotion<br />

have grown rapidly since July, with many<br />

Turkish Muslims adhering to more traditional<br />

Islamic customs.<br />

During the night <strong>of</strong> the coup attempt, calls from<br />

the loudspeakers <strong>of</strong> the country’s 85,000 mosques<br />

urged faithful Muslims to resist the uprising.<br />

Many thousands responded. In two cities, church<br />

windows were smashed by angry mobs.<br />

On October 20, 2016, in one <strong>of</strong> the most<br />

ominous symbolic moves yet, the Turkish<br />

Religious Affairs Directorate appointed a permanent<br />

imam to lead prayers in the famous<br />

Hagia Sophia for the first time in 80 years.<br />

One <strong>of</strong> the most widely recognized buildings<br />

in the world, the Hagia Sophia was built and<br />

used as a church for nine centuries before<br />

Muslim invaders conquered Constantinople<br />

in 1453 and converted it into a mosque. The<br />

appointment <strong>of</strong> an imam at such a major landmark<br />

is a clear signal <strong>of</strong> the direction Erdogan<br />

is taking Turkey.<br />

“The spirit <strong>of</strong> Islam is rising throughout<br />

the country,” Mark told ICC, “But at the<br />

same time, there is dissatisfaction with Islam<br />

among many youth…this has caused them to<br />

question Islam and has kept us busy.”<br />

Please pray for foreign Christians who are at<br />

risk <strong>of</strong> losing everything if dubbed a “national<br />

security threat.” With no evidence or forewarning,<br />

families may lose their visas, their<br />

ministries, and their homes. Pray also for local<br />

Christians to have strength as they enter into<br />

what may prove to be a very dark time for the<br />

Church in Turkey.<br />


A Letter to the President<br />

St. Mark Church in<br />

Cairo, Egypt at sunset.<br />

Flickr Creative<br />

Commons image by user<br />

Andrew A. Shenouda.<br />

A letter from a persecuted<br />

Christian in Egypt to<br />

President Trump.<br />

Dear President Trump,<br />

First, I congratulate<br />

you on your<br />

victory in the US<br />

presidential election.<br />

I send my best<br />

wishes to both you<br />

and the administration<br />

you will lead.<br />

I also pray that the<br />

Lord would enlighten and sustain you in your<br />

service to both the United States and to the rest<br />

<strong>of</strong> the world.<br />

As an Egyptian Christian, I hope that you<br />

will continue to forge strategic relations<br />

between Egypt and the United States. I am<br />

confident that you and President Sisi will<br />

continue to strengthen the unique alliance<br />

between the United States and Egypt and<br />

bring it to even greater heights.<br />

With that said, I would like to now draw<br />

your attention to the lack <strong>of</strong> religious freedom<br />

in the Middle East. Today, religious freedom<br />

for minorities in the Middle East is under<br />

siege and, in some places, even threatened<br />

with complete annihilation.<br />

In Saudi Arabia, a country that controls<br />

two <strong>of</strong> the most holy cities <strong>of</strong> Islam, Mecca<br />

and Medina, building a church is forbidden.<br />

Foreign nationals who are not Muslims cannot<br />

become citizens and are prohibited from<br />

entering Mecca.<br />

In Libya, although the interim constitution<br />

protects religious freedom, the government continues<br />

to prohibit proselytizing to Muslims. Also,<br />

attacks on Christians and their properties continue<br />

to go uninvestigated. Like Saudi Arabia,<br />

there are no churches in Libya, but Christians<br />

are allowed to worship in their homes.<br />

Extremist groups have carried out numerous<br />

attacks against Christians in Libya. As<br />

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The Pyramids <strong>of</strong> Giza. Flickr Creative Commons image by user Charles Sharp.<br />

Cave church at The Monastery <strong>of</strong> St. Simon the Tanner.<br />

I am sure you are aware, Islamic State militants<br />

filmed the beheading <strong>of</strong> 21 Egyptian<br />

Christians and later an additional 31 Ethiopian<br />

and Eritrean Christians in two separate attacks<br />

in 2015. A grisly reminder <strong>of</strong> how dangerous<br />

it is for religious minorities when groups<br />

who do not believe in religious freedom are<br />

allowed to rule.<br />

In Tunisia, although it is not illegal to convert<br />

from Islam to another religion, converts<br />

from Islam face extreme pressure from their<br />

families and former religious communities.<br />

Some Tunisian Christians have even reported<br />

receiving violent threats. Islamic religious<br />

education is also mandatory in Tunisia’s public<br />

schools and the government continues to<br />

imprison people for speech deemed blasphemous<br />

or <strong>of</strong>fensive to Islam.<br />

In Morocco, conversion from Islam is not<br />

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illegal, but converts can be prosecuted for<br />

“shaking the beliefs” <strong>of</strong> other Muslims and<br />

sentenced to prison for up to three years.<br />

Those found guilty <strong>of</strong> proselytism or converting<br />

others also face criminal punishment or<br />

expulsion from the country.<br />

In Syria and Iraq, religious minorities continue<br />

to be targeted by Islamic State militants.<br />

Homes, places <strong>of</strong> worship, and entire Christian<br />

communities have been overrun and occupied<br />

by a terrorist organization that stands in<br />

complete opposition to religious freedom. The<br />

attacks on religious minorities in these countries<br />

have gotten so bad that your government<br />

has termed the situation a genocide.<br />

Even in my home country, Egypt, full religious<br />

freedom is not a reality. Coptic Christians,<br />

who are the indigenous population <strong>of</strong> Egypt,<br />

continue to make up 10 percent <strong>of</strong> the country’s<br />

population despite the discrimination and, at<br />

times, outright persecution we endure.<br />

In recent years, attacks by Muslim radicals<br />

against the Christian community <strong>of</strong> Egypt<br />

have increased. For example, on November<br />

25, 2016, Muslim radicals in El-Naghamish<br />

village, located in the Sohag governorate,<br />

attacked a Coptic Christian community<br />

because a rumor spread that Christians were<br />

building a church.<br />

Fanatics carrying gas canisters, rocks, and<br />

other weapons carried out a vicious assault<br />

following Friday prayers, resulting in four<br />

Christians being injured, a Christian guesthouse<br />

being destroyed, nine Christian homes<br />

being burned, and four Christian businesses<br />

being looted. Unfortunately, this was not the<br />

first time this has happened in 2016. In<br />

fact, three other Christian communities across<br />

Egypt suffered similar assaults after rumors <strong>of</strong><br />

a church being constructed were spread.<br />

In many ways, our government has failed<br />

to protect us and, at times, are amongst those<br />

denying us full religious freedom. Repressive<br />

laws and discriminatory policies are <strong>of</strong>ten<br />

used to restrict Christians from freely practicing<br />

their faith. This has left many Christians<br />

feeling that they are not equal to their Muslim<br />

counterparts as Egyptian citizens.<br />

Truly, we Egyptian Christians <strong>of</strong>ten feel<br />

oppressed and marginalized by the laws and<br />

actions, or in some cases inaction, <strong>of</strong> our<br />

own country.<br />

As a member <strong>of</strong> one <strong>of</strong> these threatened<br />

minority communities, it is my hope and<br />

prayer that you and the United States will<br />

remain a strong leader in the Middle East and<br />

will continue to champion the universal right to<br />

religious freedom for all, Muslims, Christians,<br />

Jews, and Yazidis, in the Middle East.<br />

For generations, the world has looked to<br />

the United States as a stalwart advocate for<br />

the right to religious freedom. As you take<br />

the <strong>of</strong>fice <strong>of</strong> President <strong>of</strong> the United States,<br />

I urge you to continue this noble tradition so<br />

that someday, a religious minority like me<br />

could truly experience what it feels like to<br />

practice his or her faith freely.<br />

Sincerely,<br />

An Egyptian Christian<br />


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Black scorch marks<br />

cover a door <strong>of</strong> what<br />

was once a church<br />

in Qeraqosh, Iraq<br />

that ISIS burned as<br />

they were forced out.<br />

Keep Iraqi Christians<br />

in prayer during and<br />

after the battle for<br />

Mosul, Iraq.<br />

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