The Plight of Protestants in Turkey
Hakan Tastan and Turan Topal are converts from Islam, and now face up to nine years’ in prison after going on trial last week for ‘insulting Turkishness’. While the EU wants this article of Turkey’s penal code amended, all indications are that it is being increasingly applied to all discourse and conduct that may be deemed to be ‘un-Islamic’. The problem is acute for the nation’s Protestants, who number about 4000. The other Christian denominations – principally Greek Orthodox, Armenians and Syriac Christians – have a legally defined status and rights under law. The Protestants have no such recognition and therefore no protection.
Mr Tastan and Mr Topal were approached by three young Muslim males under the guise of wanting to know more about Christianity. Charges were filed soon afterwards, which included accusation that they referred to Islam as a ‘backward religion’. More alarmingly, they were also accused of trying to sell women and of possessing guns, which they vehemently deny. Mr Topal said: ‘I don’t mind going on trial for my religion. We expected to be accused and imprisoned for that - the Bible says so’. He notes that Saint Paul was stoned for preaching in Ephesus. He continued: ‘But some of those accusations are so revolting it’s upsetting - it just shows the mentality behind the case’.
Indeed – the mentality. Yet the Pope symbolically submitted himself to this ‘mentality’ when he entered Istanbul’s Blue Mosque yesterday. He not only prayed; he removed his shoes, purposely faced Mecca, and clasped his hands in the Muslim manner. He made a full apology for his remarks at Regensburg University, and thereby placed his brilliant discourse on the relationship between faith and reason at the feet of terrorism of Islamism. The Enlightenment is thereby eclipsed by a return to the Dark Ages. The Grand Mufti of Istanbul said the Pope’s prayer was ‘much more important action than any verbal apology’. Cranmer agrees. It was not so long ago that there were calls in London from representatives of this ‘religion of peace’ for a Papal beheading, yet now he has affirmed that their anger was understandable, and their murderous threats justified.
One must now be careful to re-write history and pattern the world order according to the religio-political agenda of the ascendant spiritual power. This is perhaps supremely illustrated in the Papal U-turn on Turkish accession to the European Union. While Cardinal Ratzinger once believed and very publicly proclaimed that Turkish accession would be a-historical, as Pope Benedict he has informed Prime Minister Erdogan that the halo of European Union lies within his grasp, and that he now supports Turkey's entry. The change has been enforced to pacify the beast of Islamism. The alternative would be more murders of nuns, more churches torched, and more Christians mutilated and persecuted. Cranmer’s regret is that His Holiness has signalled to the Muslim world that Christianity can and will make concessions to Islam, and that intimidation and violence work. This is a great pity, since the world now desperately needs Christian leaders who will not only debate these issues forcefully, but will defend Judeo-Christian notions of justice and liberty, and the principles of enlightenment reason. Tolerance and patience are only virtues in the context of truth, and it is time for the Church to state quite clearly to the Muslim world that there are things which we also find offensive.