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    » 12/17/2007, 00.00


    Hate campaign leads to attack against priest

    Mavi Zambak

    Turkey’s press and government tend to play down the attack, choosing instead to refer to it and similar incidents as “isolated cases.” The long list of attacks against Christian clergymen shows by contrast that a widespread campaign of defamation and hatred against Christians is underway. In the country for the past 27 years, Father Franchini himself has been the object of various media attacks in the past.

    Ankara (AsiaNews) – Turkey’s press has expressed regrets for the latest incident involving an attack against a Christian clergyman. Fr Adriano Franchini, an Italian-born 65-year-old Capuchin who has been in Turkey for 27 years, was in fact stabbed to the stomach but is now out of danger. Turkish newspapers have however failed so far to take notice of the ongoing defamation campaign against Catholics in the country.

    Ramazan Bay, the 19-year-old man who carried out the attack, surrendered to police a few hours after the stabbing. He had fled after he carried out his attack in a church in Barakli in Izmir right after mass and in front several witnesses. He was quickly identified as a young Turkish man who had recently expressed a desire to convert to Christianity and complained about the long procedure the Church in Turkey required for conversion.

    In fact the young man told police that he took the decision to stab the priest after searching the internet for information on Christian activities and watching the last episode of a made-for-TV movie titled The Valley of the Wolves, which focuses on alleged Christian propaganda and proselytising.

    Upon learning the news Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ali Babacan offered the priest his best wishes for a quick recovery. In expressing his regrets for the incident, he criticised the young man for his actions, reiterating that Turkey was a country where different religions, sects and cultures had lived together for centuries, and condemning anyone, whatever their motive, who tried to destroy that harmony.

    Such views reflect in a nutshell what Turkish authorities think about the incident but in so doing they show a failure to grasp the significance of this and similar events. By simply disagreeing with and dismissing this kind of violence as the action of a crazed individual or a random act by a Muslim fanatic Turkey’s leaders are underestimating the problem.

    In recent years Father Franchini was not the only Christian clergyman to be attacked. Fr Roberto Ferrari was threatened with a kebab knife in church, in Mersin, on 11 March 2006; so was Father Pierre Brunissen who was knifed 2 July 2006 outside his parish church in Samsun. None of the three were killed in these attacks.

    Fr Andrea Santoro was not so lucky. He was shot to death on 5 February 2006 as he was praying in church in Trabzon. Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink was killed the same way on 19 January of this year just outside his newspaper’s office in a crowded Istanbul street. The fate of three Protestants, including a German, was even more tragic. After being hog-tied, they were tortured and knifed to death in the offices of the Zirve publishing company which prints Bibles and Christian books in Malatya.

    What all these cases have in common is the fact that all the culprits are young Turkish men, all supposedly unbalanced, crazy or mentally feeble, who ostensibly acted according to investigators on an impulse triggered by watching TV programmes and reading online material that focused on “missionary activities” by religious and secular Christians.

    Father Franchini accused of proselytising

    Fr Adriano Franchini is a case in point. Originally from Levizzano Rangone, a town in the north-central Italian province of Modena, he joined the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin in 1959. He was ordained priest in 1968 and in 1980 moved to Turkey where he served as director of Caritas Turkey for more than ten years, demonstrating his great devotion to the Turkish population, especially in the great earthquake of 1999.

    Pulling up his sleeves so to speak, he was involved in fund raising for quake victims and played an important role in the implementation of several projects in their favour, helping them quickly rebuild their villages.

    Even then he was falsely and unfairly accused on the internet of proselytising; his selflessness, passion and desire to help, all his efforts were treated as means to “create Christians,” when in fact all he wanted to do was to help powerless Muslims exhausted by the cold and hardships with no ulterior motive like converting.

    At that time accusations went away, eventually, and the false charges laid against him, taken back. But online news have a long shelf-life and tend to be recycled and come back unchallenged.

    In light of this and other episodes local Christians and Muslims wonder whether Turkey can be trusted since its authorities seem incapable of instilling its youth with the values of tolerance, dialogue, and respect for those who are different and for minorities, for allowing information based on untruths to circulate and letting its mass media continuously spread patently false, biased and defamatory information about Christians, especially via internet and on TV late at night.

    All one needs to do is read the daily press summary by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Turkey (CBCT) to realise how Turks are bombarded every day with inaccurate, abusive and scandal-mongering stories about Christians and their faith.

    What kind of harvest can one expect from this kind sowing? One that is full ignorance, prejudice and hatred.

    The Turkish government shows very little restraint when it comes to censoring those who attack “Turkishness,” but does precious little when it comes to defending Turkey’s secularism and democracy from attacks.

    Many people, be they non-religious, Christian or Muslim, hope that Turkey’s political leaders might put a stop to this short-sightedness and help instead the Turkish nation show Europe and the world Turkey’s real face, one that believes in freedom, democracy and truth.

    Only this way can the vicious cycle of prejudice and suspicion between European countries and Turkey be broken, thus allowing the former to open their doors to the latter.

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    See also

    03/07/2006 TURKEY
    Fr Brunissen stabbed amid anti-Christian scenario involving pope's visit too

    Mgr Luigi Padovese, Apostolic Vicar of Anatolia, denounced the approach of the Turkish media that reported the attacker's allegations. He fears a media campaign to shed a negative light on whatever Benedict XVI says and does during his visit in November.

    05/10/2007 TURKEY
    Sentence for Father Santoro’s murderer upheld
    Supreme Court of Appeals upholds sentence; young murderer will purge 18 years and 10 months in prison. Doubts remain about possible principals and connections to the Hranti Dink murder.

    22/01/2007 TURKEY
    Killing of Hrant Dink and Fr Santoro: too many similarities
    In both cases, killers are from Trabzon, are minors, have ties with far-right circles, have no regrets and said they were acting in the nation's defence. A Christian accuses Turkish newspapers: "You killed him," by denying the genocide of the Armenians and refusing a historical inquest.

    18/09/2007 TURKEY
    Turkish singer hires the assassins of Santoro and Dink
    The song, preformed by a popular Turkish folk singer, inspired an even more explicit video : at the line “Stop ringing the bells” the face of the murdered priest appears, while the dead body of Dink appears while singer says the verse "if a person betrays the country, he is finished off."

    09/07/2007 TURKEY
    The court had no jurisdiction to deny the patriarchate its ecumenical status, says Bartholomew
    A group of Turkish extremists try to prevent non-Turkish members of the sacred Synod from entering the Phanar. The patriarch talks about the difficult situation Christians face in the country. He remembers the murder of Father Santoro, journalist Hrant and three Protestant men in Malatya. He remembers his predecessor, Athenagoras, and the latter’s meeting with Pope Paul VI.

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