Ankara (AsiaNews) - The online Turkish agency Gazeteport broke the news: "at the last minute, a new assassination attempt against a Protestant pastor in Turkey has been foiled". The setting of the possible act: the "Agape" Protestant church in Samsun (a Turkish city on the Black Sea), which has been a target of various acts of violence in the past.
The attempt against the pastor - Orhan Pıçakçılar, a Turkish national - was prepared by the "umpteenth" young man, who was arrested in time by the police, thanks to telephone surveillance. The 17-year-old, who previously had threatened the pastor with death over the telephone, also used the telephone to brag to his two brothers, telling them to watch the television the following day. "Tomorrow you'll see me on TV, I'm going to kill in Samsun". The minor, who in a photo published by the Gazeteport newspaper appears provocatively in a black shirt, wearing Ray-Ban sunglasses and with his hair carefully arranged with gel, told the police - who captured him near the city of Ordu, on the northern border with Georgia, in possession of a pistol - that he simply wanted to scare the minister, saying that he did not belong to any terrorist organisation. So he was immediately released, on the sole condition that he not leave the country. Is he just the usual "troubled" youngster wanting to make a name for himself?
Episodes like this have by now become the order of the day in Turkey, and news of them seems to receive less and less attention, and to provoke little outrage.
On December 31, 2007, a 22-year-old man, Murat T., received money and a map of the Protestant church of Saint Paul in Antalya, for the purpose of burning it together with its pastor, Ramazan Arkan. In this case, too, the Turkish press praised the intervention of the police in preventing the attack, thanks to telephone surveillance and the man's criminal record. In this case, too, the target was a Protestant pastor of Turkish nationality. In this case, too, the young man was released and simply sent into military service, something he had been trying to evade.
And the young man who tried to stab the Italian Capuchin priest Adriano Franchini on December 16 - what happened to him? It all ended without any serious reflection on this phenomenon of "hooliganism" with tragic consequences and precisely selected targets: Christian ministers.
What can be expected from a Turkish politics that is "schizophrenic" in regard to Christianity?
At the end of December, the Turkish press recounted the burning of more than ten churches in India on the part of Hindus, justifying it this way: "the Christians are guilty of missionary activities". In other words, everything gave the impression of being a subliminal message for the burning of churches in Turkey as well, where the very presence of churches is seen as missionary proselytism (what a shame that it is forgotten that, apart from some of the Protestant buildings, the churches were there in Turkey before the Turkish state).
But now it's going beyond subliminal messages.
Last November, the Turkish forest service destroyed an historic Orthodox chapel in Halki, near Istanbul.
And already appearing on YouTube is one of the many episodes of the already condemned television series "The Valley of the Wolves", which proudly shows a young man entering a Christian bookstore and approaching the clerk or owner, courteously holding out a coin - probably posing as a kid who wants a handout - and then firing a pistol, instantly killing the man and leaving him there on the floor, to the indifference of all present. The show continues with the discovery of a printing press that publishes Gospel books, with a cover identical to the books commonly provided for the faithful in churches in Turkey.
It now seems that in Turkey it is the Christian as such who is identified as a missionary, and that Christianity is increasingly conceived as an element foreign to Turkish culture, and therefore necessarily an element to be eliminated, because it threatens the very unity of the country: in spite of the fact that Christians in Turkey are not even 0.2% of the population, the phobia that they are a destabilizing element for Muslim Turkish society has already reached the levels of a real and true paranoia.
Being a Christian in Turkey has thus for a while now meant running some risk of death. And not only that, but one can be deported just for not being a Muslim. The last to pay this price, at the end of 2007, was an American: Robert Johnson. He had succeeded, in an exhausting Via Crucis, in remaining in the country for eleven years, but he did not reach the twelfth station. Johnson opened a translation office with a friend, but right from the start the Turkish government denied this business partner permission to live in the country. Johnson was granted this only for a year, putting the future of his business in serious danger. So it was back and forth for eleven years: his request for citizenship was denied twice. Johnson is a Protestant, and the only "rumour" against him was that he was a missionary, but the Turkish authorities refused to say why they deported him: he was sent only a letter in which he was told to "leave by the end of this month" with his wife and four children.
Obviously, this expulsion will be definitive: no possibility to return to Turkey. But is it not a paradox that all this should happen in a country like Turkey, which has millions of its own citizens living in other countries? Why is there so much fear, even on the part of the government, over the presence of elements of faith different from that of the state, although unofficially, Islam? While it was already known that a Turk cannot become a Christian without being considered a traitor - although the country's constitution permits conversion after the age of eighteen - it seems that in Turkey today, one cannot even live as a Christian. It is a slow and insidious process of destruction. Is this the secularism, the democracy, the protection of ethnic and religious minorities of which this government boasts?