06/02/2020, 10.54
TURKEY
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Ankara promises to defend minorities after attack on Armenian church

Government leaders promise to do "everything possible" to ensure inter-religious harmony and respect for minorities. Fahrettin Altun: violence "is an element of profound pain" and "will not go unpunished". A man detained over attack on church of St. Gregory the Illuminator in Galata.

Istanbul (AsiaNews) - After the repeated cases of violence against Christians, the Turkish authorities have admitted the problem and are trying to take cover by ensuring that they will do "everything possible" to ensure inter-religious harmony and respect for minorities.

The director of communications of the Fahrettin Altun government intervened on the matter, promising to protect "peace and harmony between Turks and members of other minority faiths", following the two recent attacks that hit the Armenian churches in Istanbul.

According to reports from the Turkish official agency Anadolu, confessional violence "is an element of profound pain" and "will not go unpunished" for government authorities. The attacks, continues Altun who is also head of communications for President Erdogan, will be followed by thorough investigations and those responsible for the violence will be prosecuted by criminal justice.

He added that the executive is firm in condemning any gesture that could "undermine fraternity" in the country and that "all resources will be deployed" to ward off any further episode of violence. Finally, he said he called the leaders of the Armenian church Surp Krikor on behalf of the government and institutions, expressing his displeasure and apologies for the attack.

The words of the presidential communications manager follow the attack, which took place last week, on an Armenian church in Kuzguncuk, a suburb of Istanbul, in which an unknown assailant removed the cross from the facade of the building. The ecclesiastical authorities have filed a complaint and have put a new cross in place of the one torn down.

Following the complaint, law enforcement officers stopped a suspect who is now in pre-trial detention in prison, pending further investigation. At the moment the police did not want to reveal the identity of the arrested man and the motive for the attack, which is part of a context of growing violence towards Christians in the country fueled - according to some activists and opponents - by state apparatuses.

Attacks and violence in the name of nationalism and Islam, according to an anti-Christian policy not only affect the churches but also people. This is testified by the story of a Christian married couple, Houmouz Diril and his wife Şimoni, who disappeared in south-east Turkey in January. In the second half of March the corpse of the woman was found while there is still no sign of her husband five months later.

Opposition parliamentarian Tuma Çelik concludes: “We are been given the impression that powerful people of the state apparatus want to prevent a new Christian presence in the area through arrests and disappearances, even of priests".

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