01/31/2007, 00.00
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Attack against Protestant church in Samsun

Vandals throw stones at Agape Church windows. For the past three years its congregation has been victim of aggressions and has never been protected by the police. A Catholic priest, Fr Pierre Brunissen, was the victim of a knife attack last July.

Samsun (AsiaNews) – Turkey’s Black Sea coast continues to see attacks and threats against local Christians. In the city of Samsun (Atakum district) attackers vandalised a Protestant church this weekend, shattering the windows of the Agape Protestant Church’s and spray-painting its street sign early Sunday morning, the Compass Direct agency reports after talking to Pastor Orhan Picaklar, who is in charge of the local congregation.

This attack is not the first of its kind. For the past three years, the congregation has suffered a dozen stoning attacks and weekly e-mail threats.

The pastor said a note was left inside the church but that police refused to show him what was written on it, claiming that it “wasn’t important.” Samsun’s police chief later refused to include the note in the official investigation, stating that it had “nothing to do with this case.

Regular vandalism, negative media and e-mail threats against the Agape church increased soon after the mayor of the city’s Atakum municipality, Adem Bektas, stated in November 2004 that he would never allow a church to be built there. However, a change in Turkey’s laws allowed the Samsun congregation to register officially as an association in November 2005 but did little to diminish social stigma attached to the church.

Like in Trabzon, where Catholic priest Fr Andrea Santoro was killed a year ago, Samsun is a place where several violently nationalist and fanatically religious organisations exist. It is also the home town of the young murderer of Armenian journalist Hrant Dink,

Here, on July 2, 2006, fidei donum Catholic priest Fr Pierre Brunissen was wounded in a knife attack.

Samsum’s Christian community is tiny, mostly foreign workers from former Soviet republics and a few Japanese.

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