A Story of Persecution from Turkey
After a memorial service for three Christians who were murdered in Malatya, Turkey five years ago, an Istanbul pastor who was attacked over Easter weekend said he’s experienced hostility from Muslims nearly all his life. Semir Serkek, is the pastor of Grace Church in Istanbul’s Bahcelievler district, said he personally knew Turkish converts to Christianity Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel and German Christian Tilmann Geske, who were brutally murdered by five young men in the southeastern city of Malatya on April 18, 2007.
Serkek was alone at Grace Church on April 7 finishing preparations for the next day’s Easter celebration when, at around 9 p.m., he heard frantic pounding at the door, he said. Opening it, he found four men in their late teens who claimed they had questions and demanded to enter. They threatened to kill him if he didn’t recite the Islamic testimony of faith, he said. “This is a Muslim neighborhood, what business does a church have here?” they asked. Finally one of them kicked Serkek in the chest, casting him down the entrance steps to the ground.
The Muslims ran away laughing, Serkek said. Born to a Syriac Christian background family in the southeastern city of Mardin, Serkek said that while the violence surprised him, he has known verbal abuse since childhood and especially since he started serving God and began openly sharing his faith 35 years ago. “I’ve been verbally abused for being a Christian many times, but this was the first time I was hit, so this was surprising and made me sad,” he said.
Because of Turkey’s long-term and systematic limitations on non-Muslim communities, the United States Commission on International and Religious Freedom recommended that Turkey be designated as a “Country of Particular Concern” this year. There are an estimated 4,500 Christians in Turkey.