Death Threats Target Turkey’s Protestants
Since August 27, fifteen Turkish Protestant congregations and their leaders have been the targets of a disturbing campaign of death threats sent to their Facebook, email, websites and mobile telephones.
The threats contain the style and jargon typically used by the so-called Islamic State (IS), vowing to kill, massacre and behead apostates whom the messages accused of having “chosen the path that denies Allah” and “dragged others into believing as you do… As heretics, you have increased your numbers with ignorant followers.”
“Threats are not anything new for the Protestant community who live in this country and want to raise their children here,” the Association of Protestant Christians in Turkey said in a press release on September 1. “But with the recent increase in systematic threats, from this country’s west to east and north to south, in different cities, we think that these messages, coming close together and resembling each other, are coming from the same source.”
A copy of one message seen by World Watch Monitor displayed the IS flag and identified the senders as, “those who go to jihad.” The message warned, “Perverted infidels, the time that we will strike your necks is soon. May Allah receive the glory and praise.”
Most of the messages included a direct quote from the Al-Ahzab chapter of the Quran, which proclaims against “those who spread false news… Accursed, they shall be seized wherever found and killed with a horrible slaughter.”
A link was also posted for an Arabic YouTube video subtitled in Turkish entitled, “The religious proofs why apostates should be killed.”
One pastor who has received these disturbing threats in both email and SMS messages told World Watch Monitor, “They are saying things like they had been waiting for us to return to Islam, and that we are responsible for other Muslims turning to Christ, that our time is up and that Allah will give them our heads.”
The majority of Turkish Protestant congregations are composed of former Muslims who have converted to Christianity. In stark contrast to most Muslim-majority nations, Turkish citizens have the legal right to change their religious identity or leave blank the religion column on their IDs.
Turkey’s apparent ambivalence over the past year toward the Islamic State fighting on its borders for control of large sections of neighboring Syria and Iraq has garnered much international attention. But in early August, the state-controlled Religious Affairs Directorate issued its first condemnation of the jihadist group as a “terrorist” organization, officially declaring it “non-Muslim.”
Condemning the self-proclaimed IS Caliphate for its “twisted” portrayal of Islam and the Quran, the Turkish government also released a detailed report informing the public about the group’s tactics, slogans, operations and interpretation of Islam through weekly sermons, fatwas (religious edicts) and Quran courses.
Within just 10 days of this official statement, IS responded with a video directly threatening Turkey and its president, warning the people of Turkey against “atheists, crusaders and devils who fool them and make them a slave of the crusaders.” Vowing to conquer Istanbul soon, the speaker, using the alias Abu Ammar, called on the Turkish people to abandon democracy, secularism and human rights and instead follow Sharia.
The IS spokesman speaking in fluent Turkish on the seven-minute clip, which was distinctly amateur in comparison with the jihadists’ usual slick videos, was later identified as a 47-year-old Turkish citizen who took his wife and children to Syria to join IS in 2014.
Source: World Watch Monitor
Father in heaven, we call on You today to diffuse the power of these threatening words. We pray for Your peace to flow like a river over Your servants in Turkey. Save and protect them. What Satan would use to silence them, we pray that You would use to strengthen their faith and their witness to those around them. We pray that Your words through the Psalmist David in Psalm 32 will drown out the threats and hatred and still and quiet their souls. “You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.” In the Name of Jesus, strong tower of deliverance, Amen.