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WCC Head Expresses 'Serious Concern' for Religious Minorities in Turkey

The head of the World Council of Churches has “serious concerns” over the threat towards religious minorities in the Turkey posed by extremists.
( [email protected] ) May 05, 2007 03:03 PM EDT

The head of the World Council of Churches has “serious concerns” over the threat towards religious minorities in the Turkey posed by extremists.

The Rev. Dr. Samuel Kobia, general secretary of the ecumenical fellowship of churches, informed Turkish authorities that the "savage murders" of three Christians in Malatya last month were only the latest tragedy in a series of killings and other threats directed at members and leaders of religious minorities in the country that are of "serious concern" and cause "deep revulsion" and "dismay.".

“Words do not suffice to describe such hateful deaths,” the WCC head wrote in a letter addressed to the Permanent Mission of Turkey to the United Nations Office at Geneva, Switzerland. Kobia affirmed that "churches and citizens are watching the authorities in the case [of the three murdered Christians] to see that justice is done and that further crimes are prevented."

The general secretary’s letter, dated May 1, also contains a "regrettable list" of crimes that "appear to be motivated by hatred for whole groups of people," including the killings of the Armenian writer Hrant Dink and of Catholic priest Fr. Andrea Santano.

A series of incidents entailing threats and violence against members of religious minorities was also mentioned, including news reports of plots against the lives of the heads of two WCC member churches in Turkey, namely Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I and Armenian Patriarch Mesrob II.

Kobia said there was a sense of alarm in churches and among people of goodwill around the world, as he called on the Turkish governmental authorities to "ensure the respect for human rights and for the rule of law which safeguards all citizens, including these whose cases we raise here."

In particular, wrote Kobia, "We look to see respect for human dignity – socially, politically and religiously – reflected in the treatment of churches and other religious minorities."

He welcomed the "explicit condemnation" of such killings by government officials in Turkey as an "important positive factor" as well as the Turkish government's continued support of the freedom of religion stipulated Turkish constitution.

The ecumenical leader concluded his letter with a call to Turkey to address the WCC's concerns as its contribution "toward peace in a pluralistic world."

Herald Correspondent Eric Young in Washington contributed to this report.