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Faithful at Istanbul church rattled after Muslim attack

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Attack at St. Stephanos Church included verbal threats and knife waving

The faithful at Saint Stephanos Church in Istanbul, Turkey are feeling rattled after an attack was carried out there by Muslims. Attackers verbally assaulted and threatened them during a baptismal service. Muslims have also destroyed church property in the last two months.

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The attacks reopened psychological wounds in light of fatal attacks on Catholics and other Christians in Turkey. Members of the Christian minority here fear that things will only get worse.

The attacks reopened psychological wounds in light of fatal attacks on Catholics and other Christians in Turkey. Members of the Christian minority here fear that things will only get worse.

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
Catholic Online (https://www.catholic.org)
7/17/2014 (5 years ago)

Published in Europe

Keywords: Istanbul, Christian minority, church desecration


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Parishioners said they are waiting to see if hostilities will escalate into violence during what remains of the Holy Month Ramadan. Religious persecution during this period has been known to increase in Muslim-majority areas. Ramadan, an Islamic month of daytime fasting, ends in Turkey on July 28.

The attacks have prevented some congregants from attending religious services. A group of young men under the cover of darkness destroyed audio equipment, stole other items and set a fire in the building in May. Muslim intruders pushed their way into the baptismal service on July 15 to yell obscenities, with one waving a knife and threatening to stab a parishioner.

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The attacks reopened psychological wounds in light of fatal attacks on Catholics and other Christians in Turkey. Members of the Christian minority here fear that things will only get worse.

"It's not the first, and it won't be the last," on parishioner said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Eight Muslims came onto church grounds and screamed obscenities and anti-Christian epithets at those inside. Some members of the group went into the church building and, as they walked around, shouted at those in attendance. The Muslims told those at the church to "Go away" because "Turkey is Muslim."

Authorities were able to turn the group outside. Within the church courtyard, one of the Muslims pulled out a knife and lunged at him. The Christian managed to avoid injury, and the group fled.

Some of those attending the service called police during the attack, but officers who were in the neighborhood giving out traffic tickets arrived long after the assailants had left, according to church members.

Located in Yesilköy, St. Stephanos Church serves an Istanbul neighborhood where Christians, though still a minority, make up a significant amount of the population. There are two churches in the small coastal neighborhood, and only one mosque. According to residents, Muslims and Christians got along peacefully and cordially until just recently.

In a previous incident, men in their late teens and 20s entered the church building at night, ripped out most of the church's audio equipment and destroyed what they couldn't carry away. They then took some of the ceremonial candles, lit them and started setting items in the rear of the building on fire. They stacked all remaining candles into a pile, lit them and left.

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