Christians in Turkey 'fearful' after knife-wielding men terrorize Istanbul church

A recent attack against a church in Istanbul has raised the fears of the Christian community in Turkey, a leading member of the country’s Syriac community said in a statement on June 27.

The statement from Doğan Yıldırım was prompted after a group of eight unidentified men recently entered a Latin Catholic Church in Istanbul’s Yeşilköy neighborhood during a baptism ceremony, allegedly harassing the congregation.

“I approached the group after they left the church, but they insulted me. One of them swung a knife towards me before I stepped back,” said Yıldırım, an aide at the Yeşilköy church.

The total population of Turkey’s Orthodox Syriac is around 15,000, most of whom live in Istanbul.

Yıldırım added that this was not the first attack that has occurred recently. “A group of three or four people entered the church in May when there was no one around, and scattered burning candles everywhere. People intervened after they noticed the smoke," he said.

Kenan Gürdal, the vice president of the Beyoğlu Syriac Meryem Ana Church Foundation, said the congregation was "disturbed" by the attacks.

"Less people have been attending mass since the latest attacks," Gürdal noted. "They fear coming to the church."

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