The killing of three Christians at a religious publishing house in eastern Turkey has produced strong condemnation from international church and advocacy groups, along with concern about the need to tackle religiously-sanctioned violence. A European church leader says that witness to God is incompatible with the use of violence.
ENI's Chris Herlinger writes: Twelve suspects were charged on 22 April with the killings of the three men, Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel, both Turkish Christians, and Tilman Ekkehart Geske, a German national, in slayings that have prompted concerns about the safety of the minority Christian community in Turkey.
"We condemn this act of violence against Turkish Christians. We must find a way of resolving conflict without resorting to these kinds of brutal acts," Geoff Tunnicliffe, international director of the World Evangelical Alliance, said in a statement issued from New York, USA.
The three victims reportedly died after having their throats slit and being tied up at the publishing house in the city of Malatya, Turkey. The publishing house, Zirve, had distributed Bibles in the Turkish language and had been the focus of recent protests, the Associated Press news agency reported.
Germany's top Protestant bishop condemned the killings and offered sympathy to the relatives of the victims. "The Bible bears witness to the word of life," said Bishop Wolfgang Huber, who heads the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD). "Offering this word to others can never be a reason for people's lives to be threatened."
Joseph K. Grieboski, president of the Washington-based Institute on Religion and Public Policy, an advocacy and watchdog group, said he was concerned the murders were evidence of increasing religious intolerance in Turkey. "The government of Turkey has a responsibility to each of its citizens regardless of religious identity to provide security, protection, and, in the event of acts such as this, effective and objective investigation and pursuit of justice," he said.
The Rev Thomas Wipf, the president of the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe, noted that Muslims in Malatya had "spontaneously shown solidarity with the victims", and said the event should not engender further "political exploitation of religion". Wipf said: "Our religions are peace movements. Witness to God is incompatible with the use of violence."