STRASBOURG (Combined Sources)–The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on Thursday warned against the disappearance of Christians from the Middle East because of persecution and low birth rates in a resolution approved by the 318-member body that also included paragraphs critical of Turkey for the killing of Christians in Trabzon and Malatya in recent years, AFP reported.
“The Assembly is convinced that the loss of Christian communities in the Middle East would also endanger Islam as it would signal the victory of fundamentalism,” the resolution said. It also condemned the October 2010 massacre of worshippers in the Syriac Catholic cathedral in Baghdad and the January 2011 suicide bombing in a Coptic church in Alexandria as two “particularly tragic” events in a growing number of attacks on Christian communities worldwide.
During the resolution’s debate the Assembly’s Political Affairs Committee examined the number of attacks against Christian communities in the Middle East, especially the tragic events in Baghdad in October 2010 and in Alexandria this month that claimed dozens of lives. It says the loss of Christian communities in the Middle East would also endanger Islam as it would signal the victory of fundamentalism.
In regards to Turkey, the PACE report called on Ankara to fully clarify the circumstances surrounding the interruption of the celebration of Christmas Mass in the villages of Rizokarpaso and Ayia Triada in the northern part of Cyprus on Dec. 25, 2010 and to bring to justice those responsible. It also mentioned cases in which Italian priest Father Andrea Santoro was murdered in Trabzon in February 2006 and three Christians, one a German national, were killed in an attack against a Bible publishing house in Malatya in 2007.
The deaths in Trabzon and Malatya are now being reviewed in the Turkish courts, and the investigations have uncovered evidence linking these killings to the Ergenekon terror network, a clandestine group that has been accused of attempting to topple the government by fomenting chaos in society. In both cases, the perpetrators were uneducated, violent, ultranationalist young men.
The Ergenekon indictment prepared by public prosecutors offered evidence linking the group to other high profile killings such as the murder of a secularist judge in a shooting in 2006, the attempted murder of former Higher Education Board (YÖK) Chairman Erdoğan Teziç and a grenade attack at Cumhuriyet, a daily known for its staunch secularism.
“Given the purpose and consequences of these attacks, it is obvious that they were orchestrated from a single center, seeking to create chaos, anarchy, terror, disorder and conflict in Turkey and embarrass the nation before the international community,” the prosecutors wrote. They noted, however, that they had failed to offer enough evidence from the cases of assassinated journalist Hrant Dink, Father Santoro and the Malatya murders due to the structure of the Ergenekon organization, which is made up of individual cells that are unaware of and unconnected to each other.
Lawyers representing families of the Malatya victims have asked the court in Malatya to merge their case, also known as the missionary murder case, with the Ergenekon case. They also pointed to the Cage Operation Action Plan, an alleged plot prepared by sections of the Turkish military to intimidate and assassinate non-Muslims in Turkey in order to create an atmosphere of chaos. The plan was made public in 2009. The first sentence of the plan refers to the killing of Father Santoro, the murder of Hrant Dink in 2007 and the Malatya murders as “operations.”