by John Eibner
Middle East Quarterly
Spring 2011, pp. 41-52 (view PDF)
The brutal murder of the head of Turkey’s Catholic Church, Bishop Luigi Padovese, on June 3, 2010, has rattled the country’s small, diverse, and hard-pressed Christian community. The 62-year-old bishop, who spearheaded the Vatican’s efforts to improve Muslim-Christian relations in Turkey, was stabbed repeatedly at his Iskenderun home by his driver and bodyguard Murat Altun, who concluded the slaughter by decapitating Padovese and shouting, “I killed the Great Satan. Allahu Akhbar!” He then told the police that he had acted in obedience to a “command from God.”
|The brutal murder on June 3, 2010, of the head of Turkey’s Catholic church, Bishop Luigi Padovese, seen here in 2006 leading the funeral procession of another slain priest, Andrea Santoro, was met by denials and obfuscation—not only by the Turkish authorities but also by Western governments and even the Vatican.|
Though bearing all the hallmarks of a jihadist execution, the murder was met by denials and obfuscation—not only by the Turkish authorities but also by Western governments and the Vatican. This is not wholly surprising. In the post-9/11 era, it has become commonplace to deny connections between Islam and acts of violence despite much evidence to the contrary. But while this denial has undoubtedly sought to win the hearts and minds of Muslims, as opposed to Christians, Jews, or any other religious group, it has served to encourage Islamist terrorism and to exacerbate the persecution of non-Muslim minorities even in the most secularized Muslim states. For all President Barack Obama’s high praise for its “strong, vibrant, secular democracy,” and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an’s “Alliance of Civilizations” rhetoric, Turkey is very much entrenched in the clash of civilizations paradigm. Unless Ankara is prepared to combat the widespread “Christophobia” that fuels violence and other forms of repression, the country’s Christians are doomed to remain an oppressed and discriminated against minority, and Turkey’s aspirations of democratic transformation and full integration with Europe will remain stillborn.
The Victim and His Mission