Historic church in Turkey demolished
International | President Recep Tayyip Erdogan works to Islamize Christian sites
by Mindy Belz
Posted 9/03/20, 05:48 pm
TURKEY: The Turkish Islamic Foundation destroyed the historic St. Georgios Greek Orthodox Church in Bursa on Wednesday, seven years after local officials transferred the property to the group’s control. Authorities emptied Bursa of its Greek Orthodox population a century ago, and the church became a mosque in the 1920s. But in 2006 it was restored and for years served as a focal point for Greek-Turkish exchange and reconciliation, then was closed and lapsed into disrepair once the foundation took over. It follows a campaign by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to transform Christian sites, including Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia, which in July again became a mosque.
Tensions between Turkey and Greece are at an all-time high. Sources inside the Turkish military say Erdogan has ordered attacks on Greek vessels and is pressing for control of the eastern Mediterranean, including oil and gas deposits.
RUSSIA: Novichok, the Soviet nerve agent used in the 2018 poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain, sickened Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, say doctors treating him at a German hospital. The Kremlin denies involvement. While Western leaders condemn the attack and press for an international response, President Donald Trump has remained silent. White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany today called the incident “deeply troubling” without elaborating on a U.S. response.
SUDAN: A peace deal between the transitional government and rebel groups endorsed on Monday by the United States, Norway, and the United Kingdom now faces opposition from a key rebel group. The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement–North faction, led by Abdel-Aziz al-Hilu, has pulled out of the talks, demanding the replacement of Gen. Mohammed Hamadan Dagalo—who has been accused of human rights abuses in Darfur and Blue Nile—as the government’s chief negotiator.
AFRICA: It may appear Africa has avoided the worst effects of the coronavirus that has killed at least 860,000 people worldwide, but a lack of testing and transparency raises fears a silent epidemic is raging in parts of the continent. Our contacts with missionary doctors in sub-Saharan states confirm a tremendous rise in respiratory cases while combating shortages of beds, oxygen, and testing.
AFGHANISTAN: The government will include mothers’ names on national identity cards, a small victory for women in a country where they have long held second-class citizenship.
IRAQ: Between March and August, Islamic militant groups in Iraq carried out 28 attacks on sites housing U.S. military personnel and four attacks on U.S. convoys, spurring the United States to abandon several bases and further reduce troops. The attacks also suggest a post-ISIS rise of militant groups more closely linked to Iran.
LEBANON: Lebanon’s army found an additional 4 metric tons of ammonium nitrate near the entrance to Beirut port nearly one month after an explosion of an estimated 2,750 tons of the chemical. The blast leveled the port and left more than 190 people dead. The number injured remains at 6,500. For the injured I met, following the trail of blood was their only way out.
HONG KONG: Priests must avoid “offensive” or “provocative” preaching along with politics, warned the head of the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong as part of the July implementation of the new national security law that cracks down on free speech. Hong Kong residents are mourning the end of a way of life.
FRANCE: French satirical paper Charlie Hebdo reprinted its provocative cartoons of Islam’s Mohammad on Wednesday as the trial began of 14 alleged accomplices linked to the 2015 terrorist attack sparked by the cartoons. Police killed the three al-Qaeda-linked gunmen targeted the newspaper’s office and a Jewish supermarket.
“The hatred that struck us is still there and, since 2015, it has taken the time to mutate, to change its appearance, to go unnoticed and to quietly continue its ruthless crusade,” said editor Laurent Sourisseau.
Disturbance by Philippe Lançon is an elegantly powerful 2018 memoir of the attack and aftermath by one of its survivors. Lançon spent months in a Paris hospital undergoing dozens of surgeries for gunshot wounds to his face:
“Huddled in my bed, I now believed that the attack had given me an expiration date. For some time, I’d no longer felt suited to a trade that was panic-stricken, frightening, and required conforming to a world that was going much too fast and too savagely for me. Current events had become a hall of mirrors, filled with overheated lamps that no longer illuminated anything, and around which fluttered clouds of increasingly stupid, moralizing, self-advertising, nervous mosquitoes. From now on, every word, every sentence made me feel its price. My shattered jaw looked like a metaphor and that was okay.”
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Mindy wrote WORLD Magazine's first cover story in 1986 and went on to serve as international editor, editor, and now senior editor. She has covered wars in Syria, Afganistan, Africa, and the Balkans, and she recounts some of her experiences in They Say We Are Infidels: On the Run from ISIS with Persecuted Christians in the Middle East. Mindy resides with her husband, Nat, in Asheville, N.C. Follow her on Twitter @mcbelz.