By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
ANKARA, TURKEY (BosNewsLife) – A Christian family is recovering after an attack by dozens of Muslims in south-eastern Turkey before a historic church service in the area, Christians confirmed.
The violence in Brahîmîye village in Mardin Province came as, for the first time in nearly 100 years, a church service was underway there in the renovated Mor Gevargis Assyrian Church.
The Yilmaz family – the only Assyrian family, living in the village – were attacked at their home by a group of around 50 Muslims, said the Barnabas Fund, an advocacy group. “The family were at the time entertaining visiting clergy who had come to officiate at the service.”
The attackers were reportedly led by a Muslim family with whom the Yilmaz family had a long-standing land dispute. “The mob attacked the home with stones, sticks, and other weapons. They then set fire to wheat being grown by the Yilmaz family,” Barnabas Fund told BosNewsLife and its news partner Worthy News. None of the family were injured, and the fire was eventually extinguished after witnesses alerted the police, Christians said.
Some members of the Muslim family were reportedly detained over the incident. “They threatened us,” said Cengiz Yilmaz in comments shared with BosNewsLife. They said “that they would not let us live in the village … But we are not afraid. We will continue to stay here,” Yilmaz added.
He accused the attackers of specifically choosing the day of the church ceremony to re-open the land dispute.
The tiny remnant Christian community in Turkey mainly consists of historic Christian ethnic groups such as Assyrians (like the Yilmaz family) and Armenians. “They still bear the trauma of the Armenian, Assyrian, Syriac, and Greek genocides of the early twentieth century,” explained Barnabas Fund with supports Christians in Muslim nations.
“During these genocides, at least 3.75 million believers were killed by Ottoman Turks, with many attacks occurring in south-eastern Turkey.”
The Turkish government has consistently denied Turks were involved in genocide.
However, Christians say that as recently as August 2021, an Assyrian Christian village in northern Syria was bombed by the Turkish air force in a campaign against Kurdish militants.
Despite reported persecution, there are also several Turkish converts from Islam, Christians confirm.
Turkey is a member of the NATO military alliance and seeks membership in the European Union. The EU entry process has been delayed for years, with Brussels expressing concerns over Turkey’s human rights record.