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Catholic church attacked and desecrated in eastern Turkey

A Catholic church in the village of Mehr in Turkey has been attacked and ransacked by unknown assailants.

Marta Shimoni Church, a cave church built into the mountains, was destroyed along with crosses, pictures of Jesus, and rosaries which were strewn across the path leading away from the church’s entrance.

The attack comes a year after the elderly parents of a Chaldean Catholic priest were kidnapped. The priest's wife, Simoni Diril, was later found deceased while the priest himself, Hormoz Diril, remains missing.

Attorney Orhan Kemal Cengiz told International Christian Concern (ICC): “As the lawyer for Diril family, my main concern, for the time being, is to get the prosecutor to open a case against the perpetrators in the abduction of the Diril couple, which ended with the murder of Mrs. Diril. Mr. Diril is still missing. I have delivered more than a dozen petitions to the prosecutor so far, to urge him to look at the matter from different angles, as well as calling him to deliver his indictment as soon as possible.”

The couple had returned to the village to help reestablish a Christian presence after the area was evacuated due to surrounding conflict in the early 1990s. They often celebrated mass at Marta Shimoni.

Cengiz continued: “I believe there is a strong correlation between the lack of indictment in this case and the recent attack against the chapel in the village in which the Diril couple went missing. The prosecutor’s refusal to introduce an indictment against the perpetrators emboldens the perpetrators and the people behind them.”

Concerns about religious freedom in Turkey were addressed in the International Religious Freedom Report (IRF) issued by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom. It has been reported the government in the country has been issuing long-standing entry bans to residents affiliated with Protestant churches as well as direct attacks on Christian churches.

Claire Evans, ICC’s Regional Manager, “We are concerned about this desecration against Marta Shimoni and how this is part of a continued pattern of intimidation and threats against the Christian presence in Mehr. Over a year has passed since the kidnapping of the Diril couple and murder of Simoni. There has been no justice. And now their church is attacked. These cases are intertwined. If there is no accountability for these crimes, how can Christians with confidence return home to Mehr?”

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