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30 January 2024

Man killed by extremists in church service in Turkey

A man has been killed by two extremists during a church service in Istanbul, Turkey. Please pray for the family and friends of Tuncer Cihan, and for all who worship at Santa Maria Catholic Church. 

The image shows the interior of Santa Maria Catholic Church in Büyükdere, Istanbul, with the camera aimed at the ornate painted roof.

The two gunmen entered Santa Maria Catholic Church in response to a call from so-called Islamic State to target Christians

Church leaders in Turkey are asking for prayer after a man was killed by extremists during a service at Santa Maria Catholic Church in Büyükdere, Istanbul. 

Tuncer Cihan was killed on Sunday 28 January at around 11.40am. Two masked gunmen entered the church during morning Mass. At first, they fired shots into the air, then shot Tuncer, who had been attending the church regularly since December. 

Turkish authorities responded quickly, arresting two suspects late on Sunday night, while all churches in the city went on high alert and police were deployed for protection. According to a statement by the Interior Ministry, the apprehended men are a Russian and a Tajik national, affiliated with so-called Islamic State (IS). Amaq, the Arabic IS news agency, stated that the attack was carried out in response to a call from IS leaders to target Jews and Christians.  

Many Turkish officials have expressed their condolences, including President Erdoğan, who personally called the officiating priest of Santa Maria, Fr Anton Bulai. Leaders in the Christian community in Istanbul are thankful that the authorities responded swiftly and expressed their sincere condolences. 

Turkey is number 50 on the World Watch List this year. It’s fallen from number 41, but not much has changed, although there were fewer attacks on churches in 2023 and violent incidents like this are uncommon. The combination of rising religious nationalism and a growing emphasis on Islamic values by the government is intensifying the pressure on believers. Christians are viewed as a negative Western influence, and those who choose to follow Jesus – whether from Islam or secularism – can face pressure from their families and communities to recant their faith. 

Source: Middle East Concern 

Please pray
  • That God will comfort Tuncer’s family, friends and church community
  • That Turkish authorities will continue to deal swiftly with any threats of terrorism
  • That fear will not prevail among the Christian community in Turkey, and that God will strengthen His church.
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