Religious violence dominates Iraqi politics

burning mosque in IraqSometimes I wonder if you could interpret everything that goes on of significance in Iraq through the lens of religion. In a solid news story Thursday, The Christian Science Monitor gives us the details on what Iraqi politicians are doing these days to appeal to their constituents:

In front of a crush of Friday worshipers in one of this city’s most historic Shiite mosques, Iraqi Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi stoked the already strong sectarian fervor.

Sunni extremists “want to strike your religion, sect, and faith. They trespass on the shrines of our Imams,” he told the rapt audience that cheered in response. “We can only apologize to our people because … these grave and stunning acts continue to occur.”

As Sunni insurgents blow up Shiite shrines and Shiite militiamen burn Sunni mosques, leaders from both sides are rushing to be seen as this country’s protectors of the religious sites. Protecting the mosque now appears to be one of the few tools for politicians to gain support among a populace that has seen little progress.

The third paragraph of the story tells us a lot about the situation in Iraq, at least according to the perspective of reporter Sam Dagher. Sunnis, the minority religious group in Iraq but the group in charge under Saddam, are apparently insurgents. Shiites, who now control most of the operations of the Iraqi government, are now militiamen. Sunnis apparently have mosques that are worth targeting while Shiites have the shrines.

I kept expecting to see a pretty straightforward paragraph in the article giving a brief rundown on the very-long-running conflict between the two Islamic sects. But that was absent. Perhaps for someone well versed in Middle East politics and history this would be like giving a basic explainer on the history of the Republican and Democratic parties when writing about the Senate’s failure to move forward on immigration reform Thursday? But if I were writing that story for, say, the Russian public I would certainly include some background.

As religion-fueled violence destroys Iraq, the few American reporters left in the country are forced to choose the stories they are able to report. Most of the news in American newspapers relates to the actions of the American military or how the Iraqis are responding, or say they would respond, to the various political machinations being discussed in Washington. It’s refreshing to a local Iraqi political story in an American newspaper:

Over the past 30 days, six of Iraq’s most important Shiite and Sunni mosques and shrines have been severely damaged in bombings. Numerous other smaller sites have been attacked as well.

… In an interview Sunday at his party’s headquarters, Mr. Hakim said the government failed to act on intelligence that indicated the shrine was going to be attacked again. “There was official correspondence regarding this matter but nonetheless nothing was done to prevent the attack.”

Shiite zeal in protecting sacred sites and the use of the issue to score political gains was on full display Friday during prayers at the mausoleum and mosque of Sayyed Idriss, one of the prophet’s great grandchildren, in central Baghdad.

Unfortunately we’re seeing fewer and fewer stories like these. Also unfortunate is the assumption that American readers know the background of the conflict between Sunnis and Shiites, or on why one side would be attacking the other’s shrines and mosques. But that deficiency is balanced out for readers who know the differences.

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Why does Vanity Fair happen to good people?

TutuThere’s something vertigo-inducing about Bono’s editing an issue on Africa for Vanity Fair. The visual conflicts abound: Alongside Bono’s Guest Editor’s Letter about how many African children die from preventable diseases, a nude threesome promotes a Dolce & Gabbana purse; at the end of an editorial spread about 20 innovative covers shot by Annie Leibovitz, Dolce & Gabbana returns, using a piece of beefcake in a thong to promote a cologne. This is like reading an article in Playboy that condemns female genital mutilation.

About those innovative covers: If it seemed unlikely that President Bush would sit passively as Archbishop Desmond Tutu prayed (presumably for Bush’s soul), that’s because it didn’t happen. As Daryl Lang of Photo District News reports:

Bush was photographed April 13 in Washington while Tutu was photographed April 28 in Kobe, Japan.

Vanity Fair is making no secret of this, having posted Leibovitz’s impressive travel schedule online. The schedule reveals that none of the subjects who appear together across the 20 covers actually posed together except Bush and Condoleezza Rice.

… The print magazine, in which all the cover photos are reproduced inside, offers clues that portraits are composites, but never says so directly. “We decided that 20 different covers had a nice ring to it. That meant 20 individual photo shoots,” Graydon Carter writes in his editor’s letter.

It would be hard for a casual reader to realize that, to take one example, Sen. Barack Obama didn’t actually sit down with Muhammad Ali. Through the magic of retouching, some of the subjects actually appear to be interacting — Madonna caresses Maya Angelou’s arm, Chris Rock tugs Buffett’s ear, and Tutu actually embraces Brad Pitt. The portraits are edged with a black film border, making them appear to be processed directly from a negative.

Tutu did interact with Pitt for an interview. It starts at a parodic level of flattery:

Brad Pitt: It’s a real pleasure for me to get to speak with you.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu: You don’t know — I mean, my stock has gone up. When people knew that I was going to speak to you …

B.P. Let me say, I’ve seen all your movies, and I’m a big fan.

D.T. Thank you. God bless.

Soon enough, Pitt begins asking questions — well, really, they are declarations that sometimes end in question marks:

What is it about the great religions? Why can’t the great religions play well with each other? What are they defending? I’ll tell you my interpretation: it signifies a lack of faith to always be threatened and always to have to prove your way is the best. It seems again to be antithetical to the teachings of the individual religion.

… So certainly discrimination has no place in Christianity. There’s a big argument going on in America right now, on gay rights and equality.

… You have talked about Nelson Mandela and how he had every right, as well as South Africa itself, to come out of the apartheid machine embittered and wanting revenge and retribution. You guys came up with this radical idea — the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Quickly, you had two known routes. You could go for justice, retribution justice, as in Nuremberg. Or you could get blanket amnesty. But you came up with this idea for healing the country and a new definition of justice called “restorative justice.”

Tutu answers Pitt in a spirit that’s every bit as cuddly as the faux cover showing Tutu hugging his interlocutor.

Bono solicited several interesting essays, including a report on economist Jeffrey Sachs’ work, self-promoting details on how Bono’s (Product) Red sales have made a difference in Africans’ lives and a fascinating study of how everyone’s DNA ultimately points back to Africa.

“… I’ve always imagined that I hadn’t been a singer I would have been a journalist,” Bono writes in his Guest Editor’s Letter. “But, in truth, my bandmates saved me from disappointment, as I’m no natural editor.”

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Sir Salman, champion of free speech

Salman RushdieIn reading news articles about the decision by Great Britain to bestow knighthood on Salman Rushdie, one can’t help but wonder why in the world the British would decide to do this. I mean, all they are doing is upsetting a substantial minority of Britain’s population and inflaming Islamic sentiment around the world by honoring a man who is just a novelist. Since when should we honor people who are attacked and threatened with death for what they say or write?

Or should we?

If you read The Times‘ piece on the matter, you come away with the idea that Rushdie was just a royal pain in the neck by writing The Satanic Verses in 1988.

You all know the backstory, and the news reports paid scant attention to it. The Times had one of the more thorough accounts of what happened:

Rushdie was forced to go into hiding for almost a decade after the Ayatollah Khomeini issued the death sentence over The Satanic Verses.

On Valentine’s Day in 1989 the spiritual figurehead of the Iranian revolution pronounced on Teheran radio that: “The author of The Satanic Verses, which is against Islam, the Prophet, the Koran, and all those involved in its publication who were aware of its content, are sentenced to death.”

In Britain, the subsequent hate campaign helped to politicise and radicalise a generation of young British Muslims. The taxpayer is believed to have spent more than £10 million protecting Rushdie.

The Times focuses heavily on Pakistan, where legislators are passing resolutions demanding the removal of Rushdie’s knighthood. The article even quote an independent-sounding editor of the Middle East Economic Survey saying that Rushdie’s knighthood will be seen as “an action calculated to goad Muslims at a time when the atmosphere is already very tense and Britain’s standing in the region is very low because of its involvement in Iraq and its lack of action in tackling the Palestine issue.”

Very little ink has been spent explaining why Rushdie received this honor. Perhaps it is because of the reasons cited by the Times: The British government was trying to upset Muslims. Or maybe not.

The Washington Post‘s brief account of the affair managed to include a quote from a British government official:

Pakistani officials summoned Robert Brinkley, the British high commissioner in Islamabad, to express anger over the honor for Rushdie, which was announced along with British government honors for about 950 people on Queen Elizabeth II’s ceremonial birthday on June 16. The knighthood means that the writer, who turned 60 on Tuesday, will be known in Britain as Sir Salman.

“Sir Salman’s knighthood is a reflection of his contribution to literature throughout a long and distinguished career which has seen him receive international recognition for a substantial body of work,” Brinkley said in a statement. Noting that at least two Muslims had also received honors from the queen, Brinkley said, “It is simply untrue that this knighthood is intended as an insult to Islam or the prophet Mohammad.”

I am not a reporter who likes to take the word of government officials, and I don’t think anyone should in this case either. There’s bound to be a backstory to the decision to grant Rushdie knighthood. An angle that I would encourage reporters to look at, even if it is not the actual reason, relates to the very work we do as journalists: freedom of speech.

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The Post helps out

donate hereIn a most unusual but welcome story deep on the inside of The Washington Post‘s Metro section, Michelle Boorstein reported on how an earthquake set back a project to create a written version of a local language spoken by 5,000 people and to translate the Bible for the people on the small Solomon Island in the South Pacific. (Lost, anyone?)

Not only did Boorstein report in a straightforward manner on Alpheaus Zobule — a Richmond, Va., theology student at Union Theological Seminary and Presbyterian School of Christian Education — and his decade-long translation effort; she also reported in a sympathetic tone on the tragic day when a 8.1 magnitude earthquake destroyed his work.

Boorstein wrote about Zobule back in January, but unfortunately the story was buried on the inside of the Metro pages and I am guessing most people missed it. I searched briefly on the Post/Newsweek On Faith blog for more coverage of Zobule, but unfortunately did not see anything.

What struck me most about this most recent story was the final graph:

Since the earthquake, churches across the United States have been sending donations for Zobule’s Richmond church, Grace Covenant Presbyterian. As of Friday, the church had received $16,500, Associate Pastor Christopher J. Thomas said.

“This disaster is going to impact the translation and literacy project in a very big way,” Zobule said in an e-mail. “Community support is an important element in the project we are doing and in the next few years it is going to be a challenge. The literacy program we are running cannot continue under the circumstance.”

Donations can be sent to Islands Bible Ministries, a development organization Zobule founded in the Solomons, via Grace Covenant at: 1627 Monument Ave., Richmond, Va. 23220. Questions can be answered by Zobule at agzobulegrace@hotmail.com or Grace Covenant at thomas@grace-covenant.org.

When was the last time a newspaper the size of the Post included donation information for a religious project? Yes, there is a huge education angle to the story, but the last time I checked, the only time newspapers published donation information was for the obituaries page and, more frequently, you have to pay to get even that.

Of course this raises the question of whether the Post includes donation information for any religious charity group hit upon by hard times and covered in its news pages.

The next step, I hope, would be for the Post to follow up on this story and look more in-depth at other Bible translation efforts in communities with no written word.

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Open and unafraid

JinAtOrdinationIn his first piece for The Atlantic, Adam Minter has written an in-depth and sympathetic profile of Aloysius Jin Luxian, bishop of Shanghai, who was approved by the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association but not appointed by the Vatican. Minter begins the piece with an extended description of Jin’s return, after years of imprisonment, to the cathedral where he had been ordained:

On a June day in 1982, Father Aloysius Jin Luxian, a 66-year-old Jesuit just released from prison, walked into Shanghai’s St. Ignatius Cathedral for the first time in 27 years. In his youth, the building had been one of the great churches in East Asia, celebrated for its delicate Gothic arches and colorful stained glass. Now the color was gone, replaced by clear glass and harsh sunlight that bleached the cracked columns and tiled floor. The steeples, once among the tallest in Shanghai, were missing, as was the altar beneath which he’d been ordained, in 1945. Jin had spent nearly three decades under house arrest, in reeducation camps, and in prison, so he had few illusions about the Chinese Communist Party’s attitude toward religion. But the damage to the church was still hard to bear. St. Ignatius, he learned, had been converted to a grain warehouse during the Cultural Revolution, and the authorities had spent three days burning most of the diocese’s Catholic books in front of the church.

Minter’s report describes the difficult choices Jin had to make in the years since his return to that cathedral, especially in striving for an enculturated Catholicism. Minter explains that struggle well in an interview with Abigail Cutler of The Atlantic Online:

I think you’d be hard pressed to find any Catholic in the world who would say they thought Mao was good for Chinese Catholicism. But on the other hand, the fact that China threw out the missionaries and allowed Chinese Catholics to assume authority over Chinese dioceses was very important and remains, to this day, a matter of pride for many Chinese. So when Jin talks about the identity crisis he felt in 1949 and in the decades that followed, he’s also talking about the tension he and his peers felt under European control — the idea that if you were a Catholic, you had to be part of the European colonial enterprise. Come 1949, I think many Chinese Catholics — especially those of Jin’s generation — desperately wanted a way to assert themselves.

Minter tells a complicated story that eventually includes the Vatican’s recognition of Jin as a bishop. The high quality of Minter’s coverage is perhaps best explained in how he answers when Cutler asks whether he has a particular interest in reporting on religion:

I find it to be an interesting topic. My specific interest in Catholicism in China comes from my seeing it as the perfect laboratory through which to examine how Chinese civilization interacts with Western civilization. I think there’s probably no institution that epitomizes the West more perfectly than the Catholic Church. Certainly, it’s the oldest Western institution. The role it’s played in China — as far back as the sixteenth century — and the role it continues to play today is just fascinating to me. In addition to that, I find religion interesting in its own right; I also like talking to religious people — especially religious leaders — because they tend to be thoughtful people.

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How big is CAIR?

CAIRAudrey Hudson’s very long story in Tuesday’s Washington Times takes the Council on American-Islamic Relations to task for its alleged falling membership. The civil liberties organization struck back in a strongly worded press release the same day that says the Times is a “right-wing” newspaper that publishes “agenda-driven reporting.”

For starters, it is pretty well established that the Times is a right-leaning newspaper. But that doesn’t mean everything it publishes is right-leaning or even falls into right-left categories. And what does the right-leaning reputation of the Times have to do with its reporting on an Islamic civil rights group’s membership levels? Is it conservative to investigate an Islamic organization or to dig into its background in the Muslim Brotherhood?

Here is the nut of the story, which is harsh:

Critics of the organization say they are not surprised that membership is sagging, and that a recent decision by the Justice Department to name CAIR as “unindicted co-conspirators” in a federal case against another foundation charged with providing funds to a terrorist group could discourage new members.

M. Zuhdi Jasser, director of American Islamic Forum for Democracy, says the sharp decline in membership calls into question whether the organization speaks for American Muslims, as the group has claimed.

“This is the untold story in the myth that CAIR represents the American Muslim population. They only represent their membership and donors,” Mr. Jasser said.

CAIR barred Hudson from a recent news conference “because of her history of sloppy and agenda-driven reporting. It is unfortunate that her apparent bias leads her to ‘cook’ CAIR’s membership figures and to tarnish the journalistic reputation of the Washington Times.”

As a journalist, I do not think there is ever a reason to bar anyone from a news conference as long as they are being civil. Disagreeing or disliking a publication’s coverage of your group is not a good excuse, and if the reporter’s stories have been sloppy, CAIR should highlight those errors and explain why Hudson should be taken off the beat. It has not done this.

But I also think it was wrong of the Times to exclude a statement from CAIR executive director Nihad Awad that was sent before the article was published. All voices should be heard. Hudson, unfortunately, has been made part of the story, and that needs to be reported.

Both sides are behaving badly in this case, but ultimately, after reviewing the article and the press release, I do not see CAIR challenging any of the facts presented in the story, just the context. CAIR claims that Hudson is comparing apples and oranges in her figures, but that doesn’t counter Hudson’s report that the group is funded primarily by about “two dozen donors a year” who “contribute the majority of the money for CAIR’s budget, which reached nearly $3 million last year.”

Another problem I have with CAIR’s response is that it indirectly compares Hudson’s reporting to McCarthyism without citing any specific evidence. The head of the group cites a recent front-page article in The New York Times that quoted government officials as saying CAIR’s critics engage in McCarthyism. They don’t come out and say it, but insinuate that critics of the organization “engage in McCarthyite tactics.” So any critic of this group or anyone who attempts to look into the background of a civil rights group is a McCarthyite? Please.

The Times will continue to bear the burden of being known as a conservative newspaper, but that does not mean its articles on CAIR are automatically off the mark. For example, check this story in Friday’s Times that gives a pretty straightforward account of a report from the group citing an increase in anti-Muslim bias, which CAIR says is at an all-time high.

I don’t see how this article could fall into CAIR’s description of the paper’s McCarthite tactics. Rather than making broad generalizations about the Times‘ coverage, CAIR should address the facts in the story.

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Gracia Burnham’s hands-free Vulcan mind meld

BurnhamsOne of the pleasures of contemporary journalism is that it brings together a writer and subject who at first seem an unlikely pair. In this case the pairing is of poet and journalist Eliza Griswold with Gracia Burnham, missionary to the Philippines and former captive of Abu Sayyaf rebels, whose husband was shot to death during a rescue that saved Gracia.

Griswold’s article for The New Republic is less of a surprise considering that she has written about war and terrorism for National Geographic, The Nation, The New York Times, Slate and Smithsonian.

Other than describing Gracia Burnham as a “48-year-old pixie with blonde highlights” who was “dreamily eating cereal in front of the early-morning news,” Griswold mostly stays out of the way and lets Burnham’s pathos-laden story speak for itself. Here’s a passage that touches on the indignities of being kidnapped and on Burnham’s efforts to live by Jesus’ teaching of “Love your enemies”:

Gracia attended a senior-citizen Bible study at the First Baptist Church in Mount Juliet, Tennessee, where she’d been invited to speak.

Fifteen frosted-haired ladies, some wearing sweaters decorated with hollyhocks, gasped as Gracia pulled a piece of stiff batik fabric from a Voice of the Martyrs white plastic shopping bag. Using her teeth, Gracia showed the class how she’d wrapped the fabric, called a malong, around her to make a changing room and a bathroom. The toilet was a theme of the weekend. “The first few times I made a mess of it and had to wait until I got to the next river to wash it,” she said.

“You’ve washed it since you’ve come out of the jungle,” one woman said firmly. Gracia shook her head. “If I did, it might fall apart.” There was another gasp.

She then showed the ladies how the fabric served as a blanket, a backpack, and even, on one occasion, a stretcher for a 14-year-old Abu Sayyaf member named Ahmed. At first, she had loathed Ahmed for hoarding food when she had none, throwing stones at her while she bathed — fully clothed — in the river, and pushing her along the trail saying “faster, faster.” As she and Martin slowly starved, Gracia prayed to find a way to love Ahmed.

One day, he was injured in a firefight and soiled himself. Gracia could see he was mortified. Thinking of her own son, Zach, who was about the same age, she took Ahmed’s clothes to the river to wash them. There, she was filled with love. The last time Gracia saw Ahmed, who had been carried wounded through the jungle in the malong, like a sling, he had gone stark raving mad and was tied by the hands and feet to the walls of a hut in the southern Philippines. Someone had stuffed a sock in his mouth to keep him from screaming. She wondered aloud to the Bible study class where Ahmed was now — still crazy, perhaps, or pushing another hostage up another steep mountain path. Or, most likely, he had died and gone to hell.

Two minor style matters: Few evangelical Christians would describe themselves as “deciding at an early age to become an evangelical Christian,” but simply deciding to give their hearts to Jesus or to become Christians. And I think it would be news to George W. Bush that Franklin Graham is his personal pastor.

Griswold does not follow through on two interesting threads in her narrative. First she mentions Mercy Grace, one of three Mennonite teenagers who have traveled from Kentucky to meet Burnham, whose story has inspired Mercy Grace to pursue a missionary calling. Mercy Grace provides two endearing remarks:

I asked Mercy Grace what she thought of dying for Christ and becoming a martyr. “It would be neat!” she said, grinning widely enough to show her braces. Her mother nudged her. She closed her mouth. “It would be a privilege,” she corrected herself.

Then she’s gone. We never see a description of her meeting her role model. Did she ask for an autograph? Kiss Burnham’s cheek? How did Burnham respond to her?

Just as baffling is this passage, which follows on Burnham’s description of her young tormentor, Ahmed:

After Gracia finished speaking, she and I went out into the church’s hallway. “You know I don’t only think that Abu Sayyaf is going to hell,” she said, fixing me with her fierce and loving dark blue eyes. I understood that she was talking about me. For Gracia, absolute salvation is just that: absolute.

After a narrative free of any conflict between Burnham and Griswold, suddenly this appears? Further, from being fixed by Burnham’s “fierce and loving dark blue eyes,” Griswold is able to discern what Burnham was thinking, and even gain absolute insight into her steel-trap absolutist worldview? I’ve been on the receiving end of glares and menacing looks over the years, but if someone I was interviewing suddenly alluded to where I was likely to spend eternity, I would consider a few follow-up questions in order.

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A bodyguard during the liturgy?

ayasofya sultanahmetHome again, home again.

I am back at my desk in Washington, D.C., but my mind is still in Istanbul (and, as you would expect, my confused body does not know exactly where it is).

Several of you have written to ask why I was over there in the first place. I was at an Oxford Centre for Religion & Public Life conference, “Fact vs. Rumor: Journalism in the 21st Century.”

I didn’t mention this in advance because of security concerns in that remarkable, yet tense, city and land. While the Oxford Centre website is very thin at this time, eventually the texts of all of the presentations will be online — including speeches by the likes of Zeyno Baran, Hasain Haqqani, Lamin Sasseh, Nevra Necipoglu, Jung Chang, Jon Halliday, George Gilder, Paul Marshall, Michael Gerson and others. Put any of those names in Google and you’ll find interesting material. There were also regional reports on press-freedom issues around the world, similar to the Oxford Centre seminar last summer in England.

The discussion sessions were all off the record, because there were journalists in the room from every imaginable media environment around the world. But it is safe to say that there were many large issues looming in the background of all our conversations, from the Armenian genocide to the war in Iraq, from the impact of the Web on newsrooms to global tensions over, yes, the mainstream media failing to “get religion.”

We also talked quite a bit about religious freedom, a subject that is often closely linked — think First Amendment, here — to freedom of the press.

While I was in Istanbul, the GetReligionistas received a reader email pointing us toward a post at Amy Welborn’s open book weblog titled “Where’s the coverage? / Of anti-Christian violence in Iraq?” This is a good question, and Welborn’s post includes links to some recent tragedies that demonstrate that there is more to the sectarian bloodshed in Iraq than clashes between Sunnis and Shiites. Yet, I also have to admit that my GetReligion Guilt file contains links to more than a few important stories about the impact of persecution on Christians in the Middle East. In fact, Google the words “Christians fleeing Iraq” and you will find quite a bit to read.

There is no question that this is a religion story. I mean, consider this recent example:

Pope Benedict XVI and President Mary McAleese yesterday led tributes to an Irish-trained priest who was shot dead in Iraq. Fr Ragheed Ganni, 35, was killed by unidentified gunmen as he returned from celebrating Mass in his native city of Mosul on Sunday.

… He and three deacons, one of whom was his cousin, were shot dead when the gunmen stopped their car on Sunday morning.

Fr Ganni, who was a frequent visitor to Ireland, was also an engineer and a member of the Chaldean Rite, Christianity’s most ancient branch. Pope Benedict XVI yesterday sent a blessing of consolation to the families of the dead men. He hoped their “costly sacrifice” would bring about peace and reconciliation in Iraq.

Clearly, Turkey is not Iraq — as Gerson noted in a Washington Post op-ed column written during our conference. Yet, as I found during my first Istanbul visit three years ago, there are plenty of reasons to be concerned — including shocking acts of terrorism. Gerson notes:

… (Even) in Turkey, religious liberty is the most disputed and troublesome of freedoms. The secular establishment, fearful of accumulated sectarian power, has traditionally denied minority religious groups the right to own property, to provide religious education beyond high school or to train their own clergy. As a result, the Armenian and Greek Orthodox churches are slowly being asphyxiated for lack of priests — and the government has sometimes hastened the process by expropriating church property without compensation. The nationalist yellow press whips up resentment against religious minorities by repeating popular conspiracy theories: that Christian missionaries run prostitution rings or bribe Muslims into converting.

… But even as the legal environment for religion improves in Turkey, rising Islamist influence has caused sudden storms of violence. Seven weeks ago, two Turkish Christian converts and a German citizen were ritually murdered in the southern city of Malatya by killers spouting nationalist and Islamist slogans. Pastors around the country have begun hiring professional security. The Armenian patriarch is followed by a bodyguard even during his procession to the altar — an unsettling liturgy of fear.

Try to picture that last scene in your mind. Now try to forget it. Good luck.

The irony, at this point, is that the Turkish media are finally beginning to cover these kinds of stories, in large part because the tensions between legal secularism and public faith have been raised by debates over Turkey entering the European Union.

I hope that American media continue to be interested in issues of human rights and religious liberty. If you see good, or bad, examples of coverage that you want us to know about, by all means send in the URLs for us to chase. I also hope that many of the journalists who gathered in Istanbul last week will help GetReligion deal with these issues as well. This is a life and death matter.

Photo: The “Blue Mosque” (left) and Hagia Sophia.

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