On April 18 each year, a small group gathers at a cemetery in the city of Malatya in eastern Turkey to sing hymns and recite prayers at the grave of German missionary Tillman Geske.
They are marking the anniversary of Geske’s murder, along with two Turkish converts, at a Christian publishing house here in 2007. The service is the only time when Malatya’s tiny Christian community, flanked by police and a pack of journalists, gathers publicly.
But now, six years after the murders, which were among a spate of similar killings, Turkey’s leaders assert that the country is safe for long-persecuted religious groups.
Speaking in Moscow last month, Culture Minister Ömer Çelik invited Jews and Christians to return. “Turkey is no longer the same country,” he told reporters. “It has become a democratic country which protects its cultural heritage and embraces all ethnicities.”
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Alexander Christie-Miller is a freelance reporter based in Istanbul.