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Murders Shine Spotlight on Evangelical Activity in Turkey

The recent murder of three evangelical Christians in the Turkish city of Malatya is shining a spotlight on the increasingly violent nationalist backlash against missionary activity.

The three men -- two Turks and a German -- were killed April 18 at a Bible distributorship in Malatya, a city in southeastern Turkey famous for its dried apricots and hard-edged politics. The victims had their hands and feet bound before having their throats slit.

According to Turkish newspaper reports, the suspects arrested at the scene, five young men who were living together in a residence belonging to a religious foundation, told investigators they committed the crime in defense of Islam.

"There's a huge witch-hunt that has been opened up in Turkey about missionary work," says Jerry Mattix, a missionary from Yakima, Washington, who has been working for the last five years with an evangelical church in Diyarbakir, an ancient walled city some 250 kilometers (155 miles) from Malatya. "The risk is that we live in an overwhelmingly Muslim society where certain segments of the society see you as divisive to the country. We are a target."

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Yigal Schleifer is a freelance journalist based in Istanbul.

Murders Shine Spotlight on Evangelical Activity in Turkey

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