DIYARBAKIR, Turkey -- It would be hard to find two cities more different than New York, a survivor of terrorism, and this southeastern Turkey city from which many terrorists have come. Midtown New York has skyscrapers and busy avenues. Midtown Diyarbakir has three-story homes that overhang twisting, eight-foot wide alleys with drainage ditches running down the middle.
Nevertheless, the excellent and entertaining speech that former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani gave Monday evening at the GOP convention -- I mention it particularly because none of the broadcast networks, to their shame, televised it -- implicitly linked the Big Apple and the much smaller Turkish city known for producing big watermelons.
Giuliani essentially noted that Muslim extremists hate America not for what we do but for what we are, a land of freedom. We have freedom of speech and freedom of religion, and both of those threaten Islam. (We also have freedom of abortion that destroys a greater freedom, the freedom to live, but that's a story that Giuliani, sadly, does not tell.)
Diyarbakir is a city that has not allowed freedom of religion. That's why the small experiment going on here -- whether the newly constructed Diyarbakir Evangelical Church will be able to stay open for worship -- is important. If a church can make it here, it can make it anywhere in Turkey. If it can't, than the future of freedom in this crucial Muslim country is dim, and Turkey may become another anti-American, thought-control, terrorist-breeding society.
The church's pastor, Ahmet Guvener, 39, crossed over from Islam to Christianity 13 years ago when he saw that "we cannot be saved by fulfilling the law, only by the promise God made to Abraham. The Quran says do this and do that, and maybe you'll be saved. The Quran gives a guarantee of salvation only to those who die while on jihad. The Bible says you are saved for sure by the grace of God."
Guvener explained differences in practice: "Here, it's common to yell at your kids and curse them. Now I've learned it's about loving them and showing mercy. The New Testament says, ?God loves sinners and cares for sinners.' The Quran makes it clear that God hates sinners. The New Testament said when I sin, which is inevitable, I can go to God. In the Quran you can't do that. It's hard to approach and have a relationship with a God who is cruel."