He offered this contrast: "One religion uses a fear of punishment, the other shows that God brings sinners to himself through grace." But fearful Muslims also punish those who leave Islam: "Police surrounded my house four-five years ago, their guns drawn. My 3-year-old daughter opened the door and police rushed in. They said, ?Show us your weapons.' Our only weapon was a box of Bibles."
Guvener was in jail briefly and came out eager to plan and raise money for a church building. He succeeded, and was charged a year ago with opening an "illegal church." In May, though, the government dropped the charges as part of its attempt to win admission to the European Union: Turkey wants in for economic reasons and will only get in if it shows more respect for individual rights, including religious ones, than it has in the past.
Threats remain. Six weeks ago, a young Turk with a long butcher knife invaded the Diyarbakir Evangelical Church, but providentially no one was injured and police arrested him. An end of religious persecution would be good for evangelicals in Turkey, who now meet in about 75 churches or fellowships throughout the country. But it would also be good for the United States, because a country that respects religious freedom is less likely to be a country that breeds terrorists who insist upon conformity to one particular religion -- or death.
These days, New York and places like Diyarbakir are connected. We polish the Statue of Liberty by helping huddled masses abroad who yearn to be free.
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