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MARTYRS/ Msgr. Padovese's Assassination and Freedom of Religion

The first anniversary of the martyrdom of Luigi Padovese, a priest in Turkey, leads to reflection on the role that Christians play in predominantly Muslim countries.

Coptic Christians praying Coptic Christians praying

June 3rd was the first anniversary of the killing, or more precisely, the martyrdom, of Monsignor Luigi Padovese, the Bishop of Iskenderum (Alexandretta) and vicar apostolic of Anatolia, who was assassinated in Turkey by the man who was his driver, who then climbed to the roof terrace of the victim’s house to proclaim that he had killed Satan and to yell “Allah Akhbar” (Allah is great).

In this case, as in the case of the other Catholic priest, who was killed in Turkey, don Andrea Santoro, assassinated in Trabzon (Trabizond) in 2006, the Turkish authorities described the assassins as unbalanced people who had been driven by purely pathological reasons to kill their victims. While this may have been partly true, the fact remains that the unbalanced person, afflicted with delusions of persecution, does not find his mortal enemy by himself, rather he draws from diffuse prejudices, or negative campaigns in act in the society in which he lives.

Therefore, in any event, the choice of the assassination of Monsignor Padovese, like that of don Santoro, was the possibly pathological reflection of a general context characterized by discrimination and harassment of non-Muslims. All this despite the fact that Turkey today, daughter of a reformer who explicitly was inspired by the French Enlightenment, claims to be a “secular” country in the sense traditionally given to that word in France, something which often leads to forms of freedom…asymmetrical, which undermines the religious visions of the world.

If this can happen in “secular” Turkey, it is not difficult to imagine how the situation might be in countries with a Muslim majority which do not hesitate to define themselves as “Islamic States”. The consideration of the current role and legitimate aspirations of a population which is majority Muslim and the respect for the many treasure of Islamic civilization, should not lead us to forget the large and dramatic gap in that culture, the historical absence of the principle of a correct secularism, and how difficult it is to develop it from the inside.