News Articles

10/9/97 Grenade aimed to silence gospel has opposite effect in Turkey

GAZIANTEP, Turkey (BP)–The grenade was intended to destroy the Christian book stand and intimidate the small Christian community in Gaziantep, a city in southeastern Turkey.
Sadly, it did end a 4-year-old boy’s life and wound 25 people. But it also brought together local Christians and their Muslim neighbors — and allowed the man running the book stand to proclaim his faith on national television.
Authorities believe members of the little-known radical Islamic religious group VASAD (“Center”) are responsible for throwing the grenade during the annual Gaziantep Industrial Trade Fair.
But VASAD’s hopes to silence the gospel were dashed. Wounded by the grenade and lying on a stretcher, Ibrahim Dogan, manager of the bookstall, repeatedly cried out, “Rab Isa!” (Jesus is Lord). His proclamations were shown numerous times during national television reports on the blast.
The effects of the attack also reached well beyond Gaziantep and touched many Christians in Turkey.
“We view the incident with sadness and believe the bomb was tossed at people with different beliefs, as well as at tolerance and friendship,” said Isa Karatas, a spokesman for the Independent Protestant Churches of Turkey.
So far, police have arrested 24 members of VASAD and seized other bombs and bomb-making equipment. The group reportedly was angered that a Christian establishment was included in the fair. Book stand workers were threatened before the attack, according to the Compass Direct news service.
The 4-year-old boy, Ali Ozdemir, died in the hospital as a result of injuries. A bomb expert reportedly told the local Gaziantep television station it was a miracle the military fragmentation grenade didn’t kill 50 or 60 people since it exploded in the air.
And upon examination, Dogan was found to have received no serious injuries aside from a badly mangled finger. “It is amazing. It’s a miracle that he’s still alive,” said Dogan’s co-worker. “The bomb went off right behind him.”
Others say the real miracle remains to be seen. “There was a purpose for this. In the long run, God’s higher plan will be expanded,” said a Christian worker in Gaziantep.
Still others say the miracle was this: More than 500 New Testaments were sold during the first five days of the fair — more than the Christian book stand has sold in the last five years combined.
Immediately after the blast, Muslim citizens of Gaziantep were at first angry at the Christians. But after the shock wore off, many Muslims supported the Christians and condemned the attack. It also was condemned by Turkey’s president and prime minister. Relations between Muslims and Christians in Gaziantep continue to improve as both attempt dialogue.