CHRISTIAN leaders in many parts of the world have condemned the New Year’s Eve terrorist attack that killed 39 people and wounded many more at an Istanbul nightclub. The Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe, Dr Robert Innes, said that he was “deeply shocked by the callous attack”, and that it was an “appalling way to begin the new year. Our thoughts and prayers are with the many victims of this attack, their families, and medical services tending the injured.”
A lone gunman, who, Turkish police say, arrived in the country from Kyrgyzstan last November, carried out the attack one hour after midnight. The Islamic State (IS) group said that it was behind the killings, in which Christians were the target. The IS described the gunman as a “heroic soldier of the caliphate who attacked the most famous nightclub where Christians were celebrating their pagan feast”.
The Pope, in his New Year message, said that, “unfortunately, violence has stricken even in this night of good wishes and hope. Pained, I express my closeness to the Turkish people. I pray for the many victims and for the wounded, and for the entire nation in mourning.” He called on “the Lord to sustain all men of good will to courageously roll up their sleeves to confront the plague of terrorism and this stain of blood that is covering the world with a shadow of fear and a sense of loss”.
The general secretary of the World Council of Churches, the Revd Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, in his condemnation of the shootings, said: “innocent people are suffering again and again. This is an evil act.” He went on: “In the face of this brutality, the human family, all people of faith and of good will, must stand together to recommit to respecting and caring for one another . . . and to preventing such violence.”
For Turkey, the nightclub shootings underline the fact that the country over the past year has lost its status as a stable country in an unstable Middle East. The coup-attempt last summer, the imposition of a state of emergency, and the subsequent mass imprisonment of those accused of being associated with the plotters have severely shaken Turkish society, and damaged economic confidence.
At the same time, the Turkish authorities now find themselves at war again on numerous fronts. The conflict with the Kurdish separatist group the PKK has resumed, and there have been many attacks, mostly on army and security targets. Then, in response to Turkey’s offensive against IS in Syria, which began last year, the jihadists have organised bombings and other attacks on Turkish soil: the nightclub shooting is the latest.
The cumulative effect of these changing circumstances has been to deter foreigners from visiting Turkey, thus depriving it of a significant source of revenue. Furthermore, unless a new deal is reached with the PKK, and IS is routed in Syria and Iraq — which are distant prospects at present — there seems little hope that stability and prosperity will return to Turkey.