Mentally disturbed Muslim stabs German businessman as he leaves church.
ISTANBUL, July 28 (Compass Direct News) – On a crowded street here last week a German businessman died after a Turk with a history of mental problems stabbed him for being a Christian.
Witnesses saw Ýbrahim Akyol, 26, stab Gregor Kerkeling in the chest on July 20 at 10:50 a.m. after following him out of St. Anthony Catholic Church in Istanbul’s central district of Beyoglu. Church security cameras captured the attack on Kerkeling, who regularly visited the church when he was in town for business.
Kerkeling, in his early forties, had just visited the church to pray that morning. Akyol, a Muslim who reportedly had been visiting area churches scouting around for a Christian victim, followed Kerkeling out of the church building and asked him for a Turkish lira. When Kerkeling refused and gestured him away, Akyol repeatedly stabbed him in the heart and chest area before passersby intervened. According to various news reports, an ambulance did not arrive in time to save Kerkeling’s life.
In a statement to the prosecutor, Akyol reportedly confessed that he woke up that morning and decided he would kill a Christian. He took a kitchen knife with him and went to Istiklal Street, a long pedestrian and commercial road where some of the main traditional churches are located, looking for a victim.
“I wanted to kill a Christian that day and was visiting churches for this reason,” he told prosecutors, according to the Hurriet Daily News. “I saw the person and killed him.”
Akyol, according to various Turkish papers, was addicted to paint thinner. They also reported he had received treatment at a well-known mental hospital in Istanbul but did not give details of his state of mind.
Earlier that morning at St. Anthony church, one of Turkey’s best known and visible churches, at around 9:30 a.m. Akyol tried to pick a fight with a door guard by refusing to take off his cap, saying he couldn’t remove it because he was a Muslim.
In his confession to the prosecutor, Akyol said he looked into the eyes of the door guard and tried to decide whether to kill him, reported the daily Sabah. The guard had asked him to come out of the church with him, and Akyol followed him to the front steps where he attempted to open a debate about Islam and Christianity.
In the end, he reportedly said he decided not to kill the guard because “there was no light in his eyes.”
After his conversation with the guard, Akyol took his knife to a knife store and had it sharpened, according to police.
A member of St. Anthony church said that the community was upset.
“The community was a little bit shaken by what happened,” said the church member. “We realize that we are vulnerable, and that we must rely on God for our security. It is easy to be affected by fear when the motives and circumstances for this event are completely unclear.”
The church has hundreds and often thousands of visitors daily, and it is the first church that many Turks curious about Christianity visit.
Since 2006, five Christian men have been killed in Turkey because of their beliefs. The murders have been committed by men in their early twenties who said they were motivated by religious and nationalistic beliefs allegedly fanned by official elements and other influential figures said to be plotting to destabilize Turkey.
Media reported that according to police, Akyol carried a photo of the founder of the modern nation, Kemal Ataturk. On the back of the photo he had written: “I love my homeland. Those who disagree with my thoughts or don’t like them can get out of my country.”
Although last week’s murder does not seem to be related to the previous ones, St. Anthony’s community members are aware that their visibility could make them an easy target to those wanting to attack Christians or foreigners.
“St. Anthony’s would be an easy target for someone who would want to lash out at Christians, or even at foreigners, because often people view the church as a foreign institution,” said a member of the parish on the condition of anonymity.
The St. Anthony member asked for prayer that the community will “not be controlled by a spirit of fear, but continue to live out our very simple testimony with His incredible joy.”
Man of Prayer
In an interview with the daily Vatan, Kerkeling’s fiancée, Hatice Isik, said he was quite “religious” and prayed every day.
“First thing every morning, he would go to St. Anthony church in Taksim and pray,” she said, according to Vatan. “Sometimes we went together.”
Kerkeling was on his way to meet Isik at an area café after his prayers when he was stabbed. She and Kerkeling were planning on getting married in a few months.
Kerkeling’s body was sent to Germany on Friday (July 24).
Report from Compass Direct News