The churches of three different branches of Christianity were subjected to apparently coordinated attacks over the last week while Orthodox Christians celebrated Holy Week and Easter. On Easter Sunday, May 5, shots were fired at an Armenian church and caused the congregation to flee in terror. On the wall of the church in the Kumkapi neighbourhood of Istanbul were found stickers demanding that the Hagia Sophia be re-opened as a mosque. Once the largest church in Christendom, the Hagia Sophia church was used as a mosque for several centuries following the Ottoman conquest of Constaninople (Istanbul) until it was forcibly converted into a museum by the the dictator Kemal Ataturk during the early 20th century. Of late, it has been a subject of controversy as Muslim fundamentalists demand that it be used for worship. Currently, there are seven million signatures appended to a petition to the government asking for the reversion.
The Sunday assault came after attacks on churches elsewhere in Turkey. The New Hope evangelical church in Atasehir was attacked on April 27 by a group of between thirty to forty individuals who surrounded the building, smashing windows and tearing down the sign identifying the church. The assailants tried to force open a door to the church and gain entry, but failed. The only member of the Christian congregation present at the site was a Finnish missionary, who is unhurt. The church had been open for only one week before the attack.
The Orthodox church of St. John on the Burgazada in the Sea of Marmara near Istanbul was attacked on the next day. In that case, approximately 18 young people assaulted the church. Once they gained entry, they destroyed furniture and other property inside the church. Residents of the island arrested the culprits themselves and turned them into local police. However, since they were minors, they were released. Witnesses claim that the alleged perpetrators were not known to be residents of the island. This led some observers to conclude that the teenagers had come expressly to vandalize the church.