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ISTANBUL (ChurchMilitant.com) - Turkish officials are wielding their political clout and suggesting "holy wars" will soon break out across Europe.
The latest statements come from President Tayyip Erdogan, who on Friday called Turks living on the continuent "Europe's future," urging them to have "not just three but five children." Erdogan had previously exhorted Turks to have three children.
"From here I say to my citizens, I say to my brothers and sisters in Europe," he said, "Educate your children at better schools, make sure your family live in better areas, drive in the best cars, live in the best houses," said Erdogan in a televised speech from a city south of Istanbul.
The president's comments come just a day after Turkey's foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu warned European leaders that "religious wars" (or "holy wars") would soon envelop the continent.
"Where are you dragging Europe to?" Cavusoglu asked European leaders on Thursday. "You have begun to disintegrate Europe and take Europe to the cliff. Soon religious wars will begin in Europe."
The spat between Turkish and European leaders revolves around a Turkish referendum to be held in April. If it passes, the referendum will merge the positions of prime minister and president, giving Erdogan and his AKP Party greater authority. Erdogan, an Islamist who has spent his political career deconstructing Turkey's secular constitution, has been consolidating his power after a failed coup against him last summer.
About 2.5 million Turks living in Europe are eligible to vote in the referendum, and Erdogan has been wooing them. But disputes arose after Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte denied Cavusoglu entry into the Netherlands to attend a rally in support of the referendum on March 11. Cavusoglu had previously been allowed to campaign in France.
Turks within the small European nation responded to Rutte's decision with riots in Rotterdam and Amsterdam Saturday night. Erdogan went on the offensive, comparing the Dutch government to Nazis and blaming the Dutch for the Srebrenica massacre in 1995. Erdogan also cut off diplomatic talks with the Dutch on Monday and closed Turkey's airspace to their diplomats.
The ominous words from the Turks continued even after Rutte's center-right party, which has generally been accommodating to Muslim immigrants, fended off a challenge of populist, anti-Islam candidate Gheert Wilders in a general election Wednesday. Yet Cavusoglu derided any distinction between parties when speaking to European leaders Thursday, saying, "[W]hen you look at the many parties you see there is no difference between the social democrats and fascist Wilders."
Turkish leaders have lately been more brazen about flouting their political power in Europe. Turkey's Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu warned European leaders on Thursday it would "blow the mind" of Europe by sending 15,000 refugees a month onto the continent.
Erdogan also was successful in convincing German chancellor Angela Merkel to bring criminal defamation charges against a comedian who had written a poem critical of the Turkish president. The charges were later dropped.
Threats of religious war come at a time when some European Catholics are recognizing the dangers of modern Europe's secular lifestyle. Carlo Liberati, archbishop of Pompeii, recently predicted the pagan and secular lifestyle promoted in Europe would foster the rise of Islam.
"Parishes are the only thing still standing," said the archbishop. "We need a true Christian life. All this paves the way to Islam. In addition to this, they have children and we do not. We are in full decline."
"In 10 years we will all be Muslims because of our stupidity," he added.