The Silent Suppression of Christians in Turkey

September 3, 2019

This article does not mention the most egregious instance of the suppression of Christians in Turkey: the Turkish government’s ongoing mistreatment of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The Ecumenical Patriarchate, the center of Orthodox Christianity worldwide, still has no legal status or right to own property in Turkey, and a staggering number of its properties have been confiscated by the state. The Halki Theological School, the sole Orthodox seminary in Turkey, was forcibly closed by the Turkish government in 1971 and remains closed.

The Order once again notes with sorrow that the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF)’s 2018 Annual Report, which documents violations of religious freedom around the world, has again included Turkey among its Tier 2 violators — that is, countries where religious freedom violations are systematic, ongoing, and/or egregious. The Order reiterates our hope that the international human rights community will direct its attention to the plight of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and of all Christians and other religious minorities in Turkey, and that the Turkish government will heed the repeated calls to grant full religious freedom to its embattled Christian minority.

“The Silent Suppression of Christians in Turkey,” Mission Box, August 29, 2019:

The once widely heralded agenda of Kemal Ataturk to establish a democratic, secular republic is now a fading memory. The administration of Recep Erdogan is, in the words of an Istanbul pastor, “neither a democracy nor a secular republic,” and that “there is no division between government affairs and religious affairs.”

Turkey’s minority Christian population is regarded as “a grave threat” to Turkey’s national stability. This is a particularly odd situation because, according to International Christian Concern, no more than 0.2 percent of Turkey’s total population are Christians and Jews. That is hardly a complement with enough strength to be a grave threat to a nation of 84.2 million people – even if that were the Christian agenda.

Yet Turkish government activities seem to evidence its concern and its determination to promote and preserve the country as entirely Sunni Muslim.

  • In 2001 Protestant missionaries were recognized as the third-largest threat to the security of Turkey. Several years later, a Turkish magazine warned that the purpose of Christian missionaries is to “divide the country, undermine its unity, and make Turkish citizens tools of their dark ambitions.”
  • Turkish people are taught that Christians’ first loyalty is to Western thought and culture and is, therefore, opposed to the Turkish state.
  • Classroom education in Turkey now includes required courses that paint jihad in the colors of patriotism. Turkey’s education minister introduced the curriculum during the 2017-2018 school year, declaring that “Loving your nation is the real meaning of jihad.”
  • The element of jihad is woven into the educational system where students are taught a worldview that Turkey has no friends, nor is there any country that desires for Turkey to be strong again….