Protestants in Turkey live under threat – report

From hate speech on media to attacks on churches, Turkey’s protestants live under threat, according to a report by the Turkish Protestant Churches Association.

Local media portrays the churches as foreign agents, or claim they are linked to “terrorist organisations,” and such provocative news items increase the number of attacks on churches, Turkish left-leaning Cumhuriyet newspaper quoted the report as saying.

The negative media portrayals also increase the restrictions imposed on Protestant churches by local administrations, it said, while courts and outlets reject churches' right to make their case.

The report noted the anti-Christmas campaigns affected religious ceremonies for all of Turkey’s Christians, but also listed specific threats and attacks on churches:

  • In Istanbul, Izmir and Samsun provinces, local administrators shut down meeting halls used by churches, the signboards of church buildings were removed by the local police.
  • An association in Istanbul was given notice that it was being shut down for “holding religious ceremonies on Sunday and having translations of the Bible in its offices.”
  • A church in the western province of Balıkesir was tagged with pro-Islam slogans, a group calling themselves the “Turkish Islamic Union” hung notices on its door and removed the church’s signboard, a threating letter was sent to the church including the name of the cleric, and unknown assailants broke the windows of the cleric’s house.
  • The pastor of Izmir’s Karşıyaka Church was deported after living in Turkey for nine years.
  • Many foreign national Protestants living in Turkey were deported, or their residency applications were not renewed, and they were asked to leave Turkey.
  • After the arrest of Izmir’s Diriliş Church pastor, U.S. citizen Andrew Brunson, many Protestants left Turkey.