Today, approximately 215 million Christians experience persecution, meaning that one in twelve Christians live where Christianity is “illegal, forbidden, or punished” and “Islamic extremism remains the global, dominant driver of persecution, responsible for initiating oppression and conflict,” according to the Christian watchdog group Open Doors.
And yet, Turkey’s minister of foreign affairs Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu recently criticized the European public, politicians and media for engaging in “extremist, anti-immigrant, xenophobic, and Islamophobic rhetoric of hate against Muslims.”
In its 2017 report on human rights violations, Turkey’s Association of Protestant Churches details Turkey’s systematic discrimination against its Protestant community, listing the hate crimes as well as verbal and physical attacks against Protestant Christians.
The Turkish government doesn’t even recognize the Protestant community as a “legal entity,” denying them the right to freely establish and maintain places of worship. Since their meeting places are not officially recognized as places of worship, they are often targeted and closed.
On September 5, for example, the Izmir Cigli Church was closed and sealed in response to negative press coverage concerning the church. Its sign, deemed offensive because it contained the word “church,” was removed.
Turkey’s Protestant community also faces discrimination in the training of their religious leaders. Current law prohibits the opening of religious training schools. Hence, the Protestant community relies on support of foreign church leaders.
However, the report notes that several foreign religious workers and church members were deported, denied entry into Turkey, refused residence permits, or denied entry visas last year.
Another serious problem is workplace discrimination. “Some Protestant community members who work as public officials in Izmir, Istanbul and Diyarbakir were told that because they were Christians and missionaries, their work contracts would not be renewed.”
On 18 April 2007, three Christian employees of the Zirve Bible Publishing House in Malatya were tortured and murdered by five Muslim assailants – a horrific crime which still haunts many Christians in Turkey.