Bans on foreign Christian workers and rise in hate speech on social media worry Turkish Protestants
In Turkey, there are 186 local Protestant churches of various sizes, most run by local Christian workers.
A new report published in March by the Turkish Association of Protestant Churches shows that fewer than 15 Protestant churches are able to meet in their historic places of worship. About 120 churches gather to pray either in rented premises or in homes.
“Protestant communities train most of their religious leaders through their own internal learning method” for lack of access to the formal education system. “No progress regarding the right of Christians to train their own religious workers” has been made in recent months.
“A small percentage obtain training in theological schools abroad” and “some are able to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary for pastoral leadership through seminars organized in our country”.
The APC points out that “some Protestant congregations that had a foreign religious worker providing spiritual direction had serious difficulties because the foreign national was forced to leave the country due to the issuance of codes N-82 or G- 87 prohibiting entry into Turkey or the refusal of residence visas, a situation starting intensely in 2019 and continuing in 2021 even though the numbers decreased in 2021”.
The ACP is aware of 78 cases of foreign Christian workers who “have been deported, refused entry to Turkey or encountered problems in renewing their residence permits”. This affected more than a hundred of their relatives (mainly spouses or children), who also faced the decision to leave the country.
Cases of expulsion of foreign religious and members of congregations, refusal of entry into Turkey or refusal of residence permits and visas. / Source: 2021 Report on Protestant Community Rights Violations, Association of Protestant Churches.
Problems continued to be encountered “with respect to requests to establish a place of worship, to continue to use a facility for worship, or requests to use existing church buildings”. Churches continued to acquire legal status by creating religious foundations.
In this context, the Association of Protestant Churches underlined that Christians in Turkey place “great importance on freedom of religion and belief and strive to make these freedoms a reality for everyone, everywhere”.
In 2021, the Turkish Protestant Association has not been informed of physical attacks against Christians based solely on faith directed against Protestant Christians.
But they “saw an increase from the previous year in hate speech based solely on faith, as well as hate speech with the aim of inciting hatred in public opinion, both written and verbal, addressed to Protestant Christian individuals or institutions”. Many of these dangerous messages were spread on social media: “there has been a noticeable increase in hate speech filled with insults and profanity directed at official church accounts, church leaders , Christianity, Christian values and Christians in general”.
In addition, the report denounces, “in many cities where there are Protestant congregations, there have been reports that people claiming to be intelligence agents have offered to become informants to local Christians and refugees from people claiming to be intelligence agents. be intelligence agents who have used threats, promises, benefits or money to obtain information about Christians, churches, church activities and Christian organizations”. The ACP was able to confirm that at least 8 members of Protestant groups were offered to become informants in several cities.
But despite these “fundamental problems” and others, there is “in general, freedom of religion” in Turkey, concludes the ACP.
Protestants found no violation of the right to propagate religion in 2021 and their right to education was not violated.
The report concludes with a series of recommendations to authorities that understand. Among other things, the establishment of open communication channels with Protestant churches and “an effective and rapid monitoring mechanism” regarding intolerance in the media.
This story originally appeared on Evangelical Focus and is republished here with permission.