Protestant Churches Association released “Violations of Right Report 2016”. Attacks and hate speech against Christians and churches continue. Churches are at serious risk.
of Right Report 2016 reveals that attacks and hate speech against
churches and religious officials continue and nothing changed about
the obstacles to freedom of belief.
According to the report, as part of the operations carried out in the last year, Protestant religious officials have been regarded as “threat against national security” and some of them have been deported.
Church leaders are threat against “national security”
On August 26, 2016, Patric Jansen, the leader of Antep Church, wasn't allowed to enter Turkey because of "threat against national security". Andrew Craig Brunson, the leader of İzmir Resurrection Church, was detained to be deported and kept in a repatriation center for 64 days. His request of leaving the country voluntarily was denied and he was arrested on December 9 on the charge of being a member of Gulenist organization.
Ryan Keating, affiliated to Ankara Salvation Church, was leaving Turkey on October 8 for attending a conference abroad. In the airport, he was informed that his residence permit is canceled because of "threat against national security" and he won't be able to return to Turkey. Keating got a visa and wanted to enter Turkey on October 17, because his family is in Turkey. However, he wasn't allowed.
The report also reminds that there has been news articles reporting that the Bible is found in some houses and shelters during the police operations: “Reporting that the Bible is found in some shelters of terrorists, presenting the Bible as an organizational document, mentioning it in official statements and covering it in media caused deep sorrow for our community. Some people left Turkey voluntarily and this process still continues.”
It is also pointed out that the number of social media messages targeting the churches are increasing.
Hate speech goes unpunished
According to data that Kemal Göktaş got from the report; billboard ads, posters, pamphlets targeting the celebration of Christmas and New Year, and especially the protest during which a gun was put to head of Santa Clause raised concerns. The report also criticizes the fact that legal and public authorities haven't reacted against such hate campaigns.
Exemption from the religion lesson is harder
The report also includes the obstacles to freedom of belief in Turkey and problems in education system. According the report, the right to be exempted from the religion lesson is becoming increasingly harder. Christians students who have to declare their belief for being exempted from the lesson are abused by other students and told to convert to Islam.
Church was given and then taken back
According İsmail Saymaz from Hürriyet, Yalova Municipal Council decided to take back the church of around 1000 Protestants.
According to the report, the Municipal Council anonymously approved the land and building owned by Lighthouse Church as a place of worship on January 6, 2016. However, a member of the council objected the decision later. In the second voting, the former decision was reversed anonymously.
The report also covers the attacks against Protestants.
February 14, 2016: In Adana, flowers were handed out in front of the church on the occasion of Valentine's Day. A group came to the church, protesting and posing threats.
February 25: A group broke the surveillance camera of Samsun Protestant Church and tried to enter the church. The attackers were caught 4 days later. A lawsuit was launched against them on the charge of damage to property and a place of worship.
March 31: As a precaution for possible ISIS attacks, police tightened the protection measures toward all churches and Protestant institutions in Turkey, especially the Protestant church in Ankara and Radio Shema.
July 16: A couple of people who took advantage of the chaos caused by the coup attempt broke the windows of Malatya Church.
November 22: Pastor of the Protestant Church in Çanakkale was threatened over the phone.