For Christians in Turkey, the last year has been filled with threats and attacks. Even though freedom of religion and belief is ‘secured under national and international laws and the constitutional authority in Turkey’, serious obstacles still violate the basic rights of the nation’s 6,000-7,000 Protestants – 80 percent of whom are from a Muslim background.
Believers face recurring hate crimes, physical attacks and ‘serious and widespread threats’. The negative incidents ranged from graffiti scrawled on a church in Balikesir to someone insulting and striking the leader of a Church in Ankara. Another attacker shot at the Torbali Baptist Church pastor in Izmir with a hunting rifle, as he worked in the fields at his family farm. Two weeks earlier, the Friday sermon from the nearby village mosque had broadcast hate speech from its loudspeakers, well within the pastor’s hearing.
Although complaints about these and other reported incidents were lodged with the police, the report noted, no action was taken.
Equally worrying, during August 2015, a campaign of vicious threats targeted some 20 church leaders from 15 Protestant congregations who received a barrage of text messages, Facebook posts and emails.
Although these death warnings were reported to the police, none of the pastors were given protection.
“We are being threatened. There are serious obstacles that keep us from expressing ourselves. We are unable to open places of worship. ‘You cannot live here’ is the message we are being sent. We expect the government to be more moderate toward us and open channels for dialogue.”
Pastor Ihsan Ozbek
Sources: Open Doors; World Watch Monitor
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