Map reflects the 30 most recent Persecution Reports. Click HERE
for the Map Legend.
Friday, December 6th, 2013
One of Turkey’s most famous landmarks is at the center of a controversy that highlights the fragile position of the country’s Christian community. Statements from Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arinç, who oversees policy towards historical buildings once owned by religious minorities, has indicated “the days of a mosque being a museum are over.” The Orthodox community has raised serious concerns about what this means for the church that for more than 900 years was Christendom’s most important church, before it was converted to a mosque following the conquering of Constantinople by the Ottoman Turks. Since 1935 it has been a museum, but what it will be in the future is now unclear.
Wednesday, December 4th, 2013
The declining rights of Turkey’s historical Christian community has witnessed another loss as the Stoudios monastery in Istanbul is likely to be restored, but as a mosque, not as a Christian site. There have been previous reports indicating that even the Hagia Sophia, the most prominent church may be transformed from a museum to a mosque.
Wednesday, November 27th, 2013
The largest Byzantium monastery in Istanbul, previously part of the Hagia Sophia Museum complex is scheduled to be re-opened as a mosque following the completion of renovations next year. Controversy has been swirling following the comments of high ranking ministers about the fate of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul itself. Already two smaller Hagia Sophia churches have been reconverted to mosques in smaller cities throughout Turkey. These moves highlight the greater visibility of Islam within society, as well as the struggle for full recognition of the rights of Turkey’s Christian minorities.
Thursday, November 21st, 2013
Following a meeting with the leaders of churches across the Middle East Pope Francis spoke out calling for the church to support the continued existence of the church in areas that have increasingly become hostile to Christians. “We will not resign ourselves to imagining a Middle East without Christians,” Pope Francis said. This further highlights the work that is necessary to support the church and to address the political and cultural dynamics that are driving their exodus and in some cases martyrdom.
Wednesday, November 20th, 2013
The story of the Halki Seminary, located on an island just off the coast of Istanbul remains at the center of the continuing battle for greater religious freedoms for Turkish Christians. The seminary was closed as part of educational restructuring in the 1970s and has remained closed since, leaving the country’s Greek Orthodox community without a means of training its clergy. The seminary was rumored to be part of a reform package announced by Turkish PM Erdoğan but was not included, and has since been part of politicking with Greece for greater recognition for Muslims. The House Subcommittee approved the resolution calling on Erdoğan to put actions to words.
Tuesday, November 19th, 2013
As the dangers for Syria’s Christian community continue to rise many of them are fleeing the country. In Eastern Turkey there has been an influx of Syriac Christians who have left their homes behind due to fears of kidnapping, rape and executions. While the Christians have not been the sole targets of the horrors taking place inside of Syria, their identity as a non-Muslim religious group often sets them apart for particular targeting and persecution.
Monday, November 18th, 2013
A Pastor in the northern province of Samsun, Turkey was arrested and accused of involvement in a human trafficking and prostitution ring. Pastor Orhan Picaklar and his church have been active in the assistance of many refugees and others in need. The pastor was implicated based on an anonymous telephone complaint. Pastor Orhan has repeatedly faced death threats, and has been provided a bodyguard as protection by the state. At the court hearing Pastor Orhan’s bodyguard testified on his behalf and the case was thrown out, the “scandal,” however, is seen as an attempt to further discredit and damage the testimony of the church.
Saturday, November 16th, 2013
Some of Turkey’s Armenian population is beginning to open up and speak about their past and the injustices and persecution they have suffered because of their Christianity and ethnic identity. Despite the fact that much of the past dates back nearly 100 years, it is only now becoming acceptable for many of these people to speak openly about their heritage. This change indicates some significant progress in the terms of rights for religious minorities, but it is also shedding light on how deeply the discrimination against Christians has been ingrained in society.
Tuesday, October 15th, 2013
In the latest “democratization package” there was not any progress made towards the reopening of the Greek Orthodox Theological School of Halki. This school which had been a central training site for Eastern Orthodox Christianity has become a symbolic representation of the rights of Turkey’s Christian minority and a bargaining chip in the complicated dynamics of Turkey-Greece diplomatic relations. While there have been some occasional improvements in the status of minority rights for Turkey’s Christian community, there is still an absence of a truly robust religious freedom.
Friday, October 4th, 2013
The latest package of democratic reforms announced by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan made progress on a number of issues, but also left many religious minorities disappointed at changes that were not made. The most striking absences were the Halki Seminary belonging to the Orthodox Church and the lack of recognition for the worship houses of the Alevis.
Thursday, October 3rd, 2013
There has been a steady increase in the number of direct attacks on Christians because of their faith. In many places it has been a result of greater influence from radical Islamic groups that has been the impetus for what is an attempt at religious cleansing to create an Islamic state. In other places it is the result of government restrictions on religion that lead to severe repression of rights and imprisonment as a result of exercising fundamental rights of religion and belief. Unfortunately, this is a trend that has largely escaped the eye of many in the public and there is a need for greater engagement by both the general public and decision makers to protect minority communities.
Tuesday, October 1st, 2013
Prime Minister Erdoğan announced a long awaited “democratization package” that included significant steps forward on a number of issues, including the rights for minorities. The package returned land to the Christian community that had been part of an on-going dispute. The package did not, however, include any developments in relation to the reopening the Halki Orthodox seminary. The reopening of the seminary has been a symbolic marker of the rights of the Christian minority.
Thursday, September 26th, 2013
Now six years removed from the brutal murders of three Christians in Malatya, Turkey, new evidence has been uncovered that provides additional support to the belief that the killings were part of a larger plot. The documents are believed to show that the murders were part of a network within the Turkish military and security forces that was aimed at discrediting Turkey's ruling AKP party and creating the feeling of instability in the country.
Saturday, September 7th, 2013
The Syrian civil war has created a massive refugee problem with more than 2 million having fled into neighboring countries. For these individuals and families there is a struggle for life to remain some sense of normalcy, including relationships and starting marriages. Many of the Christians from Syria have stayed out of refugee camps which they fear will turn into an open air prison. The local Christian community has attempted to open their doors to these refugees, but it has put a large strain on the churches.
Wednesday, August 28th, 2013
In a city that was once the center of Christianity, Christians continue to struggle to maintain a presence in Istanbul. Turkish Christians have faced a battle to remain part of society though they are often treated as second-class citizens. Their rights are often granted or withheld on the whims of a particular official. While it has often been Turkish Nationalism or Islamic ideals that have threatened Christians, a more recent threat is the booming construction sector that is posed to destroy some of the city’s historic church buildings.
Tuesday, August 13th, 2013
A monastery in Southeastern Turkey was assaulted by a group of Muslims on Sunday. The altercation began when a group was trying to visit the monastery but arrived after the close of visiting hours. The group of visitors started to threaten and abuse the staff at the monastery. It is unclear if this was just a simple argument or if there will be more severe repercussions.
Monday, August 12th, 2013
In the midst of the civil war in Syria that has taken more than 100,000 lives, Syria’s 2 million Christians are in an extremely dangerous position. Under President al-Assad the situation had been stable, who himself from a minority had not wanted to lose the support of minorities. The opposition to Assad had begun as a movement for greater freedoms and rights but has been largely co-opted by militant Islamist groups including ties to radical extremists. This has led to a purging of non-Sunni’s from many rebel controlled areas. For the Christians it has left them with nowhere to turn, and even those who have fled Syria still are in fear of targeting because they are Christians.
Monday, August 12th, 2013
Amidst the hundreds of thousands of refugees who have fled the violence in Syria, some Christians have made their way to Turkey and provided a welcome boost in attendance for the small churches in the region. Eastern Turkey was once home to a vibrant Christian community, but the last 100 years witnessed a massive exodus of Christians from the region. While the situation that led to the influx of Christians into Turkish churches is something no one would desire, it has brought a new vitality to the community for both leaders and congregants alike.
Friday, August 9th, 2013
Turkey was once home to a diverse population that included millions of Christians. Much of that community left or was forced out of the country over the past 100 years. Life has been extremely challenging for those who have attempted to return home “to live on our own soil.” They have faced legal challenges in relation to property rights and citizenship issues. Also, the social pressures against them as both a religious and ethnic minority have led to harassment and in some cases violence.
Thursday, August 8th, 2013
Trabzon’s Hagia Sophia church is the latest victim in the efforts to reassert the place of Islam in public square. The church which is located on Turkey’s northeastern Black Sea coast is not as famous as its sister church in Istanbul but is amazing in its own right. The battle over how the building is to be used has been ongoing for decades, but the latest court decision has sealed its fate, at least for now. The most concerning aspect is this debate is being framed in the language of “conquest” and the triumph of Islam over Christianity which raises major concerns over the democratic and secular nature of the Turkish republic.
Wednesday, August 7th, 2013
Non-Turkish minorities in Turkey have long struggled with being viewed as second-class citizens in the country. A series of recent documents reveals that there has been a system in place since the founding of the Republic in 1923 that has classified the country’s minorities. The system was revealed when a child’s application to an Armenian kindergarten was held up pending a document confirming her status as a minority. The investigation is still ongoing into what these “race codes” mean and exactly how they have been implemented over the years. It is just another question mark about whether Turkey is able to provide full rights to all of its citizens or not.
Monday, July 29th, 2013
While legally Turkey professes religious freedom in practice these rights are often greatly infringed. Turkey has made it extremely difficult for its religious minorities to provide training for religious leadership. The result has been that many religious communities are dwindling. In the most recent example an American who has lived and volunteered at a church in SE Turkey for 12 years was blacklisted as a threat to national security and barred entry into the country.
Sunday, July 28th, 2013
A 13th Century Byzantine church was recently converted into a mosque and became the site of prayers marking the holy month of Ramadan. The Hagia Sophia in Trabzon, Turkey is a smaller “sister church” of the more famous Hagia Sophia in Istanbul which is currently a museum. The battle over the church/mosque is viewed by some as another symbolic battle between Secularists and Islamists in Turkey. The decision drew some condemnation by locals in Trabzon a city known for its strong nationalist views. Some criticized it as part of a plan to further erase the country’s Christian past.
Thursday, July 18th, 2013
Bartholomew I, the head of Turkey’s Eastern Orthodox Community, expressed support for those who are calling for greater democracy and justice in Turkish society, particularly as this relates to the country’s ethnic and religious minorities. These groups have endured discrimination and quite a lot of suffering he said. He also expressed his concern for two Syrian Bishops who remain missing.
Monday, July 15th, 2013
Turkey’s constitution is based upon a principle of secularism, but the actual meaning and application of this principle has been extremely controversial. A recent decision by the Constitutional Court has again provided a new interpretation of what secularism should mean. In application this new law has the potential to further increase government involvement in religion and depending on the government policies this could lead to further protection of religious freedoms or to additional restrictions.
Wednesday, July 10th, 2013
Blasphemy and defamation of religion laws continue to repress the Christian faith in countries across the world. Known for inciting violence, accusations and prosecutions on the basis of blasphemy or religious defamation have proven detrimental to the free exercise of religion and harmful to minority Christian communities throughout the world. Social hostilities, advanced by cultures of impunity, continue to pose a serious threat to Christians worldwide.
Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013
Christians fleeing the Middle East dates back long before the Arab Spring. The small, illegitimate state of Northern Cyprus has been occupied by Turkey since 1974. Since then, a once 200,000-strong Christian community has left. Religious persecution continues to darken the Middle East, and the Christian exodus continues.
Thursday, June 20th, 2013
With riots and the Islamization of Turkey in the foreground, the future of Hagia Sophia—which was once Christianity’s greatest Cathedral—has quietly been questioned in the background. First a Christian Cathedral, and now a museum, Hagia Sophia is on its way to becoming a mosque. “According to Hurriyet Daily News, “A parliamentary commission is considering an application by citizens to turn the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul into a mosque…. A survey conducted with 401 people was attached to the application, in which more than 97 percent of interviewees requested the transformation of the ancient building into a mosque and afterwards for it to be reopened for Muslim worship.”
Wednesday, June 12th, 2013
“Experts say a society's treatment of religious minorities is a reliable bellwether for its human rights record across the board, and the situation facing Christians in Turkey offers a compelling case in point.” This article discusses some of the past violations of religious freedoms and attacks on Christians as well a recent survey of the country which revealed that 1/3 of Turkish Muslims would object to having a Christian as a neighbor.
Saturday, June 8th, 2013
It seems the effects of Islamization in Turkey have reached a tipping point, as is evidenced by the recent protests in the streets. It is increasingly difficult to be a Christian, as this young man found when his friends disapproved of his choice of spouse. In this article he shares about the beating he received from police and the threats they made to “rape his Christian wife.”