Map reflects the 30 most recent Persecution Reports. Click HERE
for the Map Legend.
Saturday, April 19th, 2014
Friday, April 18th marked the seventh anniversary of the brutal murders of three Christians at the Zirve Publishing house in Malatya, Turkey. On April 18, 2007, two Turkish men, Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel, and one German national, Tillman Geske, were brutally tortured and killed at the Christian publishing house in eastern Turkey. The five men responsible for their murders have not been convicted and are currently out of prison.
Tuesday, April 15th, 2014
The trial of the five men accused of killing three Christians in Central Turkey has been postponed again. The murders took place on April 18, 2007, seven years ago this week, and after 92 hearings and some 100,000 pages of court documents the trial has not yet concluded. The killing of these three Christians has been connected to other political events and alleged coup plots that has added increasing complexity to the issue. In a strange twist, the five accused and confessed killers are currently out of prison because of a change in the amount of time that an individual can be held without a conviction, the regulation was reduced from ten years to 5 years.
Tuesday, March 25th, 2014
Latest reports out of Syria show rebels from the Al-Qaeda linked al-Nusra Front have captured a number of Christian villages on the Turkish border. The villages were home to more than 670 Armenian Christian families. Many of these were evacuated to other cities before the forces arrived, some who did not make it out in time were taken captive. During the assault at least three churches were desecrated, according to witnesses. For months Christians have feared about their fate if militant Islamic groups take control of more areas.
Wednesday, March 19th, 2014
Due to a recent change in the judicial system, the suspects in the brutal murder of three Christians in central Turkey are currently out of prison. The law now limits the amount of time that a suspect can be held without being convicted. The murders took place nearly seven years ago and the court case has been repeatedly delayed as it has been entangled with other corruption and conspiracy theories. The five are still being monitored and a decision is expected to be rendered on their case in the coming months.
Monday, March 10th, 2014
Nearly seven years after the brutal murder of three Christians in central Turkey the five accused suspects have been released. As the case has now stretched on and on without a conviction due to various procedural issues and connection to a larger plot, the five were released due to a new law shortening the amount of time that an individual can be held prior to their conviction from 10 years to five years. The case is still on-going with a verdict scheduled to be rendered on April 10th. Christians throughout the country have been concerned for their safety and it again highlights their insecure place in Turkish society.
Thursday, March 6th, 2014
“If the decision is taken today, tomorrow I am ready to host the first class,” said the Archbishop of a Turkish seminary that has been closed for more than 40 years. The Theological School of Halki has been a victim of the internal politics of Turkey, as well as its foreign relations with neighboring Greece. Without a school to train future clergy the Orthodox Christian community is struggling to replace its aging leadership.
Wednesday, March 5th, 2014
As a result of changes to the Turkish judicial system, five murder suspects from the brutal killing of three Christians in central Turkey in 2007 may be set free. The new law reduces the number of years that a suspect can be held without conviction from ten years to five years. Now, nearly seven years since the murder, these men may be freed while the court case continues to drag on. The proceedings in the case have been far from smooth with the case being connected to larger conspiracy plots in the country. While the current judge in the case hopes to conclude the case by summer, it may once again be extended.
Tuesday, March 4th, 2014
The Turkish political system is in the midst of massive upheaval with corruption scandals, investigations, and elections all occurring within the span of a few months. In the midst of that a law was adopted that includes provisions to increase the protections of an individual’s religious beliefs. The full impact or implementation of the law is far from clear, but it may prove beneficial for the Christian minority which regularly struggles to achieve full participation in civil society.
Saturday, March 1st, 2014
For Syrian Christians forced to flee the conflict in Syria, Turkey has become a safe haven for many. The intriguing thing is that for many the flight from Syria to Turkey has been a retracing of the steps their ancestors took nearly 100 years ago. Eastern Turkey was once the homeland of hundreds of thousands of Syriac and Armenian Christians. Many of these groups were forced south into modern day Syria. As they have returned back some of them are now living in the same villages that they grew up hearing spoken about by their grandparents.
Thursday, February 27th, 2014
A large amount of land has now been officially returned to the Syriac Church community in Eastern Turkey. The process of recovering the land that is part of a still-active, 1,700 year old monastery has been a long and arduous one. At a time when many Syriac Christians across the border into northern Syria are facing intense hostilities, this comes as a bit of welcome news and may open the door for some of these families to resettle near the monastery.
Wednesday, February 19th, 2014
Christians face a rising level of religious freedom around the world, and especially in the Middle East. Two recent studies from respected research organizations, Pew Forum and Open Doors, have highlighted the massive scale of the issue. Many are pushing for the United States to make the protection of religious minorities a core part of foreign policy, which the administration says that it already is. The problem has been in the failure to back the rhetoric with action. While there are political issues involved, it is imperative that the positions that exist to protect religious minorities be quickly filled if the United States is to have any credibility behind its claims to be a defender of religious freedom.
Friday, February 14th, 2014
Lawmakers listened to testimony from experts and religious leaders highlighting the persecution of Christians that is rampant across the Middle East. As a representative from the Vatican stated, Arab Christians “find themselves the target of constant harassment for no reason other than their religious faith.” The United States has an important role to play in leading the conversation to find solutions to religiously based discrimination and persecution.
Thursday, February 13th, 2014
Religious minorities in Turkey have again raised attention to the challenges they face due to governmental restrictions. Most Christians and non-Sunni Muslim religious groups lack any legal status, preventing them from carrying out basic tasks like owning property, opening a bank account, providing formal education, and training and selecting religious leaders. Some positive steps have been taken in recent months, but there are larger structural issues that need to be addressed.
Thursday, January 16th, 2014
In the days surrounding Christmas, a number of organizations staged protests throughout Istanbul denouncing the celebration of Christmas and New Year’s as unislamic and furthering drawing people away from their faith and making them susceptible to missionary activities. What became more disturbing was that the demonstrations contained the stabbing and attacking of effigies symbolizing Christianity. In a country that has seen violent attacks on Christians within the past decade, largely motivated by campaigns similar to this, it is extremely worrisome. It also highlights the double standard present in Turkish society when people have charges regularly brought against them for “insulting religious feelings” for things such as retweeting a 13th C. poem, yet a staged public protest actively encouraging violent opposition against Christianity goes unaddressed.
Thursday, January 9th, 2014
A new report documenting the status of freedom of religion in Turkey has just been released. The Freedom of Belief Initiative monitors the status of rights and provides insight into where the abuses are taking place. As the report states: “it is of great importance for Turkey to formulate a policy to efficiently protect all aspects of the right to freedom of belief, as guaranteed under international human rights standards, in a way that ensures neutrality and pluralism.
Wednesday, December 25th, 2013
Slowly across the Western world we are seeing more and more political and thought leaders awake to the reality of Christian persecution, and the massive scale on which it is taking place across the Middle East. The horrific abuses have been largely ignored for a number of reasons from “political correctness,” fear of “doing God” in public, or taking sides in some sort of “clash of civilizations.” None of these, even if they were accurate, are justification for allowing massive crimes against humanity to take place with near total impunity and with little outcry from those countries who claim to be the defenders of human rights.
Wednesday, December 18th, 2013
The violence facing Christians in Syria has caused some of them to leave behind their homes and flee to Turkey. In the city of Mardin, near the Syrian border there are some 100 families who are being supported. ICC has worked with this group to provide food, blankets, and heaters. These basics are no replacement for the life they left behind. The on-going violence, however, makes it unlikely that they will be able to return anytime soon.
Tuesday, December 17th, 2013
In the second such incident within the past six months, a foreign Christian has been blacklisted and effectively banned from the country of Turkey. David Byle, Chairman of the Bible Correspondence Course, has opened a court case against the government to appeal the ruling and have his name removed from the blacklist. Byle, has lived in Turkey since 1999, has been forced to leave behind his wife and five children while he attempts to re-apply for permission to live in Turkey. There have been between 5-10 families who have faced similar experiences over the past few years, said Umut Sahin of the Alliance of Protestant Churches.
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.