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Turkey: New School Text Book Encourages Religious Discrimination

12/12/08 Turkey (Christian Solidarity Worldwide) – Turkey’s Ministry of Education has introduced a school text book which encourages discrimination of the country’s small Christian community, despite growing international concern over increasing violence against non-Muslims in Turkey.

The book, Primary Education, History of Republic Reforms and Atatürkizm, Lesson Book 8, is aimed at thirteen year olds and was published this year by Devlet [State] Books.The controversial text describes missionary activity as a threat to national unity by destroying national and cultural values through converting people to another religion. The text accuses missionaries of using natural disasters, such as earthquakes, to serve their own interests and warns children of the subversive aims of missionaries as well as tips on how to recognize their activities.

A spokesperson for the Alliance of Protestant Churches of Turkey said: “To the Turkish State and society, the words ‘missionary activity’ encapsulates not only the work of foreign missionaries, but all Christian activity in the country. The state and various groups have for years, through endless disinformation, spread the belief that Turkish Christians are part of a secret foreign plot to destroy Turkey. This is the same twisted mindset that has led to numerous attacks on our churches by young people who are convinced that we are CIA agents or similar”.

Local Christian communities form less than one per cent of Turkey’s population of 70 million people. Concerns are growing that the education system is further marginalising the indigenous Christian population.

CSW’s Advocacy Director Alexa Papadouris said: “We are deeply concerned over the destructive content of this compulsory school text book. It is extremely distressing to see that the Turkish Government has not taken proactive steps to address increasing attacks on Christians, but instead continues to promulgate disinformation about the small Christian community. CSW calls on the European Union to urge the Turkish authorities to respect and promote religious freedom for all, at every level in Turkish society, particularly in the media and in educational material. Moreover, we call on the European Union to continue to address with Turkey the issue of violent attacks against religious minorities, seeking guarantees that the perpetrators of violence will be brought to justice through the courts in accordance with due process of law.”