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ICC Note:
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.” The below article discusses both Turkey’s past violations of religious freedoms, including attacks on Christians, as well a recent survey of the country, which revealed 1/3 of polled Turkish Muslims openly object to the notion of having to bear a Christian as a neighbor.
By John L. Allen Jr.
06/07/2013 Turkey (NCR)- In the spotlight this week is Turkey, where burgeoning protests represent the strongest challenge to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan since his rise to power a decade ago. The opposition charges Erdogan with authoritarianism, demanding greater democracy, and there’s also fear that his Islamic-inspired regime is eroding the country’s secular identity.
From the outside, it’s tough to know whether the cure may be worse than the disease. Do the protestors represent the promise of positive change or something potentially more worrisome?
Here’s one acid test: whether they commit themselves to religious freedom, especially protection of Turkey’s tiny Christian community. 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.
In the early 20th century, the Anatolia region, traditionally one of the epicenters of Eastern Christianity, still had a Christian population of almost one and a half million. Today, there are just an estimated 150,000 Christians left in Turkey amid a population of 75 million that’s 97 percent Muslim.
Those Christians live with the daily burden of de jure and de facto discrimination. Emblematic is the Halki Seminary, once a premier Orthodox center of learning, which has been closed by state edict for more than 40 years. In 2009, Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople told “60 Minutes” that Turkey’s Christians are second-class citizens “crucified” by a state that wants to see them die out….
The extent to which an anti-Christian mentality grips Turkish society is evident from an EU-financed public opinion survey conducted in 2008. Among the findings:

  • One-third of Turkish Muslims would object to having a Christian as a neighbor.
  • More than half believe Christians should not be allowed to express their religious views in printed publication or in public meetings.
  • More than half are opposed to Christians serving in the army, security services, police force and political parties.
  • Just under half believe Christians should not be allowed to work in health services.

As John Eibner, CEO of Christian Solidary International, observed in 2011, “The road from such views to outright discrimination and a heightened threat of violence is very short indeed.”

[Full Article]