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Religious Freedom Continues to Erode in Turkey Through the Deportation of Religious Minorities

05/09/2019 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that on May 9, 2019, a foreign Christian pastor was deported from Turkey without official reason.

Mike Platt lived in Turkey for 21 years and volunteers as a pastor at Kadıköy International Church in Istanbul. He left the country on April 2 and was informed by passport control that an entry ban was issued. The ban was confirmed on May 8, when Mike attempted to reenter the country. Turkish authorities deported him this morning after holding him overnight at the airport. This incident happened just two months after a different volunteer at the church was issued a reentry ban with no reason given.

The Turkish government does not recognize the right of Christians to train their own religious workers. For this reason, many pastors are foreign Christians. Platt’s deportation follows an ever increasing trend of the government banning foreign Christians from entering the country.

According to the 2018 Human Rights Violations Report prepared by Turkey’s Association of Protestant Churches, “There was no movement forward in 2018 in regards to protecting the rights of Christians to train their own religious workers… In recent years, more than 50 foreign Protestant families have had to leave our country.”

Uzay Bulut, a Turkish journalist, said, Christian clergymen in Turkey have for decades been targeted and demonized by the Turkish media and politicians of various ideologies. This widespread phenomenon has two main causes: Islam’s doctrinal hatred of Christians and Turkey’s paranoia of losing its lands.” 

“Turkey’s violent hostility to Christianity is in violation of the international human rights treaties that Turkey has signed and of the fundamentals of the European Union (EU), of which Turkey claims to want to be a member of. But because Turkey has never been held responsible for its extremely dire violations against free speech and religious liberty, the Turkish government continues persecuting Christian believers in Turkey,” she continued.   

Historically, modern Turkey is the backdrop for most of the New Testament. The genocidal policies of the Ottoman Era were directed against Christians, effectively eliminating the presence of believers, and the Church has struggled to heal. In a country of 81 million, today less than 0.2% are Christians.

“Christianity started in Turkey… We want to continue as Christians,” said one Turkish believer. “Please, pray for us. It’s the darkest place in the world. And it’s very dark. It’s like an ocean, no light here… Please pray for the Church in Turkey.”

Claire Evans, ICC’s Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, “Turkey may label itself as a modern secular republic, but its policies toward religious minorities are a continuation of the Ottoman Empire. Restrictions against the local training of church leaders and the deportation of foreign pastors are part of the government’s policy to meddle with internal religious affairs. The government does not want a reemergence of Christianity within Turkey. They must be held accountable for their religious freedom violations.”

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