Turkish Promises to Restore Churches Fall Short

11/16/2019 Turkey (International Christian Concern) – During a press conference at the White House, Turkish President Erdogan promised that his country would restore damaged Syrian churches along the border. This promises comes nearly two months after Turkey launched Operation Peace Spring into northeastern Syria, a violent military incursion that sparked a new wave of ethnic and religious cleansing in the region.

Turkey’s history with church construction and restoration is complicated. Within Turkey, it is nearly impossible to construct an officially recognized church. This is because the legal system has no framework on how to handle these kinds of requests, forcing many churches to register as associations or foundations. Turkey has a longer history of vandalizing, confiscating, and desecrating historic churches rather than repairing them. These problems continue within Turkey to this day.

This lack of respect for churches has also been on display during their military operations into Syria. Just two weeks ago, reports circulated that Turkish jihadist proxies attacked an Armenian church in Tel Abyad. The church was completely vandalized and desecrated. Another report indicated that a church in Brad village was significantly destroyed by Turkish soldiers, who this past September turned it into a military base, vandalized it, and stole several items.

If Turkey was truly serious about rebuilding churches in Syria, the government would not waste resources destroying them. The government should also seek to resolve issues within their own legal framework which prevent churches from fully operating within Turkey.

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