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02/23/2021 Turkey (International Christian Concern) –  A new 2020 report produced annually by the Association of Protestant Churches (TeK) highlights the challenges of Protestant Christians in Turkey over the past year and the various human rights and religious freedom violations they experienced.

COVID-19 pandemic implications, such as lockdowns and increased government regulations of citizen’s movement, meant that some normal benchmarks were unable to be analyzed in the same way. According to the report, there was significantly less violent harassment, hate speech, and physical attacks on Christians and churches. The key issues for Protestants in Turkey are the status, formation, and legality of churches and the spiritual development and growth of Christian leaders. The report states that a lack of clarity about the status of churches caused significant confusion when following COVID-19 guidelines.

Since Protestant churches cannot claim the same type of historical heritage as traditional Christianity, they experience greater difficulty finding spaces to meet legally. The vast majority of the 182 fellowships of the Association of Protestant Churches met in rented spaces. In addition, the ability of Protestant churches to gain legality by forming associations became more difficult in 2020 after Turkey changed its regulations. As a result, there has been an increase in churches forming religious foundations as they attempt to operate legally.

The second key issue for Turkey’s Christian community is the deportation and denial of entry of foreign church leaders, also highlighted in ICC’s joint Turkey Report. Opportunities for theological training are limited within Turkey, so the Christian community is often reliant on Turkish pastors who are able to receive training outside the country or foreign-born pastors who come to aid the local church. As Turkey continues to deport foreign Christians based solely on their faith, the health of the local church is threatened. Even Turkish citizens are being forced to leave when the government targets their non-Turkish spouse. In most cases, the spouse has little direct involvement with the church and is being punished for the Christian activities of a church elder.

For interviews, please contact Alison Garcia: [email protected]