|Persecution Type:||Islamic Oppression|
|Persecution Level:||Very High|
|Leader:||President Recep Tayyip Erdogan|
Over the last year, the situation in Turkey has deteriorated significantly for Christians as President Erdogan’s powers grow. Since July 2016’s failed coup, Erdogan’s government has dropped its mask of supporting democracy and now openly restricts freedom throughout society. The general opinion is that a true Turk must be a Sunni Muslim.
By trying to transform Turkey from a secular state into a Sunni Muslim one, Erdogan performs indirect acts of Christian persecution, leaving little space for minorities. As a result, religious nationalism continues to reach new heights. And Christian churches there try to maintain a low profile, especially after the two-year case of U.S. Pastor Andrew Brunson who was unjustly jailed and released in October 2018.
The very strong religious nationalism that permeates Turkish society puts significant pressure on Christians. Because leaving Islam is considered betrayal of Turkish identity, Islam and family, converts from Islam to Christianity face social opposition. Although conversion from Islam to Christianity is not legally forbidden, Christians definitely feel the squeeze. And that squeeze is tightening.
Converts face increasing pressure from their families and communities to return to Islam. As a result, Christians sometimes lead a double life and hide their conversion. If discovered, they may be threatened with divorce and loss of inheritance. Christians also have no access to state jobs and often experience discrimination in private employment.
In October 2018, U.S. Pastor Andrew Brunson was released from arrest after almost two years of imprisonment and four hearings. He was charged with terrorism and espionage and in the indictment was accused of “Christianization,” deemed a “hostile act.”
The training of Christian leaders is legally impossible, and it is extremely difficult to register as a new church, although small congregations can register as “associations.”
Missionaries to Turkey are under increasing scrutiny. In October, a Canadian-American Christian evangelist, serving as a Turkey missionary, was arrested and detained the morning after Brunson’s release. He was released and ordered to leave the country within 15 days after living and ministering 19 years in Turkey.
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