Turkey’s president claims country has “no problems” with religious minorities
Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, declared that Turkey has “no problems” with religious minorities, after historic Christian communities released a joint statement that authorities allow them to freely practice their beliefs.
Human rights observers argue that Protestant Christians in Turkey continue to face hate speech, threats and violence.
On 31 July, representatives of 18 minority religious groups in Turkey signed a joint statement which declared, “As religious representatives of ancient communities with different religions and beliefs, which have been in this country for centuries, we hereby declare that we are practicing our religions in accordance with our traditions and are practicing our beliefs freely.”
Signatories included representatives of the Armenian and Syriac Orthodox churches. There has been speculation that the joint statement may have been the product of pressure from Erdogan’s government.
Historic Christian communities still face discrimination in Turkey, including property seizures, although in May 2018 Turkish authorities returned nearly 50 church properties seized from the Syriac Orthodox Church.
Protestant Christians are particularly targeted. The Association of Protestant Churches recorded an increase in hate speech against Christians in the news and on social media in 2017, especially over Christmas and New Year. Churches have been defaced and damaged and pastors threatened. In one incident, a New Testament was burned in front of a church in Izmir and the ashes left at the church’s door.