OPEN

BYPASS BIG TECH CENSORSHIP - SIGN UP FOR mICHAEL mATT'S REGULAR E-BLAST

Invalid Input

Invalid Input

OPEN
Search the Remnant Newspaper
Saturday, June 29, 2024

Christians are increasingly persecuted in Islamized Türkiye despite the country’s Christian heritage

Written by 
Rate this item
(5 votes)
Christians are increasingly persecuted in Islamized Türkiye despite the country’s Christian heritage

Recently, Türkiye’s Constitutional Court stood by its decision to expel nine foreign Protestants for evangelizing after the government accused them for being a “threat” to national security.

eblast prompt

According to Alliance Defending Freedom International (ADF International), while all nine targeted foreigners had legally obtained residence permits to live in Türkiye, “they were issued immigration codes that prevented them from entering or remaining in the country”. These  “N-82” codes classified the nine as “risks to national security,” thus preventing them from entering the country.

Moreover, the nine Protestants were among over 160 foreign Christians who have been given “N-82” codes by Türkiye’s immigration office since 2020, categorizing them as “risks to national security” and stopping them from entering or remaining in the Muslim-majority country.

The court decision, given on June 7, 2024, marks the first time that Türkiye’s highest court has released a joint decision for separate N-82 code cases, ADF International stated. Therefore, this move is indicative of the Turkish government’s “widespread scheme to ban foreign religious workers from the country”, the faith-based legal advocacy organization went on.

After the court decision, Kelsey Zorzi, Director of Advocacy for Global Religious Freedom at ADF International, declared:

“This joint decision, though decided wrongly, provides an opportunity to appeal all nine cases to the European Court of Human Rights. The government’s discriminatory targeting of Christian religious workers in Türkiye, all of whom have peacefully lived in Türkiye for many years, constitutes a clear violation of both the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenants to which Türkiye is a party.  It has become increasingly clear as a growing number of foreign Christians are deemed national security threats each year, that Türkiye is systematically trying to extinguish Christian beliefs inside its borders.”

In May 2024, Fr. Manuel Barrios Prieto, secretary general of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE), decried attempts by the Turkish government to turn a prominent Orthodox church, namely the ancient Chora Church Istanbul, into the “Kariye Mosque”.

“This step further dilutes the historical roots of the Christian presence in the country. Any interreligious dialogue initiative promoted by Turkish authorities loses credibility”, Fr. Prieto said, in remarks cited by COMECE.

It is noteworthy that Türkiye’s persecution of Christians is not a modern-day phenomenon, but one that can be traced back for decades.

The same  COMECE press release recounted how the 4th-century Chora church “is an emblem of Eastern Christianity and a living memory of the historical presence of Christians in the country.”

In April this year, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, the leader of 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide, submitted a case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) about the Turkish government’s seizure of the Greek Orthodox monastery of Saint Spyridon. A report by the European Center for Law and Justice (ECLJ) states:

“At issue: the Turkish government's expropriation of the Greek Orthodox monastery of Saint Spyridon of Halki. Halki is one of the Princes' Islands in the Sea of Marmara, opposite Constantinople, and one of the conservatories of Byzantine Orthodoxy. The island is home to the Halki seminary, where Greek Orthodox clergy were trained, and which has been arbitrarily closed by the Turkish authorities since 1971. Since the establishment of modern Türkiye, the Turkish regime has sought to dispossess the Orthodox churches of their heritage in order to erase their history from Anatolia and ‘Turkify’ this land. One way of doing this is to declare the religious foundations that own and manage church properties "disaffected", thereby transferring their ownership to the State. This is what the Turkish General Directorate of Foundations did in 1967. Since then, the Orthodox Church has been seeking to recover its property. All appeals to the Turkish courts have been rejected, as the Turkish authorities and courts are experts in delaying tactics against minorities. This led the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).”

Likewise, in January 2024, two masked attackers fired shots in the Santa Maria Catholic Church in Istanbul’s Sariyer district during Sunday Mass.

Bishop Massimiliano Palinuro, the apostolic vicar of Istanbul, told EWTN News that a man was killed “during the consecration” in the assault.

Adding, the bishop said:

“We are worried about the future because if this is a sign of religious intolerance, for our community it could be a bad sign. Let us pray.”

Under Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Turkish government has tried to impose Islam onto mainstream Turkish politics, such as turning the hitherto Catholic cathedral Hagia Sophia into an Islamic temple in 2020 after the building served as a museum between 1935 and 2020. Undoubtedly, the move to convert Hagia Sophia into a mosque sparked outrage from Christians worldwide.

“How does placing Hagia Sophia into the hands of people who have no sense of its history and heritage and who will destroy its Christian identity help bring people together?” Myanmar Catholic Cardinal Charles Maung Bo questioned at that time. “How does seizing Hagia Sophia uphold Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights? It doesn’t. It merely reopens wounds and exacerbates divides at a time when we should be healing humanity.”

In context, Türkiye is a signatory to Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states, “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”

On December 18, 2023, a deputy from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Equality and Democracy (DEM) Party, George Aslan, a Christian and an Assyrian, proclaimed in his native Assyrian language instead of Turkish:

“I celebrate the Christmas of all Christians, especially our Greek, Armenian, and Assyrian-Syriac citizens living in Türkiye. I hope that the new year will bring peace and love to our country and to the whole world.”

In turn, deputies from the hardline Turkish ultra-nationalist Iyi (Good) Party that allegedly has links to the Turkish supremacist Grey Wolf movement culpable for murders and assaults, such as the 1981 attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II, hurled invective at Aslan, declaring that “everyone will speak Turkish”.

On October 5 last year, human rights specialists noted the rising persecution of Christians in Türkiye during a human rights conference hosted by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

Christians are viewed as a negative Western influence, and those who choose to follow Jesus — whether from Islam or secularism — can face pressure from their families and communities to recant their faith.

It is noteworthy that Türkiye’s persecution of Christians is not a modern-day phenomenon, but one that can be traced back for decades.

In an interview with the National Catholic Register, professor Elizabeth Prodromou of Boston College said:

“The Greek Orthodox community in Türkiye today lives under conditions of existential vulnerability, related to their miniscule numbers (between 1,700 and 2,000 people), in a population of approximately 90 million, the century-long government policies of violence and nonviolence dedicated to the elimination of the Greek Orthodox population, and the intensified social hostility in Türkiye toward ethnic and religious pluralism. Of course, the remarkable indifference of the international human rights and broader policy communities towards these issues aggravates these factors.”

During the Armenian Genocide in 1915, Ottoman authorities detained Armenian intellectuals and leaders in Constantinople and began a campaign of mass displacement of Amernians and other minorities, including Greek, Syriac and Chaldean Christians. During the displacement, families were forcefully separated, while starvation and other abuses of the mainly-Christian Armenian population were not uncommon. Consequently, around 1.5 million Armenians were killed in the genocide, which Türkiye has yet to formally acknowledge. Besides, Ottoman Türkiye witnessed the mass killings of Assyrians and Greeks.

From April 1941 to July 1942, under the policy of “the conscription of twenty classes” (in Turkish, “yirmi kur’a nafıa askerleri” or “soldiers for public works by drawing of twenty lots”), Greek, Armenian, Jewish, and Assyrian men had to join labor battalions from which Muslim citizens were excluded.  These non-Muslim men had to labor under harsh conditions building roads and airports. As a result, some succumbed to the terrible conditions, or contracted diseases.

In remarks cited by Providence Mag, historian Ayşe Hür detailed the plight of these non-Muslim forced laborers: 

“These soldiers were not given guns or military uniforms. They were made to wear clothes of trash collectors that were sent from Greece in aid during the 1939 Erzincan earthquake. They were sent in extreme hot weather as soldiers to camps, with no infrastructure and a shortage of water, which were infested with mosquitoes, dampness and mud, all of which spread malaria. They were forced to do heavy work such as the tunnel construction in Zonguldak, the construction of the Youth Park in Ankara, as well as rock breaking and road construction in Afyon, Karabük, Konya, and Kütahya provinces. But the worst was that they were often mocked and insulted as ‘kafir [infidel] soldiers.’”

Ironically, the nominally Catholic Joe Biden officially recognized the Armenian genocide in 2021.

“Each year on this day, we remember the lives of all those who died in the Ottoman-era Armenian genocide and recommit ourselves to preventing such an atrocity from ever again occurring,” Biden stated at that time.

That being said, not all hope is lost, for the bishops of Türkiye recently consecrated the country to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, in a move that was reportedly inspired by the “spiritual fruits” of Gabriel García Moreno’s consecration of Ecuador to the Sacred Heart about 150 years ago.

The European Conservative reported that hardline Muslims view Christians as collaborators with foreign powers that are seeking to imperil Turkish identity. Strikingly, the Muslim-majority country is one of the 95 countries in the world that criminalizes blasphemy against Islam, a crime that is punishable by six months to a year in prison.

Based on a report by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), there has been a “marked increase in incidents of vandalism and societal violence against religious minorities” in Türkiye.

“The government also continues to unduly interfere in the internal affairs of religious communities. Religious minorities in Türkiye have expressed concerns that governmental rhetoric and policies contribute to an increasingly hostile environment and implicitly encourage acts of societal aggression and violence,” USCIRF posited.

As per the advocacy group Open Doors, the government’s huge emphasis on Islamic values puts a great deal of pressure on religious minorities. A report by Open Doors stated:

“Christians are viewed as a negative Western influence, and those who choose to follow Jesus — whether from Islam or secularism — can face pressure from their families and communities to recant their faith.”

Evidently, the Turkish government is increasingly intolerant  of Christians despite claiming to guarantee religious freedom and notwithstanding the country’s Christian past. (Notably, the House of the Blessed Virgin Mary (known as Meryemana Evi or Meryem Ana Evi), a prominent Christian pilgrimage site, is located in the vicinity of Ephesus,Türkiye.)

That being said, not all hope is lost, for the bishops of Türkiye recently consecrated the country to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, in a move that was reportedly inspired by the “spiritual fruits” of Gabriel García Moreno’s consecration of Ecuador to the Sacred Heart about 150 years ago.

In remarks quoted by LifeSiteNews, Archbishop Martin Kmetec, OFM Conv., of Izmir, president of the bishops’ conference, admitted that the aim of the consecration was “to rediscover and renew the consecration which took place on the day of baptism, to renounce the seductions of evil to live in the freedom of the children of God, to place one’s whole life in the hands of Christ, even in the face of violence.”

Indeed, even in the face of violence and persecution in Türkiye, Jesus Christ will ultimately prevail, through the Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Ephesus.

Latest from RTV — REPEATING HISTORY: How Francis Plans to Blow Up the Clans

[Comment Guidelines - Click to view]
Last modified on Saturday, June 29, 2024
Angeline Tan | Remnant Columnist, Singapore

Angeline is a Catholic writer who enjoys Catholic history and architecture. Her favorite saints include Saint Joseph, Saint Therese of the Child Jesus, Saint Philomena and the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of all Saints.