In the southeastern city of Diyarbakir, Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan seized six churches as “state property,” another move towards eradicating free speech and expressing any belief other than in Islam.
According to World Watch Monitor, Turkish authorities said the seizure of churches had to do with restoring an historical area. Indeed, of the Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox churches seized, one church is over 1,700 years old. Parts of the city were partially destroyed by conflict between Turkish government forces and members of the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK), according to The UK Express.
But, Pastor Ahmet Guvener, of Diyarbakir Protestant Church, says the government seizing private property has nothing to do with building codes or restoration. He says, “The government didn’t take over these pieces of property in order to protect them. They did so to acquire them.”
The Diyarbakir Bar Association, which represents Christians from one of the seized churches, filed an appeal with the Turkish government. It stated:
“Among the expropriated plots, there are structures belonging to public institutions … and places of worship and residences considered as historical and cultural heritage.
“This decision, which seems to be made by the request of the Ministry of Environment and Urban Planning without any reason or justification, is unacceptable within the limits of constitutional order.”
This comes after “negotiations” with the European Union, that could further open up the European continent to 80 million Turkish Islamists. Turkey has been pushing for visa-free travel for its 80 million citizens, 98 percent of whom are Islamic– and for Turkey to join the 28-nation bloc.
It also comes after Christians continue to receive death threats. The Association of Protestant Christians in Turkey said:
“With the recent increase in systematic threats, from this country’s west to east and north to south, in different cities, we think that these messages, coming close together and resembling each other, are coming from the same source.”
According to an International Religious Freedom Report 2007, the Turkish government views Christian missionaries as “separatist and destructive,” and subsequent reports detail examples of targeted attacks of non-Muslim residents. Open Doors identifies more specific death threats against Christians in Turkey:
Fifteen Turkish Protestant congregations and their leaders have been targeted by a strident campaign of death threats sent to their Facebook, email, websites and mobile telephones. One of the messages warned: “Perverted infidels, the time that we will strike your necks is soon. May Allah receive the glory and praise.”
One pastor says: “They are saying things like they had been waiting for us to return to Islam, and that we are responsible for other Muslims turning to Christ, that our time is up and that Allah will give them our heads.”
To date, Open Doors has catalogued data pointing to the persecution of Christians in 65 countries. The World Watch List is independently audited, and its auditing body is the only institution “with academics dedicated to studying the religious liberty of Christians – the International Institute of Religious Freedom (IIRF).” Out of the 50 most dangerous places to live as a Christian in the world, Turkey ranks #45.