World Watch Monitor

Hate speech against Protestants in Turkey 'has risen since Andrew Brunson case'

Thu 28 Feb 2019
By Cara Bentley

Insults targeted at Protestants in Turkey have increased since 2016 but physical crimes have gone down.

The Protestant community in Turkey is made up of 150 congregations, mostly in Ankara, Istanbul and Izmir.

There are an estimated 194,000 Christians in a country of 81.9 million, most of whom are Muslim.

The experiences of Turkish Protestants have been monitored since 2007 by The Association of Protestant Churches.

The group discovered that there was a clear reduction in 2018 in crimes that resulted in physical attacks against Protestants but a significant increase in public hate speech and written or verbal hate attacks on Protestants purely due to their beliefs.

The Association claim there was also an increase in hate speech against Protestants in national media outlets, including the wrong usage of church members' names and photos to link them to terror organisations.

When requesting buildings for the use of worship, many Christian communities faced problems and antagonistic billboards, social media posts and leaflets. Television programs containing hate speech were prolific around Christmas time, targeting Christians.

Something many Christian communities struggle with is training more leaders, with some foreign church leaders being deported and the opening of religious training schools being illegal.

The most notorious case involving a church leader was that of Andrew Brunson, the American pastor who worked at Resurrection Church in Izmir, who was in prison for two years after being accused of conspiring in a coup to overthrow the Turkish President.

He was released in October 2018 after his incarceration became embroiled with US-Turkish relations and economic sanctions on Turkey, which were said to be lifted in exchange for his freedom.

During his imprisonment, there was more reporting of secret-witness statements which were factually incorrect and the broadcasting of wrong information about church individuals.

Since Brunson's release, there have been several other examples of mistreatment.

In April 2018, the pastor of Diyarbakir Protestant Church, Ahmet Güvener, received repeated threatening and abusive telephone calls.

After reporting the incident to security forces, the prosecutor decided that as the suspect's telephone had been used by others and as the perpetrator was a minor there was no need to open a case.

The same church had stones thrown at it by minors during Christmas 2018 and faced legal problems in terms of their land being nationalised.

The country's 150 congregations only own ten official church buildings and mostly meet in houses.

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