The Persecution of Christians in Turkey
and political issues.
Forum 18, a Norwegian-based human rights group, published on Nov. 27 a survey of religious freedom in Turkey. The group takes its name from Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which declares that everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
Overall, the study concluded: “that the country continues to see serious violations of international human rights standards on freedom of religion or belief.”
Turkey has not given recognition to religious communities in their own right as independent communities with full legal status -- such as the right to own places of worship and the legal protection religious communities normally have in states under the rule of law, according to Forum 18.
Moreover, the survey observed that Christians have been the object of a series of violent attacks and murders in recent years.
The government, the study explained, remains committed to Mustafa Kemal Atatürk's "secularism." This involves not only state control of Islam, but also restrictions on the ability of non-Muslims and Muslims outside state control to exercise freedom of religion or belief.
Communities as diverse as Alevi Muslims, Catholics, Greek Orthodox, Protestants, and the Syrian Orthodox Church have seen no significant progress in resolving property problems, the study added.
In fact, even recognized religious communities cannot themselves own properties such as places of worship.
It is virtually impossible to find people from non-Muslim backgrounds in high-level civil servant positions and impossible in senior ranks in the military, the study continued.
Forum 18 listed a number of deadly attacks on Christians in recent years: The murder of Father Andrea Santoro, a Catholic priest in 2006; the killing of two ethnic Turkish Protestants, Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel, and a German, Tilmann Geske in Malatya in 2007. Then, in July 2009 a Catholic German businessman engaged to an ethnic Turk, Gregor Kerkeling, was murdered by a mentally disturbed young man for being a Christian.
Among the causes of this intolerance the study cited the habitual disinformation and defamation against Christians, both in public discourse as well as in the media. As well, intolerance is actively promoted within the school curriculum.
The report concluded by saying that the serious problems with the lack of religious freedom in Turkey casts serious doubts about whether the country is really committed to universal human rights for all.
Of course Turkey is not alone in limiting religious freedom. On Wednesday a report titled: “Global Restrictions on Religion,” was published by the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion and Public Life.
If found that 64 nations -- about one-third of the countries in the world -- have high or very high restrictions on religion. Moreover, because some of the most restrictive countries are very populous, nearly 70% of the world's 6.8 billion people live in countries with high restrictions on religion, the brunt of which often falls on religious minorities. A fact worth meditating on, and praying about, as we celebrate the birth of the child Jesus.
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