Christians in Turkey – A sad story that needs telling

When we talk about the terrible persecution of Christians, we often talk about Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Egypt, as it hits us especially hard considering we could be seeing the extinction of Christianity in its birthplace. The one country we ignore in all this, despite its move towards an authoritarian version of Islamism that is hostile towards Christianity under Tayyip Erdogan is Turkey. This needs to be addressed, because sadly the life of Christians in Turkey is the opposite of sweetness and light.

The history of Christianity in the Ottoman Empire, the predecessor to Turkey was an unhappy one. The bloodiest moment of this was the Ottoman Government’s official policy of genocide against the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire that started in 1894. Millions of Armenians were killed, including many Armenian Christians. This is not to mention the continued persecution of the Greek Christians.

Sadly, modern day Turkey has not learned the lessons of the past, as intolerance towards Christians remains. It has got to a stage where it has nearly succeeded in eradicating the rich Christian cultural heritage of Asia Minor, so it becomes a footnote in history books. The reason for this is explained well by the author, Constantine Tzanos who has said:

“Turkey is not converting churches into mosques because there is a need for more mosques… The message conveyed … is that Turkey is an Islamic state and no other religion is tolerated.”

In other word with the rising tide of Islamism under Erdogan, Christianity stands as a block in a truly buy tetracycline in canada Islamic state of Turkey.

Today the 120,000 who remain as Christians are treated as second class citizens and whilst not being killed left, right and centre as is the calling card of ISIL, they are certainly oppressed. It has led the religious expert Walter Flick to say “A real citizen is Muslim, and those who aren’t Muslim are seen as suspicious. Christians aren’t equal.” Considering this, the religious freedom of Christians in turkey is under threat. Perhaps it is even worse than that with an unnamed Church Hierarch in Turkey stating “Christians in Turkey are an endangered species. “

At the moment Turkey is a so called ally of the West and a member of NATO. However, in its move towards authoritarian Islamism that has led to the growing oppression of Christians in Turkey, it is not acting as you would expect a Western ally. Indeed, it is going against the principles of being a NATO member that talks about safeguarding freedom and individual freedom. In its treatment of Christians it has strayed far from this, as the Ottoman Empire did before it.

It’s time we stopped putting maintaining strong relations with Turkey, below the very real human rights concerns toward Christians in Turkey. The UK Government has talked in recent years about speaking out against persecution of Christians worldwide, and therefore we need to stop ignoring the slow strangulation of Christian life in Turkey just because it is nowhere near as awful as what is going on next door in Syria and Iraq.

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Stephen Hoffman 3 Articles
Stephen Hoffman currently works in public affairs. He is an active member of the Conservative Party and Parliament Street’s Director of Middle East Studies. He has previously worked as the Campaigns Officer for the Zionist Federation.

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