Friday, October 08, 2010

Turkey’s Protestants complain of state discrimination

Turkey discriminates against its Protestant community and fails to take action against hate speech targeting Christians, according to a report released by a church association Wednesday.

The Association of Protestant Churches report said one problem was public perception in the predominantly Muslim but secular country that "missionaries constitute a grave national threat and must be opposed."

"The Protestant community has been labeled as 'missionaries' and has, as a result, borne the brunt of being stigmatized and denounced over the last 20 years," said the group, which says it represents 85 percent of the 100 parishes in Turkey.

The report charged that Turkish media often portrayed Protestants as "illegitimate" and turned them into a "hate object," especially by targeting missionary activities.

"It is no coincidence that physical attacks against Protestants almost always follow negative news stories about Protestants in the media. Virtually none of these incendiary broadcasts targeting Protestants has resulted in the prosecution and conviction of those responsible for the broadcast," it said.

The association charged that missionary activities were also stigmatized in school textbooks and underlined that religious classes taught at school that focused mainly on Islam posed further problems. "To obtain exemption for their children, [Protestant] families are forced to tell what religion they are.

"Further, the children are put on display and, because they belong to a different religion, may encounter exclusion, derision and insults from friends and even from some teachers," it said.

Other grievances raised in the report include "restrictive decisions" by officials and "inadequate regulations" on the use of places of worship, restrictions on public employment and obstacles to training pastors.

The Protestant community says it has a congregation of between 3,000 and 3,500. Many of them are Muslim converts. In a 2007 attack that shocked the nation, three Protestants — a German and two Turkish converts — were murdered at a Christian publishing house in the eastern city of Malatya after they were tortured for hours.

Their murder followed the 2006 killing of a Catholic priest in the northern city of Trabzon on the Black Sea coast. "Security problems have decreased significantly as a result of security measures" taken after the killings, the report said.


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