Report: Turkey post-coup crackdown targets U.S. Christians

by WorldTribune Staff, December 6, 2016

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is now targeting American Christians in retaliation for the U.S.’s refusal to extradite cleric Fethullah Gulen for his alleged role in the July coup attempt, a report said.

Erdogan’s post-coup crackdown has resulted in the arrest of tens of thousands of people and the firing of thousands more from public sector jobs.

A Turkish police officer stands guard in front of St. Antouan Church in Istanbul. /Reuters
A Turkish police officer stands guard in front of St. Antouan Church in Istanbul. /Reuters

“Protestant or Christian churches are seen as an American influence, and now that Turkey is anti-American they are being targeted even more,” said Aykan Erdemir, a senior fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a former member of the Turkish parliament, according to Religious News Service.

Turkey’s constitution is technically secular but 99 percent of the population is Muslim. The rights of minorities are severely limited according to the U.S. State Department’s religious freedom report.

Yuce Kabakci, a pastor in Istanbul, cited a recent Muslim sermon which warned that Turks should not befriend Jewish people or Christians because they serve the West.

“There’s no doubt that the government uses the mosques to get its message across to its grassroots supporters,” said Kabakci. “There’s is an atmosphere in Turkey right now that anyone who isn’t Sunni is a threat to the stability of the nation.”

Erdemir noted the ordeal of American pastor and long-term Turkish resident Ryan Keating, who was detained at Istanbul airport in October while trying to re-enter Turkey after a short trip out of the country.

Keating told Christian Today that he was held in a cell overnight at Istanbul airport and interrogated by anti-terror police. Keating was told he was a threat to national security, forced to leave the country, and told to never come back.

Keating said this kind of treatment of Christians in Turkey was “typical”.

“There is no evidence or justification for why I have been banned. I know I haven’t done anything illegal ever in Turkey. We are very careful to obey the laws. We have done nothing to threaten or do harm to Turkey in any way.

“There has been no investigation, no evidence, just an arbitrary ban. And to use this blanket ‘threat to national security’ – what does that even mean? What are they suggesting I have done or would do?”

Turkey, which once boasted 2 million Christians, has barely 120,000 now, fewer even than Iran.

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