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Turkey is located in Eurasia and borders the Black Sea, the Aegean Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. There are two ethnic groups in Turkey: the Turkish (80%) and the Kurds (20%). 99.8% of the population is Muslim and 0.2% is comprised of Christians and Jews.

Modern Turkey was formed in 1923 from the remnants of the defeated Ottoman Empire. Turkey became a member of the UN in 1945 and in 1952, it joined NATO. In 1964, Turkey became an associate member of the European Community. Over the last ten years, Turkey has begun the process of becoming a member of the European Union.

Religious Freedom

The Constitution in Turkey guarantees religious freedom and officially makes Turkey a secular state. Religious organizations are subject to some limitations, particularly in public institutions, in order to maintain secularism. All faith groups are subject to regulation by the state.

Property obtained after 1936 by religious minorities was confiscated by the state following a court ruling in 1974. Although legal ownership of property has been given to religious minorities that are recognized by the state, the property that was previously confiscated has not been returned.

In Turkey, it is illegal to speak against, interrupt the service or vandalize the property of any faith based group acknowledged by the government. However, there have been reports of violence, harassment, threats and the imprisonment of Christians.

Students in primary and secondary schools are obligated to take religious and moral education. Although religious minorities are officially allowed to replace such classes, many report difficulty in receiving permission to do so. It is especially difficult for those who are listed as Muslim on their identification card.

International Treaties Signed by Turkey

The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
The Convention on the Rights of the Child

Canada-Turkey Diplomatic Relations

Information about Canada’s relationship with Turkey
Canadian Embassy in Turkey
Canadian representatives in Turkey
Turkey’s representatives in Canada


For prayer requests, see the alerts, or the general page of prayer for the Persecuted Church.

Related Links

General information about Turkey
Information about human rights in Turkey
Information about the persecuted Church in Turkey  (from the Voice of the Martyrs Canada)

Related EFC Religious Liberty Commission Alerts

Note: Alerts are in reverse chronological order, beginning with most recent.

Turkey: Persecution begins after Christians negatively depicted in the media

(Source: World Evangelical Alliance, Compass Direct, Barnabas Fund, Voice of the Martyrs, Religious Media Agency)

Islamists and others are using Turkey's ambiguous laws to slowly turn up the heat on the Christian community. This spring has seen a rise in intensity of religious persecution, with over 18 churches facing legal challenges to their existence, a pastor threatened with jail for distributing New Testaments, and six foreign teachers at a small Christian school deported. A Protestant church that has met in one town for over 40 years was ordered to close this month because according to the police its "... activities will incite religious, sectarian and dervish-order discrimination; will harm religious and national feelings; and will create offense in the society." Numerous Christian churches have to worship while crowds of conservative Muslims march outside their church buildings carrying negative posters and chanting slogans.

The current wave of persecution began after a series of television programs and newspaper articles depicting Christians in a very negative light appeared in December and November 2001. One professor of religion who appeared on several of the programs stated that "we won't rest until we have dug you [Christians] out by the roots." Christian observers say that believers are now living through a co-ordinated attempt to do just that. Turkey, which is a secular state but has a strongly Muslim population, faces rising tension between the political elites who seek closer ties with Europe and Islamic nationalists and Islamists who want a Muslim state. Islamists and their allies regularly use ambiguous laws to prosecute and harass Christians. Church buildings are particularly vulnerable. There is no specific provision in Turkish law for the construction and use of places of worship, and local authorities can claim that Christians are acting illegally by using buildings registered as homes or businesses for church meetings. It is culturally and politically unacceptable for Turkish Christians to meet in private homes since this reinforces the stereotype that Christians are part of a secretive and subversive cult movement.

• Pray for strength for the Turkish church during this time of testing. Pray for boldness and pray that Turkish Christians would be able to walk without fear, knowing that God is fighting for them.
• Pray for the churches and Christians who are facing unjustified lawsuits because of their witness for Christ. Pray that God would provide the financial resources necessary to combat these lawsuits, as well as competent and sympathetic lawyers. Pray for the judges and lawyers who will be hearing these cases, that they will speak and act justly.
• Pray for new church buildings. Also pray for a series of clear legal decisions that will give Christians the uncontestable right to build and own places of worship. Pray that the Christian school and other Christian organizations that are under severe pressure would be delivered and provided for.
• Pray for a calming of the political and cultural tensions in Turkey. Pray that many Turkish people would find hope, love and forgiveness in Jesus Christ.

Turkey: Christians forced to fight for their churches to remain open

(Source: Compass Direct, Barnabas Fund)

Turkish evangelicals are in the middle of a fight to keep their church buildings open in spite of government attempts to close them down. Under orders from the Turkish Interior Ministry, local authorities in nine provinces of Turkey have notified some 40 small Protestant church groups across the country that their buildings are not 'licensed' for religious use and will be shut down. Some churches have filed legal protests against this action, and the government response is expected soon.

Christian observers report that officials threatened to fine church members for continuing to meet in the unauthorized church buildings. In contrast, the head of Turkey's Religious Affairs Directorate admitted in late November that according to government findings, 81 percent of the mosques under construction in the country had obtained no special license, and 55 percent had not even drawn up an architectural plan.

According to a Turkish human rights lawyer specializing in religious freedom issues, "There is no clear legislation in Turkish law on how to open a church in this country." Ten of Istanbul's Protestant groups filed legal protests against the government's action earlier this year, declaring that their worship sites are not illegal under the constitution or existing laws of Turkey. The government must respond to such protests within 60 days.

The sweeping action against Turkey's evangelical churches, only a handful of which meet in so-called "recognized" church buildings constructed decades ago, was ordered by the federal government last August 17 in a directive entitled "requests to open places of worship." The directive also declared that conducting Sunday schools, Bible schools or other religious education without permission from the Turkish Education Ministry is punishable with fines and prison sentences under Articles 526 and 529 of the Turkish Penal Code. One Christian group observed that the most recent wave of crackdowns came after the broadcast of several television programs critical of Christians in November and December.

• Pray for the situation of Turkish Christians. Pray that they would stand steadfast in the face of undeserved criticism and government opposition. Pray that they would be able to show Jesus' love to the local and federal officials they deal with, and that they would fulfil Paul's prayer by living such good lives that even their enemies have to acknowledge God at work through them.
• Pray that the Turkish government would uphold the promises of religious freedom in the constitution and would articulate a clear policy for places of worship that is not susceptible to manipulation by local governments. Pray that their forthcoming response to the legal complaints of Istanbul churches will be clear and just.


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