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“You Are Finished!”: Turkey’s Growing War on Christians

Persecution of Christians in Turkey: the plight of Christians in Turkey is epitomized in the ongoing discrimination against the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and the legal and other difficulties it faces in Turkey. Our Orthodox Faith is being challenged by the Turkish Government. If not addressed, this could lead to the asphyxiation of Orthodox Christians. The Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate are fighting to defend and protect the religious freedoms of our Holy and Great Mother Church. The challenges have taken the form of the denial of all legal identity to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, so that it cannot fight for many Christian properties that the Turkish government has confiscated; the closing of the Halki seminary so that the Ecumenical Patriarchate is unable to train new clergy; government interference in Patriarchal elections; and non-recognition of the “Ecumenical” status of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

What’s more, the discrimination, harassment, and worse that Christians in Turkey experience in our age is only the latest manifestation of a sadly recurring hatred. It should be borne in mind, although the Turkish government has never acknowledged the fact, that over 1,000,000 Greek Orthodox Christians, as well as 1.5 million Armenians and 300,000 Assyrians, were massacred in the Ottoman Empire and its successor state, the Republic of Turkey, during the period of the Armenian, Greek, and Assyrian genocides. Hundreds of thousands of people were forcibly converted to Islam.

As we continue to see our own Mother Church of Constantinople and the Christians of Turkey suffering from religious persecution, we remember these horrifying events, note with sorrow the persecution of Christians in the Middle East and elsewhere today, and pray that such inhumanity will never again be seen anywhere in the world.

For previous coverage of the persecution of Christians in Turkey, see here.

“‘You Are Finished!’: Turkey’s Growing War on Christians,” by Raymond Ibrahim, Gatestone Institute, June 7, 2020:

Islamic terror attacks that target Christians in Turkey have been noticeably on the rise….

Threatening and defacing churches is especially common. In early 2019, hate-filled graffiti — including “You Are Finished!” — was found on the Armenian Church of the Holy Mother of God in Istanbul. Commenting on it, an Armenian activist tweeted, “Every year, scores of hate attacks are being carried out against churches and synagogues.”

In late 2019, while shouting abuses and physical threats against Christians gathered at the Church of St. Paul in Antalya, a man said he “would take great pleasure in destroying the Christians, as he viewed them as a type of parasitism on Turkey.”

Most recently, on May 8, 2020, in Istanbul, a man tried to torch a church that had been repeatedly attacked with hate-filled graffiti, among other desecrations.

Rather than threaten or attack churches, Turkish authorities have the power simply to confiscate or close them (here, here, and here, for examples). In one instance, police, similarly to the marauders mentioned above, interrupted a baptismal ceremony while raiding and subsequently shutting down an unauthorized church. “Turkey does not have a pathway for legalization of churches,” the report noted….

According to a March 2020 report, 20 of 72 gravestones in just one Christian cemetery in Ankara were found destroyed. In another recent incident the desecraters broke a cross off a deceased women’s grave. A few days earlier, her church burial service had been interrupted by cries of “Allahu Akbar!

What is behind all these attacks on anything and everything Christian — people, buildings, even graves? The recent response of a journalist in Turkey was an “environment of hate”:

“But this hateful environment did not emerge out of nowhere. The seeds of this hatred are spread, beginning at primary schools, through books printed by the Ministry of National Education portraying Christians as enemies and traitors. The indoctrination continues through newspapers and television channels in line with state policies. And of course, the sermons at mosques and talk at coffee houses further stir up this hatred.”

In other words, Turks, once “secular,” are now educated to hate Christians….

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