In a latest move to curb freedom of speech and religious freedom in Turkey, President Erdogan has taken control of six churches in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir.
LThe seizure of places of worship ordered by the Turkish state is only the latest in a number of worrying hardships vis-à-vis Christians. Among the 6 Catholic, Protestant or Orthodox churches, one is over 1 years old, further proof of the historical presence of Christians since the first centuries. These churches are now owned by the Turkish state, of which 700% of the population is Muslim. Christians represent only 98% of the population.
The seizure order was issued on March 25, 2017. The Erdogan government claims to want to rebuild the historic city center, partially destroyed after 10 months of urban conflict between government forces and the PKK.
But Christians and their supporters reject this argument. They fear restrictions on religious freedom, and reprisals against Christians. For Pastor Ahmet Guvener:
“The government did not take these assets in order to protect them. He did it to acquire them. "
The Diyarbakir Lawyers Association has officially filed a call for action by the government.
“This decision, which seems to be made at the request of the Ministry of the Environment and Town Planning without reason or justification, is unacceptable within the limits of the constitutional order. "
In response to this, the ministers recalled having seized a certain number of mosques in the city, but unlike churches which only survive by donation from the faithful, mosques are funded by the state. Their future is certain and secure.
According to US Senator Ted Cruz's advisor Victoria Coates, the seizure is part of a pattern in the Middle East, where Christians are systematically displaced and persecuted.
“What is happening in southern Turkey is too characteristic of the Middle East today. Ancient Christian communities are displaced and persecuted by sectarian violence. "
Image credit: Flickr / CC - Griselda Ramirez
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