Members of a small Christian community in Turkey are still worrying for their lives due to the ongoing religious persecution in the country. In the last year alone, many of their members and even leaders have experienced harassment from Muslims.
According to Pastor Ihsan Ozbek of the Association of Protestant Churches in Turkey, even though religious freedom is protected by the country's laws, many Christians still experience hate crimes. To make matters worse, he said that the community is not seeing any concrete action from the government regarding these attacks. Ozbek also emphasized that when the government recently held a dialogue with the other religious groups in the country, the Protestants were left out, Charisma News reported.
Many of the incidents that Ozbek referred to as examples of persecution occurred in 2015. In one particular case, graffiti was spray-painted on one of the walls of a church in Balikesir. This is considered very minor compared to what happened at Izmir's Torbali Baptist Church when some tried to shoot its pastor using a hunting rifle. Aside from this, the leader of the Batikent Bereket Church in Ankara was reportedly beaten by an unknown assailant. On the same year, a mosque broadcasted through its speakers hate speech targeted at Protestants.
The members of the community reported the incidents to authorities but did not see any solid action regarding their safety and protection. This is exactly what happened in August last year when leaders of a church received death threats with terms similar to those used by members of ISIS. Although no protection was given to the targeted church leaders, some of those who sent the death threats were arrested in Ankara while planning a suicide bomb attack.
"We are anxious and distressed," Ozbek said. "We are being threatened. There are serious obstacles that keep us from expressing ourselves. We are unable to open places of worship."
"'You cannot live here' is the message we are being sent," he added. "We expect the government to be more moderate toward us and open channels for dialogue."
As noted by Breitbart, it seems religious persecution against Christians in Turkey has become a regular occurrence in the country. Because of this, its Christian population has significantly dwindled in a span of 100 years. In the last century, about 20 percent of the country's population was comprised of Christians. But now, their numbers are only at 0.2 percent.