A Protestant church in the Turkish city of Selcuk is to be sealed by the local council on the grounds that the corrugated roofing and metal poles of the veranda contravene building regulations. Church leaders fear that the council will not only force the church to demolish the veranda, but also the whole church building.
Although at least 20 buildings in the neighborhood have a similar construction, only the Ephesus Protestant Church at Selcuk and one immediate neighbor have been targeted by the council, reported the Barnabas Fund. Oddly enough, the veranda, for which the church may be fined $1,000 for, was already in place when the church fellowship bought the building that they now use for worship.
After the church was sealed off, the chief civil engineer of Selcuk told church leaders that even if they were to demolish the veranda, which they will likely be forced to do, there were other issues that the council would then raise with them requiring the demolishing of other parts of the building.
The church leaders, who believe it is the Christian training activities which take place at the church that have incurred the hostility of the local council, fear that the council intends eventually to demolish the whole church building. The leaders appealed to the governor of Selcuk, but to no avail.
The Barnabas Fund reported that this type of harassment of Christian ministry in a country, which is seeking to join the European Union, raises serious questions.
According to the Voice of the Martyrs (VOM), despite the government reforms to facilitate joining the European Union, there is no indication of increasing religious freedom. While the Turkish constitution includes freedom of religion, worship services are only permitted in "buildings created for this purpose," and officials have restricted the building of buildings for minority religions.
“The few who dare to profess Christ, face harassment, threats and prison,” reported the persecution watchdog group.
Meanwhile, evangelism is difficult because Turks tend to think of Christians in the same category as Armenian terrorists and Jehovah's Witnesses. While proselytism is not specifically forbidden, many prosecutors and police view it was suspicion, arresting them for disturbing the peace, "insulting Islam," conducting unauthorized educational courses, etc. However, generally the courts dismiss the charges.
VOM also reports that Christians in Turkey face persecution from militant groups as well, such as the two Christians beaten for distributing Bibles in October 2003. One was left in a coma in critical condition.