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Status of the Persecuted Church in Turkey
January 15, 2010
Muslim Population: 99.8% (Christian Population: less than 0.2%)
During the first millennium of church history, Turkey was a bastion of Christianity. However, through much of the second millennium Turkey became a stronghold and propagator of Islam. During the 20th century Christianity declined from 22% of the population to less than 1% today. There are slightly more than 3000 evangelical believers in Turkey.
Turkey has considered itself a secular state since the time of Ataturk in 1923, but Islam has become much more important politically in recent years. “To be a Turk is be a Muslim” in the eyes of the people, even if only culturally Muslim. Acute pressure from family, government intimidation, and Islamist threats keep many from accepting Christ and cause others to be “secret believers”.
Many Turkish citizens believe that Christians are trying to brainwash people, turn them against the country, and spy for other nations. Government officials make negative statements about followers of Jesus. One frequent slur against believers is a charge that Christians pay Muslims to convert to Christianity. “More than half of the population of…Turkey opposes members of other religions holding meetings or publishing materials to explain their faith.” Almost 40% of Turks said they had very negative views of Christianity. Because of this constant stream of propaganda, there have been many attacks against Christians.
In April 2007 five Muslim “seekers” attended a Bible study at a Christian publishing house in Malatya, along with two Turkish converts and one German missionary. The Muslims stabbed and cut the throats of the two Turkish believers and the missionary. Recently, a Muslim left his home “determined to kill a Christian that day.” When one Christian left the local church, this man accosted him and stabbed him to death. The attacker carried a note that said “I love my homeland. Those who disagree with my thoughts or don’t like them can get out of my country.” The government does little to hinder these attacks and has arrested several Christians on charges of “insulting Turkishness.”