Turkey was once a Christian country.
However, from the Fall of Constantinople until now, Christians have been subjected to severe discrimination and violence. This violence reached its peak with the Armenian Genocide early in the 20th Century.
I have seen the tiny corners of society into which Christians are pushed in Turkey. I stood at the spot where the Patriarch was hung by a mob in the early 20th Century. Christians can not build churches there, and there are severe restrictions on ordination of new priests.
Turkey is a beautiful country with many wonderful people. Their hospitality is incredible. I believe that Turkey can become a great nation. But it must move past its history of discrimination and violence against Christians to do this.
An important German politician recently took the same position regarding Turkey’s admission into the European Union. Volker Kauder, chairman of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats, says that Turkey must allow Christians to build churches in Turkey before it can be admitted to the EU.
Frankly, I think that is a bare minimum. Christians in Turkey should have the same rights as all other citizens. They should be free to worship, and to witness for their faith publicly.
Volker Kauder, chairman of the Christian Democratic Union in GermanyVorderstrasse / CC BY 3.0
A leading German politician has criticised Turkey’s record on religious freedom, saying that the country should allow Christians to build churches without restrictions if it wants to join the EU.
Volker Kauder, chairman of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats, told a party congress last Wednesday (5 December) that he expected a “clear signal” on the issue from the Turkish government before membership talks, which began in 2005, could continue.
country that wants to be part of Europe must accept the basic principle of religious freedom. That means, that we expect Christians in Turkey to be able to build churches without any restrictions, just as Muslims build mosques here in Germany.
The EU has previously criticised Turkey’s treatment of its Christian community, which comprises less than 0.1% of the population. Despite Turkey’s having the veneer of a modern secular state, Christians face much discrimination, restrictions and occasional violence. The rights of churches to own property, conduct services and open other facilities such as theological schools are limited.Despite Turkey’s human rights abuses, Britain has been a strong supporter of the country’s accession to the EU. Member states are divided on the issue.
Mr Kauder’s comments come as the deadline for a draft of the new Turkish constitution looms with no sign of a consensus; the protection of freedom of religion or belief is one of the disputed issues.(Read more here.)