IIRF Reports 2020/1

2019 Human Rights Violations Report

The Turkish Protestant community is made up of over 170 small and large fellowships, the majority of which are found in Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir.

The Protestant fellowships have established 9 religious foundations, 9 foundation representative branches, 35 church associations and over 43 representative branches tied to those associations. The remaining fellowships have no legal entity status. Approximately 26 of them are house fellowships. Approximately 13 Protestant churches meet in historical church buildings. The rest use public places for worship but they are congregations that do not possess legal status.

The Protestant community did not have the opportunity in 2019 to train its own religious personnel within the Turkish National Education system. In most cases, the Protestant community trains its own religious leaders. A small percentage obtain education at theological schools abroad. Some gain the necessary knowledge and skills for pastoral leadership through seminars given in-country. Because there are not enough local Protestant leaders the spiritual leadership of some churches is provided by foreign pastors (Protestant spiritual leaders). But during 2019 the frequent refusal to allow entry to Turkey, due to various reasons, for foreign clergy created serious problems for those Protestant fellowships which were lead by volunteer foreign clergy.

The Protestant community does not have a hierarchical or centralized structure. Every local church acts independently. However, church pastors began meeting together in the late 80’s for the purpose of unity, solidarity and partnership between the Protestant churches. In the mid 90’s this unity gained structural momentum, so they formed The Alliance of Protestant Churches, also known as TeK (Representative Committee). Due to limitations in the previous legislation relating to associations, TeK continued to experience difficulties in being able to be a representative body before the official government institutions in Turkey. As a result of the change in the Law of Associations, TeK chose to become an association. The Association of Protestant Churches was officially formed on 23.01.2009. The Association of Protestant Churches continues to act as the Turkish Protestant community’s representative and institution for unity.

Since 2007 the Association/Alliance of Protestant Church has published these monitoring reports which explain the Protestant community’s situation in Turkey.1 The Association of Protestant Churches attaches great importance to freedom of religion and belief and strives to ensure these freedoms become a reality for everyone, everywhere. The Association desires to prepare and distribute this annual monitoring report, that describes the Protestant community’s situation, in order to serve this purpose and not a political one.

Freedom of religion and belief, as one of the basic rights found in national and international laws, as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is secured under national and international laws and the constitutional authority in our country. However, from the perspective of the Protestant community some basic problems still continued in 2019. With the aim of contributing to the development of freedom of belief in Turkey, this report has been prepared to present some of the experiences and problems as well as positive developments that have been experienced in 2019 by the Protestant community in the area of religious freedom.

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