IIRF Reports Vol. 3, No. 11 (January 2014)
By: Association of Protestant Churches (Turkey)
The Association of Protestant Churches works to ensure that all people everywhere are able to live out the 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. The freedom of religion and belief in our country continues to have basic problems, even though these are secured under international human rights and constitutional authority and despite having seen signi cant and positive developments in the last few years. For the purpose of contributing to the development of freedom of belief in Turkey, this report presents some of the experiences and problems as well as positive developments that have been experienced in 2013 by the Protestant community in the area of religious freedom. 2013 can be summarized as follows:
Hate crimes directed at Christians continued in 2013 and there were physical attacks carried out against Protestants and churches. Protestants’ ability to establish and continue to use places of worship remained a problem. Even though the establishment of associations (dernek) has helped congregations gain legal status, it has not provided a complete solution. Along with some positive developments, there were still problems within the framework of the compulsory Religious Culture and Moral Knowledge classes (RCMK) in schools along with the elective classes recently added to the curriculum. Neither was there movement forward in 2013 in the area of protecting the rights of Christians to train their own religious workers. Some foreign religious workers or members of congregations had to leave Turkey because their visa was denied or they were deported. The religion category on identity cards remained in 2013 which continues to increase the risk of discrimination. The court case involving the killing of three Christians in Malatya in 2007 continued throughout 2013.
On the other hand some positive and hopeful developments need to be noted. The complaints of Protestant students being forced to attend compulsory RCMK lessons have decreased as a result of the Ministry of Education informing schools on this subject in previous years. In addition, in 2012 work began on the possibility of Christian students being given lessons on Christianity. The textbooks and curriculum have begun to be prepared with the help of the congregations themselves. Even though the books were ready in 2013 there is still no real movement forward. The Protestant community was invited along with other religious leaders to the Prime Ministry where they were able to explain their problems and opinions directly to the Prime Minister. In 2013, there was no of cial attempt to shut down any structure being used for Christian worship. There was no problem in gaining permission for public and communal Christmas celebrations. We rejoice that there were no attempts to hinder or harass the holiday celebrations which were done in a format open to the public.