Middle East and North Africa

President’s Christmas greetings ring hollow for Turkish Christians

 

President Erdogan of Turkey. Photo credit: Presidency of the Republic of Turkey.

President Erdogan’s Christmas message to Turkish Christians spoke of tolerance respect, but under Turkey’s increasingly authoritarian government, the experience of believers is markedly different.

Over Christmas, President Erdogan released a message in which he wished “our Christian citizens and the whole Christian world a Merry Christmas,” adding that the Turkish nation has a “culture of tolerance” which has always viewed diversity as a “valuable asset.”

But outside observers continue to highlight the opposite. “Turkey is taking an Islamist, populist path [under Erdogan],” according to San Diego professor of political science, Ahmet Kuru.

Christians, and especially converts from Islam, live in a climate of increasing instability. The country’s Association of Protestant Churches reports ongoing hate speech and hate crimes against Christians, with church pastors receiving anonymous threats and Islamic anti-Christian posters and graffiti being deliberately placed near church buildings, particularly at Christmas.

Christians have also been caught up in the government crackdown on dissent following the attempted coup in 2016 and Christians face frequent criticism in then media; in one case, New Testaments were displayed alongside “terrorist propaganda” confiscated by police.