Turkey

World Watch ranking: 25
Map thumbnail
Leader
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

How many Christians?
171,000 (0.2%)

Main threats
  • Islamic oppression
  • Religious nationalism

How many Christians are there in Turkey?

There are just 171,000 Christians in Turkey. The country’s population is 83.8 million and the majority are Muslim.

How are Christians persecuted in Turkey?

In Turkey, religious nationalism is very strong and growing, putting enormous pressure on Christians. The atmosphere of increasing nationalism leaves precious little room for anyone to proclaim a different message, and Christians must take great care in sharing their faith with others, as it can arouse suspicion.

Converting to Christianity from Islam is not illegal but converts are likely to face opposition from their family and the local community. The dangers mean some believers hide their conversion.

Christians have limited access to state employment, and experience discrimination in the private sector, especially where employers have ties to the government. Since religious affiliation is still recorded on old identity cards and the electronic chip of new identity cards, it is easy to discriminate against Christian applicants.

Meet Hans-Jurgen Louven

“The only reason I can think of for [forcing me to leave] is that we are people of faith, and at times we have shared our faith with the local people.” Hans-Jurgen Louven

What’s life like for Christians in Turkey?

Without warning, the Turkish government notified Hans-Jurgen Louven – who’s worked for two decades in the tourism sector – that his routine application to renew his residency visa had been denied. He was then ordered to leave Turkey – where he owns property and planned to stay for the rest of his life – within 10 days.

The notice from the Migration Bureau of the Turkish Ministry of Interior (MOI) gave the tour agent no explanation for the cancellation of his long-term visa in Mugla province. Although 15 specific reasons for refusal listed on the form were left blank, only one item was checked: ‘Other Reasons’. But there was no further detail.

This is not an isolated case. According to the Association of Protestant Churches, since January 2019 almost 60 foreign nationals – many working in Turkey as pastors or community leaders – have been told to leave or have not been allowed to re-enter the country.

Is it getting harder to be a Christian in Turkey?

Yes. Turkey has jumped nine places since last year’s World Watch List, reflecting the increasing and stifling impact of religious nationalism on Christianity and a clear increase in reported violence.

The repurposing of two historic churches from museums to mosques last summer – including the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul – reinforced growing nervousness among Christians over the Islamic and nationalistic direction in which the country is moving.

There is growing fear among Christians, with some younger believers considering leaving the country and moving to the West. There is even evidence to suggest that younger people generally in Turkey are refusing to buy into the pervading religious nationalism.

How can I help Christians in Turkey?

Please keep praying for your brothers and sisters in Turkey. Your gifts and prayers make an enormous difference to those following Jesus no matter the cost.

Open Doors raises prayer support for believers in Turkey. 

please pray

Dear God, help Your children as they seek to proclaim the gospel in a stifling and suspicious atmosphere. Grant them wisdom, discernment and boldness. Give foreign Christians favour in residency applications, and may those forced to leave know the assurance of Your love and provision. Strengthen and sustain all converts under pressure for following You. Change the atmosphere in Turkey. Amen..

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