How many Christians are there in Turkey?
Of Turkey’s population of 84.5 million, only a tiny number are Christian: 170,000, which is about 0.2%. Almost the entire country is Muslim.
How are Christians persecuted in Turkey?
Christians in Turkey experience incredible pressure from very strong – and increasing – religious nationalism in Turkey. The government continues to target even foreign Christians in its borders, along with the foreign spouses of Turkish citizens.
While it isn’t technically illegal for Muslims to convert to Christianity, anyone from a Muslim background who does decide to follow Jesus comes under immense pressure from their families and communities, who often demand the convert return to Islam. Women and girls who convert are particularly considered to have brought shame on their family by converting. Christians who’ve converted from Islam are sometimes forced to lead a double life and hide their new faith completely.
Even Christians who did not convert from Islam are hardly regarded as full members of Turkish society and encounter all kinds of legal and bureaucratic obstructions. All Christians have limited access to state employment and experience discrimination in private employment, especially in jobs with ties to the government.
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, who was forced to leave Turkey
What’s life like for Christians in Turkey?
Without warning, the Turkish government notified Hans-Jurgen Louven that his routine application to renew his residency visa had been denied. He was then ordered to leave Turkey within 10 days. He had lived and worked in the country for more than 20 years, and had intended to stay for the rest of his life.
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. He has to assume it was because he is a Christian: “The only reason I can think of is that we are people of faith,” he shares, “and we have shared our faith with the local people.”
Is it getting easier to be a Christian in Turkey?
Turkey fell 17 places in the Open Doors World Watch List, from number 25 last year, which is excellent news. In terms of Christian’s everyday lives in Turkey, it’s a mixed picture. Violence fell significantly, with no Christians killed and fewer churches attacked – which is believed to be partly because the church became much less visible during Covid-19 lockdowns. On the other hand, pressure increased slightly, and the blurring of Islam and nationalism continues to increase from both the government and wider society.
How can I help Christians in Turkey?
Please keep praying for your brothers and sisters in Turkey. Your prayers make an enormous difference to those following Jesus no matter the cost.
Open Doors raises worldwide prayer support for persecuted believers in Turkey.
Dear God, help Your children in Turkey as they seek to proclaim the gospel in a stifling and suspicious atmosphere. Grant them wisdom, discernment and boldness. Give believers favour where there is often discrimination. Strengthen and sustain all converts under pressure for following You. Build the faith and witness of all believers. Change the atmosphere in Turkey. Amen.