According to Carnegie Center researcher Alexander Görlach, the future of Christians in Turkey is threatened by continuing persecution and intolerance enflamed by Turkish President Recap Tayyip Erdogan.
In an op-ed for German media outlet Deutsche Welle, Görlach writes, “While the world is busy fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, dealing with mass unemployment and a global recession, the Turkish government is taking advantage of the situation to further pressure minorities.”
“The marginalization of Turkey’s Christians isn’t new for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan: He’s been busy reorganizing his secular republic into a mixture of Ottomanism and Islam for some time now,” he continues.
Görlach cited Turkish expansionism abroad and persecution of minorities at home as proof of Turkey’s dramatic societal and political shift under Erdogan.
Christian lands and churches are confiscated or destroyed. Members of the church are harassed and arrested, such as Sefer Bilecen, head of the Monastery of Mar Jacob, who was arrested and charged with being a member of a terrorist organization.
Görlach explains the case and concludes with its importance:
He is said to have given water and bread to Kurdish fighters who knocked at the gate of his monastery.
In his defense, the priest has argued that he would provide help to anyone who asked for it — it’s his Christian duty. He has since been released from prison after various aid organizations intervened, but is still on trial …
Step by step, using a nationalist and Islamic rhetoric, Turkey’s Christians are becoming a welcome scapegoat for Ankara …
The fate of Sefer Bilecen, who is still waiting for his verdict, mirrors that of a minority whose future in their homeland is anything but certain.