Turkish Protestants highlight problems

Turkish Protestants highlight problems

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkish Protestants highlight problems

Hürriyet Photo

Hate crimes directed at Christians continued in 2012 as well as physical attacks carried out against Protestants and their churches, according to a 2012 Human Rights Violations Report from the Association of Protestant Churches in Turkey.

The report, aired yesterday by the association’s Committee for Religious Freedom and Legal Affairs, listed some 10 hate crime incidents that occurred in Turkey.

The report also read that the ability for Protestants to establish and continue to use places of worship remained a problem.

“Even though there were some gains this year regarding the establishment of associations and congregations

gaining official legal status, a complete solution is still lacking. Along with some positive developments, there were still problems with part of the compulsory Religious Culture and Moral Knowledge classes (RCMK) in schools. Neither was there movement forward in 2012 in the area of protecting the rights of Christians to train their own religious workers,” the report read.

The report further highlighted that some foreign religious workers and members of congregations had to leave Turkey because their visas were denied or they were deported, and that the religion category on national identity cards remained in 2012, continuing to increase the risk of discrimination.

On the other hand, some positive and hopeful developments were noted.

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 Protestant congregations themselves. The Protestant community was invited to the Constitution Reconciliation Committee and granted the opportunity to give their opinions on the new Constitution being written.

Complaints of Protestant students being forced to attend compulsory religious culture and moral knowledge classes as well as religion lessons have also declined, as the Ministry of Education has in recent years increasingly informed schools of Protestant students’ exemption from the courses.

There were no places of worship closed in 2012, even though one facility used for worship received a closure notice, and there were no problems with requests to celebrate Christmas in public areas, according to the report.

“We rejoice that there were no attempts to hinder or harass the holiday celebrations that were done in a format open to the public.”