The Turkish government has forced the leaders of 18 Jewish and Christian churches to sign a declaration attesting to enjoying religious freedom. Among the signatories are Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I, Armenian Bishop Aram Ateşyan and Chief Rabbi Ishak Haleva.

This statement was published by the Anadolu National Agency [1] and then quoted by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to assure he is not persecuting Christians.

This strange case comes against the backdrop of Turkey’s request for extradition from the United States of Muslim preacher Fethullah Gülen; the US refusal to deliver this CIA collaborator; and the retaliatory arrest by Turkey of US evangelical pastor Andrew Brunson.

Ankara is now trying to blackmail Washington and exchange one religious person for another. Relying on the statement extorted from the Armenian and Orthodox churches, President Erdoğan assures that his country respects freedom of religion.

Recall that Turkish law prohibits the construction of Christian places of worship. The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople is not recognized by Turkey. Christian seminaries were closed by the police in 1971 so that it was no longer possible to train priests or pastors. Many churches and monasteries have been seized.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan salutes by making the hand sign of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Roger Lagassé

[1“Azınlık cemaatlerinden ’baskı’ iddialarına yalanlama”, Anadolu Ajensi, 31 Temmuz 2018.