For a Christian in Europe, Turkey is the worst country


Southern Europe


Turkey is full of churches, even old ones, such as the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. But freedom for Christians, there is little. For European Christians, Turkey is the worst country to live in. Photo AFP, Ozan Kose

North Korea is championing religious persecution worldwide again. That is the message of the newly published Open Doors’ World Watch List. For European countries, Turkey has the highest position. Pressure on Christians is rising there, Open Doors says.

On the global scale, Turkey has number 41. Officially, the country has its religious freedom protected by law, Open Doors writes. “However, this is not the lived reality for Christians in Turkey.”

Religious nationalism is putting Christians under increasing pressure. Not being a Muslim is seen as disloyal and almost betrayal. A Christian is, therefore, not regarded as a full member of Turkish society.

Believers have “limited access to state employment and experience discrimination in private employment, especially where employers have ties to the government. Since religious affiliation is still recorded on ID cards (nowadays via electronic chip), it is easy to discriminate against Christian job applicants. In recent years, the government has banned foreign Christians with Turkish spouses and children from settling in the country as residents.”

Conversion to Christianity is not formally forbidden. But this is not expected from a decent Turkish citizen.


According to Open Doors, conversion from Islam to Christianity is especially difficult for women. “If their faith is discovered, they can suffer violence at the hands of their own families, and in the most serious cases, they are subjected to sexual violence. This is more common in rural areas.”

In the past year, pressure on Christians has increased. There were no Christians killed. But quite a few church buildings were “damaged, desecrated, converted into mosques or otherwise attacked”.
Open Doors raises worldwide prayer support for persecuted believers in Turkey.


The number of Christians is around 170,000, which is 0.2 per cent of the total population of 85 million.

The following European country on the list is Belarus, at number 76, according to the Dutch daily Nederlands Dagblad. There is not only “dictatorial paranoia” from President Lukashenko, but also the “dominance” of one Christian denomination, namely the Orthodox Church, that does not give space to other churches.


Last year, Afghanistan was at the top of the list, but sunk to number 9, Reformatorisch Dagblad reports. After the Taliban takeover in 2021, the little group of Christians seemed to disappear from the radar. That makes it difficult to speak about active persecution. North Korea has been at the top many times before. This year’s World Watch list is number 30, after the first version in 1993. According to Open Doors, persecution has increased strongly in those decades.

The top-10 countries

  • North Korea
  • Somalia
  • Yemen
  • Eritrea
  • Libya
  • Nigeria
  • Pakistan
  • Iran
  • Afghanistan
  • Sudan


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