“EU should pressure Turkey to respect freedom of religion”


European Union


Muslims in front of the Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque. The mosque was originally builtby the Roman emperor Justinian I as the Christian cathedral of Constantinople for the state church of the Roman Empire. It was converted into a mosque later on. Photo EPA, Erdem Sahin

The EU should increase political pressure on Turkey, to respect the freedom of religion of its religious minorities, like Christians. As long as religious freedom is violated, Turkey should not be able to become an EU member state, Christian MEP Bert-Jan Ruissen (ECR) argued.

To pressure Turkey into respecting freedom of religion, more conditions should be set for the EU’s pre-accession payments to Turkey and in the process toward the upgrade of the free traffic and trade between the EU and Turkey. MEP Bert-Jan Ruissen pleaded for this in a conference in the European Parliament Wednesday, organised by the ECR Group and ADF International, ADF International, a faith based legal advocacy organisation. That is reported by the ECR in a press release. Ruissen belongs to the Dutch Reformed SGP party.

“Turkey has a constitution defining the country as a secular state with freedom of religion. The reality is that the state promotes Sunni Islam. This has resulted in grave violations to the rights of religious minorities”, Ruissen said.

Limit of rights

Religious minorities face hostilities and problems when opening places of worship, a report from the U.S. Department of State. The government continues to limit the rights of non-Muslim religious minorities, researchers wrote in June this year. Media and Non-Governmental-Organisations experience entry bans and deportations of non-Turkish citizen leaders of Protestant congregations. Furthermore, the Turkish government hinders the training of religious leaders of minority groups. In addition, acts of vandalism against religious sites continue to be a problem.


At the conference in the European Parliament, witnesses shared their experiences about the obstacles that religious groups face, ranging from legal to practical issues. A British missionary told the audience how painful it was for him to be banned from Turkey, while Turkish president Erdogan came to his country to open a Turkish mosque.

Religious minorities in Turkey include the Alevis (the country’s largest religious minority). Around 0.2 percent of the population comprises atheists, Armenian Apostolics, Baha’is, Bulgarian Orthodox, Chaldean Catholics, Greek Orthodox, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jews, Protestants, Roman Catholics, Russian Orthodox, Syriac Catholics, Syriac Orthodox, Yazidis, and others.

“Despite political pressure, the Turkish government does not improve the situation regarding freedom of religion. The situation of religious freedom in Turkey remains worrisome”, Ruissen concluded. ”That clearly shows that Turkey is not fit to be a candidate Member State of the EU. The EU should put an end to the accession process of Turkey.”



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