Pro-Government Officials and Media using Anti-Christian Propaganda

Country: Turkey

Date of incident: October 1, 2016

Category: Government Restrictions / Social Hostility / Intolerance

Attack against: Faith

Area of case: Governmental / Islamist / Political

Following the failed military coup against President Erdogan the Christians of Turkey are being made scapegoats by government officials and Islamist extremists.

From EWTN UK: Voice of America reports that Christians are growing more fearful due to increased terrorists attacks and anti-Christian propaganda from government officials and pro-government media. In the early 20th century the Turkish government systematically exterminated 1.5 million of its Christian citizens. Until recently, Turkey was home to over two million Christians. Today, there are just 120,000 left. In August 2016 President Erdogan's government organised the “Democracy and Martyrs” rally to protest against July's failed coup and show support for the government. Before a crowd of one million people Erdogan justified the mass purge and arrest of over 50,000 people. He also vowed to destroy those behind the coup. Banners in a sea of red Turkish flags read "You are a gift from God, Erdogan" and "Order us to die and we will do it". Erdogan promised to seek out and remove all those suspected of being involved in the coup: "That night, our enemies who were rubbing their hands in anticipation of Turkey's downfall woke up the next morning to the grief that things would be more difficult from now on. From now on, we will examine very carefully who we have under us. We will see who we have in the military, who we have in the judiciary, and throw the others out of the door."  Though President Erdogan and his government blame the Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen for the coup, this didn't stop three speakers at the rally from singling out Turkey's Christians as conspirators. Christians were condemned as  “seeds of Byzantium, “crusaders,” and a “flock of infidels.” Though the military personnel involved in the coup were Muslim, the danger for Turkey's Christians is that pro-government supporters see the coup as an attack against Islam, changing the narrative into a religious conflict, as one Muslim put it at the rally, "We're here to show that these flags won't come down, the call to prayer won't be silenced and our country won't be divided." Since the coup, there has been a resurgence in religious fervour among Turkey's Muslims, with many Imams reciting daily the Selah prayer, which is a rallying call for Sunnis to strengthen their religious resolve.  Turkish human rights lawyer Orhan Kemal Cengiz told Voice of America that pro-government media have “embraced an alarming narrative of scapegoating Turkey’s religious minorities and connecting the coup plot to them. Particularly pro-government media outlets have taken an anti-U.S. and anti-EU attitude, which I can call a xenophobic attitude, in which they attempt to demonize the West and accuse it of the coup attempt. And this narrative targets and harms non-Muslims in Turkey.” This is alarming in light of Turkey's history of violent persecution of its Christian minority. In 1955 a violent pogrom against Christians resulted in thousands fleeing Turkey.   As a consequence of the growing persecution following the coup, more Christians are fleeing Turkey for the safety of the West. Erkan Metin, an Assyrian human rights lawyer, told Voice of America, "The number of Assyrians immigrating to Western countries is also on the rise. Some have left Turkey and many others are preparing for that.” Sources: EWTN UK and Voice of America