A new report from the Association of Protestant Churches in Turkey has revealed that the attacks and hate speech against Christians are increasing in the country.
The 2016 Rights Violations Report noted the rise in hate speech against Christians in social and conventional media, according to Hurriyet Daily News. The report highlighted the billboard ads, posters, and pamphlets that warned against the celebration of Christmas and New Year.
One incident that occurred on Dec. 28 in the Nazilli district of the western province of Aydın involved an amateur theatrical act, in which a group of costumed men put a gun to the head of a man portraying Santa Claus.
The report also noted that Protestant religious officials have been regarded by the government as a “threat against national security” and some have been deported, the news website Asbarez revealed.
Last August, Anteb church leader Patric Jansen was barred from entering Turkey, as Turkish officials considered him to be a “threat to national security.”
Andrew Craig Brunson, the leader of Izmir Resurrection Church, was supposed to be deported, but he was arrested on Dec. 9 for allegedly being involved in a failed coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Ryan Keating, who is affiliated with the Ankara Salvation Church, was told on Oct. 8, 2016 that his residence permit was canceled as he was leaving Turkey to attend a conference abroad. He was also designated as a “threat against national security” and was told that he would not be able to return to the country.
Another issue highlighted in the report was the classification of Bibles that were found in shelters used by terrorist group members as “terrorist material.”
The report also cited cases in which Christian and Jewish students were required to provide documents from their religious centers before they could be exempted from religion classes in Turkish schools.
“In one school a baptism document was verbally demanded. The use of the exemption right [from religion classes] is becoming more difficult day by day,” the report noted.
Christian students, who had to leave religion classes, were put in the position of declaring their faith, which results in harassment from their classmates and invitations to convert to Islam.