Date: May 14, 2019
Turkey (MNN) — Turkey appears to be closing its doors to Christian residents, and it’s not clear why. A recent entry ban, subsequent deportations, and unclear communication all raise concern for Turkey’s Christian community.
“After many years of residency, they (foreign Christian workers) are now being banned from entering the country,” Adam Smith* of Middle East Concern tells MNN.
“Lawyers are trying to get official papers giving the reasons why people are facing entry bans, and yet they’re not able to do so.”
Smith describes the following situations as examples of Turkey’s entry ban.
Entry ban examples
In April, family emergencies required that one pastor travel immediately to the United States, Smith begins. This pastor led a church in Istanbul for 20 years and is well-known in the community. When he tried returning to Turkey on Thursday, authorities detained him at the airport. Instead of letting him into the country, they deported the pastor to Germany.
Smith says MEC knows of several cases like this. The situation is putting non-Turkish Christians on-edge. “It’s certainly made them feel very insecure,” he states.
“There’s no warning that this might happen… when you leave the airport, you don’t know if you’re going to be allowed back or not. It’s very unsettling for the people.”
Another entry ban occurred in February, he reports. A Christian couple was returning home to Istanbul after traveling abroad. Authorities stopped the pair in the airport and told them they were going to be deported, but the couple managed to call their lawyer first.
“The lawyer was able to step in, stop the deportation for a few days,” describes Smith. Unfortunately, the couple couldn’t return to their home in Istanbul. Government authorities told them to return to the U.S. and seek answers from the Turkish consulate.
The couple “went to the Turkish consulate in Chicago, asked them ‘what’s the problem? We haven’t done anything wrong…why are we not being allowed back in the country?” Smith says. Consulate officials told the couple they couldn’t get into Turkey because there was an entry ban.
“That doesn’t explain anything, of course, [about] why are you banned?” Smith observes.
On its website, the U.S. State Department warns citizens visiting Turkey,
Security forces have detained tens of thousands of individuals, including U.S. citizens, for alleged affiliations with terrorist organizations based on scant or secret evidence and grounds that appear to be politically motivated. U.S. citizens have also been subject to travel bans that prevent them from departing Turkey.
However, at press time, there are no statements regarding the entry bans or deportations of foreign residents of Turkey.
About the current entry ban and deportations, Smith notes “similar things have happened in the past; quite a number of foreign Christians have been deported. But, it’s been done in quite a different way.”
At the individual level, there’s little action one can take legally or politically on behalf of these believers. However, you do know the God who directs the affairs of mankind.
We “definitely need to pray in a variety of different areas regarding this [situation],” Smith states. “First of all, there are those people and families who have been immediately affected by this. I know, for example, that the children in one family… have been really distressed.”
Ask the Lord to comfort and encourage believers affected by Turkey’s entry ban. Pray lawyers working on their behalf will have wisdom and discernment. “If there is any policy that’s targeting Christians in this way because of their ministry, then may it come out into the open and stop,” Smith suggests.
Please also pray for Turkish churches affected by the entry ban. “If the church suddenly loses its head pastor, it’s very disturbing for the congregation and is a cause of anxiety,” notes Smith.
“May the Church know God’s peace during this time and have that overcoming spirit.”
Visit MEC’s website to learn more about the state of the Church in Turkey.
*– Name changed for security purposes.
Header image is a stock photo obtained via Pexels.