After 12 Years, Turkey Closes Door on American Church Volunteer

Religion Today

After 12 Years, Turkey Closes Door on American Church Volunteer

After 12 years serving a church in Diyarbakir, Turkey, voluntarily and peacefully, Jerry Mattix suddenly is on the country's blacklist, World Watch Monitor reports. In the past two years, the Mattix family and at least six other foreign-born families have either been deported from Turkey or denied renewals of their residency permits. "Sadly, this is not just a personal vendetta on the part of the government," Mattix said. "Several other Christian workers in our region and connected to our church have been forced to leave in the last year." Diyarbakir is near the epicenter of ongoing clashes between Turkish military and Kurdish rebels, and not far from Turkey's border with Syria, over which thousands of Syrian refugees have fled, overwhelming local authorities. These issues have made the region politically sensitive for Turkey's ruling AK Party, which is trying to marry democratic principles with modern Islam. For their part, churches in southeastern Turkey say they have been deprived of their right to obtain help and support from foreigners. "There is a discomfort with foreign Christians here, and slowly they will clean them out," said Ahmet Guvener, pastor of the Diyarbakir Protestant Church, where Mattix had been a volunteer. "In the end the churches in the east will become weak and scattered, because there are no mature Christian workers among us."


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