April 11, 2012
Hostility toward Christians in Turkey has persisted long enough for a U.S. religious rights watchdog to recommend it as a "Country of Particular Concern" -- something Turkish Christians know firsthand, Compass Direct News reports. "People here treat us like cursed enemies," said pastor Orhan Picaklar of Agape Church in Samsun, near the Black Sea region. "Our families feel anxiety." Picaklar's son received death threats on Facebook last September, and a man recently caused minor damage to Picaklar's church building. Last month, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) recommended to the U.S. State Department that Turkey be designated as a "Country of Particular Concern" -- among Iran, Saudi Arabia and Sudan -- for religious freedom violations. "[Turkey], in the name of secularism, has long imposed burdensome regulations and denied full legal status to religious groups," a USCIRF report said. Restrictions denying non-Muslim communities the rights to train clergy, offer religious education and own and maintain places of worship have led to their decline and in some cases their disappearance, USCIRF stated. Turkish officials, in response, called USCIRF's recommendation "null and void."