Turkey under pressure on minority religious rights - news from ekklesia

By staff writers
November 24, 2005

Turkey under pressure on minority religious rights

-24/11/05

The European Commission has criticised Turkey for infringing Christian and minority religious rights, a month after the country began talks with the aim of joining the 25-nation European Union, writes Jonathan Luxmore for Ecumenical News International.

"In practice, non-Muslim religious communities continue to encounter significant problems: they face restricted property rights and interference in managing their foundations, and they are not allowed to train clergy," the commission says in its 2005 report on Turkey's progress towards joining the EU.

The report was published in Brussels on earlier this month. It said Turkey had ratified international human rights instruments and accepted European Court judgements, but still needed to strengthen and enforce its own domestic laws. It noted that minority rights were frequently violated, as were freedoms of association and assembly, and said "only very limited progress" had been noted "in terms of both legislation and practice" on religious rights.

"Non-Turkish Christian clergy continue to experience difficulties with respect to the granting and renewal of visas and residence and work permits. Religious textbooks have been redrafted to address the concerns of Christian minorities. However, it is still not possible for clergymen and graduates from theological colleges to teach religion," the report said.

Christians have often complained of pressure in Turkey, most of whose 67 million inhabitants are Sunni Muslims, but which is officially a secular state.

The government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has pledged to safeguard religious freedom as a precondition for EU admission in 2015, although some Christian groups have expressed scepticism about new human rights legislation and Penal Code amendments.

The EU report said Turkey's Council of State had issued decrees strengthening Christian broadcasting and equal treatment for mosques and churches, while 341 property registration requests had been accepted from religious groups under a 2003 regulation.

However, Protestants and Roman Catholics were still barred from setting up foundations, while non-Muslim communities had been subject to "violent or threatening harassment", it stated.

[With grateful acknowledgement to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches.]

Also on Ekklesia: Austria hosts conference on European Muslim identity; Seeking the commonwealth of Europe; Archbishop highlights the role of faith in Europe's future; Christian Aid says European Union is bullying the global poor.

Turkey under pressure on minority religious rights

-24/11/05

The European Commission has criticised Turkey for infringing Christian and minority religious rights, a month after the country began talks with the aim of joining the 25-nation European Union, writes Jonathan Luxmore for Ecumenical News International.

"In practice, non-Muslim religious communities continue to encounter significant problems: they face restricted property rights and interference in managing their foundations, and they are not allowed to train clergy," the commission says in its 2005 report on Turkey's progress towards joining the EU.

The report was published in Brussels on earlier this month. It said Turkey had ratified international human rights instruments and accepted European Court judgements, but still needed to strengthen and enforce its own domestic laws. It noted that minority rights were frequently violated, as were freedoms of association and assembly, and said "only very limited progress" had been noted "in terms of both legislation and practice" on religious rights.

"Non-Turkish Christian clergy continue to experience difficulties with respect to the granting and renewal of visas and residence and work permits. Religious textbooks have been redrafted to address the concerns of Christian minorities. However, it is still not possible for clergymen and graduates from theological colleges to teach religion," the report said.

Christians have often complained of pressure in Turkey, most of whose 67 million inhabitants are Sunni Muslims, but which is officially a secular state.

The government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has pledged to safeguard religious freedom as a precondition for EU admission in 2015, although some Christian groups have expressed scepticism about new human rights legislation and Penal Code amendments.

The EU report said Turkey's Council of State had issued decrees strengthening Christian broadcasting and equal treatment for mosques and churches, while 341 property registration requests had been accepted from religious groups under a 2003 regulation.

However, Protestants and Roman Catholics were still barred from setting up foundations, while non-Muslim communities had been subject to "violent or threatening harassment", it stated.

[With grateful acknowledgement to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches.]

Also on Ekklesia: Austria hosts conference on European Muslim identity; Seeking the commonwealth of Europe; Archbishop highlights the role of faith in Europe's future; Christian Aid says European Union is bullying the global poor.

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