Why America's NATO Ally Is Persecuting Christians
American Pastor Andrew Brunson sits in a Turkish prison, facing trumped up charges of terrorism. He's a Christian who lives and preaches in Turkey and experts say that's enough to put him at risk.
"So today, I would argue, that Turkey's Christians and Jews are going through a very difficult period," Aykan Erdemir with Foundation for the Defense of Democracies told CBN News.
Erdemir is a Muslim Turk who has dedicated his career to helping Christians, Jews and other religious minorities gain full religious freedom in his country.
It was his core mission as a member of Turkey's Parliament but he faced roadblocks. Now he advocates from Washington, D.C. working with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.
"I think Christians have learned to live under constant threat of physical or symbolic violence. They're used to constant messages of hate, they're used to Turkey's culture of impunity meaning that they know that there will be very lenient sentencing to the assailants," Erdemir said.
Things got worse last summer, he told CBN News, after a coup attempted to topple Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Turkish authorities were already suspicious of Protestants, especially missionaries.
"When we talk about Turkey we are talking about basically the biblical lands, this is the country that hosts a lot of the Jewish and Christian sites so there is a very rich heritage," Erdemir said. "And it's so sad to see how Turkey's Islamists systematically, not only marginalize them, but also portray them as being foreign."
In the coming months, Erdemir fears other Protestant pastors and missionaries could be framed, like Pastor Brunson, by security forces. He says following the coup, it's hard to find Turks willing to speak out for their Christian neighbors.
"The majority of citizens are afraid to talk," says Erdemir.
That's because since July 15, reports indicate 83,045 civil servants have been fired from their jobs and 40,000 people have been arrested. Also, Erdemir says hundreds of news outlets including magazines, newspapers, radio and TV stations have been closed.
It's an issue President-elect Trump will have to confront. As Erdemir and others fear, America's NATO ally increasingly resembles an authoritarian regime.