World Watch Ranking: 50

What does persecution look like in Turkey?

The combination of rising religious nationalism and a growing emphasis on Islamic values by the government is intensifying the pressure on believers in Turkey.

Foreign Christians continue to be forced to leave the country or banned from returning, including those with Turkish spouses and children. Historical Christian communities are monitored regularly and subjected to controls and limitations by the government.

Although conversion from Islam to Christianity is not legally forbidden, anyone who is not a Muslim, or who converts to a different faith, is seen as a disloyal Turk. Christians are viewed as a negative Western influence, and those who choose to follow Jesus—whether from Islam or secularism—can face pressure from their families and communities to recant their faith. Even Christians from minority ethnic backgrounds, such as Greeks and Armenians, are feeling the pinch in the form of various legal and bureaucratic challenges. And given that religious affiliation is registered on the electronic chip inside ID cards, it’s easy for employers, particularly those with connections to the state, to discriminate against believers.

Turkey is also home to converts from countries such as Iran, Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq. On top of pressure from Turkish society and government officials, these believers face pressure from their own families and communities. Many are fearful of making contact with local churches because of the risk of discovery by community members.

Who is most vulnerable to persecution?

Hostility toward Christians is particularly acute in the inland areas, where attitudes are typically conservative and Islamic. Most non-traditional Christian communities, such as Baptist, Evangelical and Pentecostal congregations, live in the Western coastal cities, such as Istanbul, which tend to be more liberal and secular in nature.

Armenian and Assyrian (Syriac) churches face hostility in the southeastern region of Turkey. For decades, they have been caught between the rivalries of the Turkish army and Kurdish resistance groups and have faced discrimination by both ethnic Turks and Kurds in general. Most Christians from those churches do not live in their ancestral region anymore, but have moved to western areas of Turkey.

What has changed this year?

For some time, the number of foreign Christians receiving an entry ban seemed to be decreasing. However, during 2023, the number began to increase again. The Turkish government has continued to ban some expatriate Christians from re-entering the country, often on vague security grounds. These bans seem to be a deliberate attempt to isolate the non-traditional churches.

What does Open Doors do to help Christians in Turkey?

Open Doors raises prayer support for persecuted believers in Turkey. Through local partners, Open Doors supports Persian Speaking refugee believers with training, resources and practical support.

How can you pray for Turkey?

  • Please pray that Christians will be seen as valued members of Turkish society, rather than a threat.
  • Pray that believers will be given boldness, wisdom and protection as they follow Jesus in an increasingly hostile society.
  • Ask that believers will not grow disheartened by the rising challenges facing them.
a prayer for Turkey

Lord Jesus, we pray that our sisters and brothers in Turkey will not grow disheartened by the rising hostility many of them are experiencing. Provide breakthroughs for those frustrated by bureaucratic and legal obstacles, and give them hope amid the waiting. Soften the hearts of key figures in government and Islamic circles, so that believers are not seen as a threat but as valued members of Turkish society. Lead and empower Christians as they seek to show Your love to those around them, including those bringing help following the devastating earthquakes last year. Stem the tide of rising nationalism, and write a new story for Turkey that has Jesus at its heart. Amen.

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Map thumbnail
Persecution Level

Very High

Persecution Type
  • Islamic oppression
  • Religious nationalism
  • Dictatorial paranoia
  • Ethno-religious hostility

Population of Christians
169,000 (0.2%)

Main Religion

Presidential Republic

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

topic: Turkey / blog: 28cc488d-769a-40d2-a8b6-54575e1e7e78 / postid: 7635cac0-6b9e-ee11-be37-6045bd90b9bb / results: