The state minister overseeing Turkey's Religious Affairs Directorate warned yesterday that the propaganda of missionaries in the predominantly Muslim nation was part of politically oriented activities aimed at damaging the social peace and unity of Turkey, local news agencies reported today.
Responding to a parliamentary questionnaire concerning missionary activities in Turkey, Mehmet Aydin said missionaries were not simply spreading their religion by exercising freedom of belief but were intervening in people's freedom of belief by capitalizing on their ignorance, according to a report Monday by the Ankara-based Turkish Daily News.
"The goal of those activities is harming the cultural, religious, national and historical unity of the people of Turkey," Anatolia news agency quoted Aydin as saying. "These are not merely religious activities and they are not only carried out by Christian clerics. We have observed doctors, nurses, engineers, Red Cross officials, human rights defenders, peace activists and language tutors conducting missionary activities."
According to Anatolia, Aydin pointed out that the duty of the Religious Affairs Directorate was to "enlighten the people and eradicate ignorance," which, he said, created a "convenient environment for missionaries to deceive and convert people."
Those activities have "a historic background and are carried out in a well-planned manner with political motives," Aydin added.
Stating that the official number of people recorded as being converted via missionary propaganda is 368, Aydin said that it was impossible to calculate the actual figure since missionary activities were carried out covertly.
Although the region in which Turkey is now located was the center of much of the Apostle Paul's work for the early Christian Church, with the establishment of the Ottoman Empire, it became the ‘guardian of Islam’ for centuries. In the twentieth century, the number of Christians in Turkey dramatically decreased from twenty-two percent in 1900 to today, where 99.6 percent of the country's 67 million inhabitants are Muslim and most people have never heard the Gospel of Christ.
Earlier this year, Turkey began encouraging thousands of Assyrian Christians to return to their spiritual heartland, as the nation faced European pressure to return displaced villagers to its southeastern region and to grant more rights to minorities.
According to a report in January by the Associated Press, a sharp decrease in fighting and Turkey's focus on democracy and human rights as it sought to join the European Union, boosted hopes that one of the world's oldest Christian communities could rebuild itself in its spiritual heartland.
On Dec. 17, 2004, the European Union and Turkey reached a historic agreement on starting talks on admitting the large Muslim nation to the bloc more than 40 years after Ankara signed an association deal as a first step to membership in 1963.
However, the EU decision made clear that Turkey could not join before 2015—by which time it is projected to have the bloc's largest population, giving it the most voting power in decision-making and the most European Parliament seats.>
By Kenneth Chan
The Christian Post