Turkey (MNN) — In the last days of August, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that Turkey would relinquish all properties or current property values to Christians and Jews who had had land confiscated 75 years ago.
Turkey has long been a difficult place for Christians to live. While persecution is not nearly as prevalent as in many neighboring countries, believers remain a small minority in the Muslim nation, and they have often been treated as second class citizens.
A prime example of these injustices was in 1936, when, Compass Direct reports, the Turkish government officially registered an incomplete list of minority properties. Hundreds of properties were confiscated from Christian and Jewish communities, some sold to third parties, others used for various offices. (For instance, the Istanbul offices of the Secretariat General for EU Affairs reside in a former grade school building of a Greek Orthodox Church. )
The overturn of the legislation came after years of pressure from the European Union, notes Compass Direct, which slapped heavy fines on Turkey in recent years for failing to return these properties. Turkey has been applying for full membership in the EU, but this property dilemma has been a key component of the EU's demands.
Sources have yet to speculate whether or not this will truly mean less day-to-day persecution for believers as they share their faith. Voice of the Martyrs, Canada notes that while the Turkish constitution includes freedom of religion, worship services are only permitted in "buildings created for this purpose," and officials have restricted the construction of buildings for minority religions. The few who dare to openly profess Christ face harassment, threats, and imprisonment. Evangelism is also met with harassment.
Sources have yet to comment on whether this overturn will guide Turkey away from such practices.
In the meantime, however, the announcement to overturn a 75-year-old injustice has been met with joy by Christ-followers. Christians will receive back what had been schools, churches, churches, cemeteries, stores hospitals, orphanages, houses, apartment buildings and factories years ago. Buildings that were sold to third parties will not be returned, but if Christians apply within the next 12 months, they will receive equivalent compensation.
Voice of the Martyrs, Canada thanks God for the development in a recent news release. The ministry asks for prayer that the transition of land will go smoothly and that there will be no resistance or negative reaction in response.
Prime Minister Erdogan is reported as saying, "The times when citizens in our country were oppressed for their beliefs, their ethnic heritage, or the way they dressed is over." Pray that this would be true and that the decision will thus be an encouragement to believers in Turkey. Pray that believers would be even more determined to be a light for Christ as they live out the Gospel in this Muslim nation.