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European Court of Human Rights building Photo: Wikimedia Commons / CherryX
European Court of Human Rights building
Photo: Wikimedia Commons / CherryX

Governing officials in Turkey have twice lost cases (in the years 2007 and 2014) at the European Court of Human Rights concerning their compulsory Religious Culture and Knowledge of Ethics classes, as they do not respect the 'freedom of religion or belief' of its citizens; namely, applicable parents, guardians and pupils. In September of 2014, the European Court stated that "Turkey had to remedy the situation without delay." Yet the only course of action thus far had been preparations made by the Education Ministry for a plan involving wide consultation with civil society on the courses in question. This plan is awaiting government approval after the elections.

Another systemic violation of 'freedom of religion or belief' in the educational system involves the country's optional lessons in Islam which many have found are, in reality, "compulsory optional." Fear of discrimination and harassment from teachers and other pupils, as well as the slowness of the legal system, are the main reasons many people have not taken legal action to protect their rights. Unless effective protection of 'freedom of religion or belief' in education is implemented, the state will continue to lose such cases before the European Court. For more on the challenges facing believers in this country, go to this page.

As Turkish Christians seek the Lord's counsel, we ask Him to alleviate their fears and embolden them to voice their concerns in love. May they continue trusting Him to transform the hearts of government officials and school administrators so a curriculum that does not dishonour Him and His followers will be effectively implemented. Pray that the religious freedom of believers will increase in Turkey, and that they will be able to use this freedom to bless others through evangelism, discipleship, hospitality and other forms of fellowship.