By BosNewsLife News Center
ISTANBUL, TURKEY (BosNewsLife)-- At least 20 evangelical churches in Turkey have reportedly received death threats from the Turkish branch of terror group Islamic State.
The messages, sent to church members via social media website Facebook, email and mobile phone texts, include "upsetting videos and pictures", Christian rights activists told BosNewsLife.
Suspected Islamic State militants reportedly said they "are tired of waiting" for Christian converts to return to Islam. "Koranic commandments... urge us to slay the apostate like you," a message added.
Church leaders have reported the threats to authorities, said advocacy group Voice Of the Martyrs (VOM), which supports the evangelical churches. VOM and its branches urged Christians to "join us in praying for the protection of these churches and for God's guidance to be granted to their leaders."
Although Turkey has been officially secular since 1924, nearly 97 percent of the country's 80-million people represents its Muslim majority, according to Christian estimates.
Rights groups say the latest threats come amid wider concerns over Christians and other religious minorities in Turkey, which is seeking membership of the European Union.
Christians are often denied the right to provide religious education and maintain places of worship, despite a constitutional guarantee of religious freedom, according to human rights investigators.
Turkish Christians say hey are frequently subjected to discrimination, slander, personal assault, and violent attacks against their churches or leaders.
And, this year saw the eighth anniversary of an incident in 2007 when German missionary Tilmann Geske and Turkish converts Necati Aydin and Uğur Yüksel had their throats slit after being tied up and interrogated by five young Muslims about their missionary activities at the Christian 'Zirve Publishing House' in Malatya.
VOM has not given up hope.
Despite "great hostility demonstrated toward the followers of Christ in various areas of the Middle East, we are reminded through God's Word that He is able to transform the hearts and minds of the perpetrators...bringing them from the realm of darkness into His Kingdom of light and love," the group said.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has come under international pressure to allow more freedom, after his Islamist AK Party won a large majority in the June 2015 elections.
Critics have expressed concerns about what they view as his autocratic style, and fear the the EU-candidate country will move further from the secular ideals of the republic's founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
(With reporting by BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos).
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