By BosNewsLife News Center
ISTANBUL, TURKEY (BosNewsLife)-- Protestant churches in Turkey condemned Friday, December 12, the introduction of a school book by the Ministry of Education, which they say encourages discrimination of minority Christians, despite Western concerns over increased violence against the country's non-Muslims.
The book, 'Primary Education, History of Republic Reforms and Atatürkizm', Lesson Book 8, is aimed at thirteen year olds and was published this year by Devlet [State] Books.
It includes a controversial text describing Christian missionary activity as "a threat to national unity" as it "destroys" national and cultural values through converting people to another religion.
The text accuses missionaries of using natural disasters, such as earthquakes, to serve their "own interests" and warns children of the "subversive aims" of missionaries as well as tips on how to recognize their activities, according to Christians familiar with the text.
"To the Turkish State and society, the words 'missionary activity' encapsulates not only the work of foreign missionaries, but all Christian activity in the country," said the Alliance of Protestant Churches of Turkey in a published statement.
"The state and various groups have for years, through endless disinformation, spread the belief that Turkish Christians are part of a secret foreign plot to destroy Turkey. This is the same twisted mindset that has led to numerous attacks on our churches by young people who are convinced that we are CIA agents or similar," the Alliance said.
Education officials could not immediately be reached for comments, but the books are apparently already part of the study materials provided by schools.
The constitution of Turkey recognizes freedom of religion for individuals, but the Christian minority frequently complains of ingrained prejudice and violence against them. Local Christian communities comprise less than one per cent of Turkey’s population of 70 million people, according to estimates.
However concerns are growing that the education system is further marginalizing the indigenous Christian population, said the Christian advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).
"We are deeply concerned over the destructive content of this compulsory school text book," CSW’s Advocacy Director Alexa Papadouris told BosNewsLife. "It is extremely distressing to see that the Turkish Government has not taken proactive steps to address increasing attacks on Christians, but instead continues to promulgate disinformation about the small Christian community."
Papadouris said CSW has urged the European Union to demand that Turkish authorities "respect and promote religious freedom for all, at every level in Turkish society, particularly in the media and in educational material."
The Britain-based group also wants the EU to continue to address with Turkey the issue of reported violent attacks against religious minorities, "seeking guarantees that the perpetrators of violence will be brought to justice through the courts in accordance with due process of law." (TURKEY WATCH is BosNewsLife's regular look at key developments impacting the Church and/or compassionate professionals in Turkey at a time when the mainly Muslim country seeks to join the EU ).