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Pastor in Turkey defends eviction as threat to national security




February 19, 2021

A pastor, who has worked in Turkey for more than 20 years, and his lawyer attended a ten-minute hearing in an Istanbul administrative court on February 11 to respond to a charge by authorities that he is a “threat to national securityWhich, if maintained, will effectively banish him from the country.

The three-judge panel asked no questions of Pastor Michael Feulner, a German citizen, and the lawyer representing the immigration department made no comment. The pastor, who has no right to appeal the judges’ decision expected in two to three months, said the situation was “strange”.

Pastor Michael Feulner must wait up to three months to find out if judges decide he poses a “threat to national security” [Image credit: Middle East Concern]

Pastor Michael traveled to Turkey in 1999 as a humanitarian aid worker following the devastating Izmit earthquake in the northwest of the country that killed 17,000 people. He and his family settled in Yalova, where he has been pastor of the Yalova Lighthouse Church since 2003.

The pastor was detained by authorities earlier in February and held for 30 hours in a cell – a detention his lawyer called illegal. He has been given ten days to leave the country, a deferred order while his case progresses.

Pastor Michael’s lawyer has opened a second case, appealing a deportation order, which is to be held in Ankara.

Around 70 overseas Christian residents deported since early 2019

Since the start of 2019, around 70 overseas Christians have been similarly named and expelled from Turkey as threats to national security. One of them was another church leader of the Yalova Lighthouse Church, married to a Turkish citizen.

In June 2020, the Istanbul Protestant Church Foundation (IPKV) launched a public appeal to the Turkish government to ask for the lifting of the new residence restrictions imposed on foreign pastors. IPKV said the non-Turkish wife of one of its Turkish pastors had her application for a residence permit rejected, potentially separating her from her husband and three children.

Hostility towards Christians has worsened in recent years in Turkey, as secularism has given way to Islam with the rise of the Justice and Development Party (AKP). Its founder, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President of Turkey since 2014, has clearly expressed his desire to recreate the Ottoman Empire.

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