Turks expel American pastor

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Ankara/Strasbourg – David Byle, a pastor living in Turkey, was forced to leave the country he had called home for 19 years, where he had raised his children and had become a close-knit member of the community – simply because he shared his faith.  

 This week, ADF International filed an application on his behalf with Europe’s top human rights court. 820 million Europeans from 47 different nations are subject to its rulings.  

“Whenever we spoke in public, people were excited to listen and learn. For a long time, we were successfully able to fight the government attempts to stop our ministry, because we were only making use of our right to religious freedom, protected by the Turkish constitution. The government did not want us in Turkey, but plenty of people do. God called us there, he wants the Turkish people to hear about Him and to know that He is doing wonderful things,” said David Byle. 

Byle had faced an unjust deportation decision in 2016 and challenged the legality of the move in Court. Though he had been granted an injunction that allowed him to stay until the results of the case were delivered, Byle unexpectedly faced further arrest – only one day after the high-profile release of American pastor Andrew Brunson from custody in Turkey in October 2018.  

Despite having a guarantee of protection to remain, he was given a new order to leave the country within fifteen days. The authorities alleged Byle was a threat to public order and security despite him successfully challenging previous charges brought against him. After leaving the country, the authorities imposed a permanent re-entry ban, something he only discovered upon trying to return to his family with whom he now resides in Germany.  

 Rising discrimination against Christians across the country  

Byle’s ministry began as a street evangelist, sharing the gospel across Istanbul.  From 2007, he noticed growing harassment as the police became skeptical of this public display of Christianity.  

The changes in the political scene in Turkey have caused the government to clamp down even more severely. Christian pastors and their families are being threatened on a daily basis.  By its actions, the government is creating a “chilling effect” by treating Christians in Turkey poorly – particularly those from abroad – and making their mission to evangelize as difficult as possible. This hostility faced by Byle and others is a concerning trend of recent years. 

“Nobody should be discriminated against because of their faith. Open displays of hostility towards David and other foreign Christians that we now witness in Turkey are a deliberate attempt to stifle the spreading of Christianity, and represent an attack on religious freedom. David’s missionary work, although legal under both the European Convention and Turkish national laws, is at the heart of the authorities’ decision to deport him and to ban him from the territory of the country. It is a serious violation to use immigration laws as an instrument to interfere with a person’s fundamental right to manifest his religious beliefs,” said Lidia Rieder, Legal Officer for ADF International. 

As is the case across the world, persecution of Christians is increasing. Turkey is no exception. Christians are the most persecuted religious group in the world and yet this issue receives limited attention from the international community.  

“Everyone has the right to choose their religion and to express it publicly and privately. Being forced to suddenly leave the country you have called home for two decades simply because of what you believe is the stuff of nightmares. By ratifying the European Convention on Human Rights, Turkey has agreed to protect the right to religious freedom.  We are hopeful that the Court will take the opportunity to hear the case of David Byle and hold Turkey to account,” said Robert Clarke, Deputy Director of ADF International.