Turkey: Current relations between religious groups

In 2002, Turkey fell under the rule of the “AK Party,” or the Justice and Development Party. According to The Irish Times, in present-day Turkey, this ruling party has centralized ideals based on industrial expansion coupled with conservative Islam. The AK Party’s reign has transformed Turkey over the past decade, providing effectual economic policies and governance. According to Forbes magazine, this has shifted the socioeconomic class of many to the middle class and made the AKP the “dominant political force.”

In Turkey, church and state seem to exist symbiotically, where drastic transformation, especially the growing Muslim influence, has swept through the country on both ends. Due to the political and socioeconomic development, Turkey has “embraced its Muslim identity, setting apart as a self-defined Muslim power.” Having this power has enabled Turkey to take advantage of other Muslim societies in nearby nations, which has helped stabilize the political sphere.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, since coming to power in 2002, has enacted reforms to improve the rights of ethnic and religious groups in Turkey, but one may still question where other religious groups in Turkey find their place in Turkey’s “Muslim identity.” According to the Gatestone Institute, Turkey holds the oldest Christian place of worship in Instanbul: the ancient monastery of San Giovanni in Studion founded in 462. While this monastery is currently classified as a museum, it is now going to serve as a mosque.

The monastery of San Giovanni will be the third ancient Christian building and heritage site to be transformed to a mosque. This “attack on Christian places of worship” is also coupled with the precept that Christian communities in Turkey will not be granted the official recognition of “church” by the government. Improvement of rights and equality may be the focus, but the preeminent presence and power of Islam still affects those of varying religions, such as Christianity.

-Taylor Allen


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