Christian community in Turkish city of Diyarbakir disappears after 'mass persecution'

Entire Christian communities in the city of Diyarbakir in Turkey have reportedly disappeared due to "mass persecution" at the hands of authorities as the believers' properties have been included in the government's expropriation plan which was adopted in March 2016.

(REUTERS / Sertac Kayar)Armenian Christian women pray during an Easter mass at Surp Giragos church in Diyarbakir, in the Kurdish-dominated southeastern Turkey, April 5, 2015.

According to the Gatestone Institute's Sept. 4 report titled "Turkey's Mass Persecution of Christians and Kurds," the Surp Giragos Church in Diyarbakir has been turned into an army base with its pews used as firewood while garbage was dumped in its sanctuary. The report also said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been targeting Kurdish-majority areas and Christians are affected by these attacks, The Alabama Baptist relayed.

In addition, all properties belonging to Armenian, Assyrian, Chaldean, and Protestant Christians in Diyarbakir were included in the Turkish cabinet's expropriation plan. The Surp Giragos Church and other houses of worship were also included.

"We have been exposed to ethnic and religious discrimination for years," said Diyarbakir Protestant Church pastor and spiritual leader Ahmet Güvener.

Aside from that, Muslims who refused to hate Christians and Kurds were also being targeted in incidents of mistreatment. In one instance, an elderly Muslim grandmother was harassed by police who accused her of being a "hidden Armenian."

In another case, American pastor Andrew Brunson, who had been residing in Turkey with his wife for more than two decades, now faces four new criminal charges after being jailed over false terror accusations. American Center for Law and Justice attorney CeCe Heil said the new charges against the missionary were more serious than the original charge of being a member of an armed terror group, Christian News Network reported.

The new charges against Pastor Brunson included espionage, attempting to overthrow the Turkish parliament, acquiring political and military secrets, and attempting to disrupt constitutional order. The missionary, on the other hand, maintained that he was innocent of all the charges against him and pleaded with the judge to allow evidence to support these accusations.

Earlier this year, Brunson's Turkish attorney said no concrete evidence against his client had been presented. His wife, on the other hand, has appealed for prayers for the jailed pastor's release.