Bishop of Southwark asks about religious freedom in Turkey and confiscation of church property

SouthwarkOn 11th July 2017 the Bishop of Southwark, Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, received written answers to three questions on Turkey; on religious freedom, confiscation of church properties and the Hagia Sophia.

The Lord Bishop of Southwark: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, what assessment they have made of recent reports that the Turkish Governor of Mardin has confiscated some 60 properties, including churches, monasteries and cemeteries.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: Our understanding of the situation is that legal changes to local government structures in Mardin, where many important Assyrian religious sites are found, resulted in 2012 in the transfer of the title deeds to some religious sites from local bodies to central government, and eventually to the Government’s Directorate for Religious Affairs. Assyrian organisations are making legal appeals against these decisions. The British Embassy in Ankara will be closely following this process. We strongly support religious freedom in Turkey and have supported civil society organisations working in this area.


The Lord Bishop of Southwark to ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of freedom of religion and belief in Turkey.
 Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: We will continue to encourage Turkey to work towards the full protection of fundamental rights of all its citizens, including in the areas of freedom of religion, freedom of expression and minority rights. Freedom of religion continues to be a priority area for our bilateral projects in Turkey.


The Lord Bishop of Southwark to ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the government of Turkey, following the decision by the Turkish Minister of Religious Affairs to take part in prayers at Hagia Sophia in Istanbul on 21 June 2017, that Hagia Sophia will continue to be used as a cultural museum for all of Turkey’s citizens rather than a place of Islamic worship.
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: ​We have not raised the recent Islamic prayers at Hagia Sophia with the government of Turkey. We recognise Hagia Sophia as a site of extraordinary historic and religious significance. It is therefore important that it is preserved in a way that respects its complex history and significance to many faiths. We regularly raise wider issues relating to fundamental freedoms of religion and expression with the Turkish government.
%d bloggers like this: