A Canadian-American pastor, who has lived in Turkey for 19 years, was told to leave the country simply for sharing his Christian faith with others.
David Byle, along with Alliance Defending Freedom International (ADF), is taking a stand against religious persecution. The faith-based legal advocacy group filed an application with the European Council of Human Rights (ECHR) - the top human rights court.
Missionary Pastor David Byle was forced to leave the country he had called home for 19 years. Nobody should face discrimination because of their faith. We have filed an application on his behalf with Europe’s top human rights court. #EndPerseuctionNowhttps://t.co/2OI35GnijQ pic.twitter.com/z4uhyfTAhO
— ADF International (@ADFIntl) January 28, 2021
"Whenever we spoke in public, people were excited to listen and learn, the pastor said. "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," Byle added.
Byle's started out as a street evangelist, sharing the gospel throughout Istanbul. But Turkey's political scene began to shift and persecution increased - leading police to become suspicious of Christianity.
He faced an unjust deportation decision in 2016 but challenged it in court and was allowed to stay in the country until his case was finalized. Then, Byle was arrested in October 2018 and was ordered to leave within 15 days. Authorities claimed that Byle was a threat to public order and security and issued a permanent re-entry ban.
"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," said Lidia Rieder, legal officer for ADF International.
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."
Byle and ADF's decision to take this case to the ECHR offers hope for other barred Christians living in Turkey and will hopefully set a new standard.
"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," said Robert Clarke, deputy director of ADF International.
"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."
Turkey ranked 25th on Open Doors' 2021 World Watch List of countries where Christians suffer the most persecution.