Last week, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) International filed an application with the European Court of Human Rights on behalf of David Byle, a Canadian-American evangelist, to contest a permanent re-entry ban imposed on him by Turkish authorities.
Byle had been living and ministering in Turkey for more than a decade when he first faced threats of deportation in 2016. The Turkish Interior Ministry claimed Byle was a “threat to national security” and had issued a directive ordering his expulsion from the country.
Byle had been detained several times over the years for “missionary activity, disturbing the peace and insulting Islam” while doing street evangelism. But he had never thought the Turkish government would force him to leave his home, where he had raised his children and had become a valued member of the community.
Byle legally contested the deportation order, and in February 2017, Turkey’s Constitutional Court intervened. The high court said that unless the Interior Ministry was able to prove that Byle was a director, member or supporter of any “terrorist organizations” or a threat to public order and security, the deportation order would be temporarily blocked.
“I have deeply felt God’s call to share the truths of the Bible in Turkey, and I’ve been committed to be transparent in all my religious activities,” Byle said shortly before the ruling was announced. “I’ve been allowed to do this for all these years—not in a forceful manner, but openly sharing. Yes, I’ve faced a lot of intimidation here, pushing me to give in and not exercise this right. So it has been painful for the authorities to keep insisting that I am a threat to Turkey’s national security.”
After a short reprieve, Byle was again targeted by Turkish authorities in October 2018 and arrested for being a “threat to public order and security”—just one day after the high-profile release of American pastor Andrew Brunson from Turkish custody.
Byle was given 15 days to leave the country, and after he left, Turkish authorities imposed a permanent re-entry ban, something he only discovered upon trying to join his wife and children in Istanbul.
“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’s attorneys are hopeful that the European Court of Human Rights will hear the case and overturn the re-entry ban.
“We long to stay in Turkey with the people we have grown to love,” Byle said, “but we are resigned to do whatever God wants.”
Above: David Byle preaching in front of a crowd in Turkey.
Photo: Courtesy of ADF International