In January, Alliance Defending Freedom International (ADF) submitted an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights contesting a permanent re-entry ban enacted on evangelist David Byle by authorities in Turkey.
According to ADF, Byle, a Canadian American pastor, faced threats of deportation from Turkey in 2016. At that time, Byle had lived and ministered in Turkey for 19 years. The Turkish Interior Ministry had ordered Byle’s expulsion from the country, citing he was a “threat to national security”.
Byle had been arrested numerous times prior for ‘missionary activity, disturbing the peace and insulting Islam” while preaching in the streets. However, Byle never thought he would be made to leave the country, his (now) home, where he had raised his family.
“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 to ADF 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.”
In February 2017, the Constitutional Court of Turkey intervened on Byle’s legal appeal. According to the court’s ruling, the deportation order against Byle would be temporarily blocked, unless the Interior Ministry proved that Byle was a leader or member of any ‘terrorist organizations’ or a threat to public security.
The temporary block was short-lived as Turkish authorities again arrested David Byle for being a ‘threat to public order and security’ in October 2018. This arrest came just one day after the Turkish authorities released American pastor Andrew Brunson. Byle was given 15 days to leave the country with a re-entry ban imposed.
According to Lidia Rieder, legal officer for ADF International, “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. 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 his family currently reside in Germany. He and his legal team 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.”