A protestant pastor has lost his court case against the Turkish authorities that would have allowed him to re-enter the country after he was forced out in 2018.
David Byle had been living in Turkey for 19 years and had been arrested multiple times for evangelising on the streets of Istanbul.
In 2016, he was given a deportation order, which he appealed. He was allowed to stay in the country until the result of the appeal was published, however, he was unexpectedly detained in October 2018, just a day after the release of American pastor Andrew Brunson.
After being released, Mr Byle was then forced to leave Turkey and permanently banned from re-entering. He told Premier he believes he was forced out partly for being “too evangelistic”.
“People were complaining, even though what I was doing was completely according to laws,” he said.
“But the other more recent reason is because of the big scandal with Andrew Brunson. When he was finally released, there were a lot of people who weren't happy about that in the government. And I was arrested the very next day. I don't think that was a coincidence,” Mr Byle continued.
Turkey currently ranks 25th in the World Watch List - a list of countries where Christians face most persecution. Mr Byle believes that Christians in Turkey are being systematically removed from the country.
“In the last two years, the government has managed to kick out 63 different foreign Christians, most of whom were in major positions of leadership in Turkish churches.
“But they didn't do it all at once. They're very clever. They do it spread out over time. So it never really gets into the big international news. But the people in Turkey know, there's a very clear pattern.”
As a result of this, many churches have been left leaderless at a critical time. According to Mr Byle, there is a “real spiritual battle for the hearts and minds” ongoing and many are searching for answers.
"A lot of people are fed up with Islam... many people have become deists but there are others who are looking for answers elsewhere. The number of people turning to Christ is really starting to increase. The government and other people are aware of that and they don't like it so they're doing what they can to try and slow things down.”
Explaining that many Turkish people see the UK as one of the countries that have always been supportive of them, Mr Byle encouraged the UK church to stand in prayer with Turkey.
“I just hope that the UK would continue to pray for and maintain good relationships, especially with the fledgeling Turkish church.
“Pray they would not be intimidated. A lot of churches have been left leaderless with these deportations and removals. Some of them are, understandably, shaken by this. Pray that new leadership would rise up in the churches that have lost their leaders, and that the believers will not be intimidated by what's happened.”
Mr Byle is now residing in Germany from where he has filed a case at the European Court of Human Rights to appeal his entry-ban to Turkey. ADF International is helping with the legalities of the case.