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Turkish teacher who claimed to be Jesus suspended

Jesus Christ as drawn by Rembrandt [Getty]

Date of publication: 24 April, 2019

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The teacher was swiftly suspended by local officials who deemed such claims 'inappropriate' and a bad example for his class of 11-year-olds.
A teacher in Turkey's Antalya province was suspended on 22 April after announcing to his students that he is Jesus.

Appropriately timed for Easter Monday, the anniversary of the resurrection, the English teacher, a Turkish citizen, told his sixth-grade class that he was the Christian messiah, and claimed to know the date of Judgement Day, according to Haluk Şimşek, a local official in the Serik district of Antalya.   

Halil Koca, another local official whose children attend the school, told Anadolu Agency that such a subject was "inappropriate" for discussion and was setting a bad example for 11-year-olds.

In January, Turkish authorities blocked five websites belonging to religious cleric Iskender Evrenesoglu, who claimed to be the Mahdi, the messianic leader in Islam.

With growing restrictions on freedom of speech in Turkey, the swift clampdown on Antalya's teacher-turned-messiah is not suprising.

However he is not alone in claiming to be an incarnation of Christ. Dozens around the world have gained notoriety for staking the same claim, many whom are still alive today.

Read more: Turkish judge blocks access to self-proclaimed prophet's websites

One of whom is UK-based David Shayler, an ex-MI5 agent, who proclaimed in 2007 he was the messiah. He now delivers sermons as his cross-dressing alter ego, Dolores, and has said he is helped in being the messiah by his partial identity as a woman, which gives him a female perspective onto the world.

In Turkey however, expressing religious affiliation or sentiments in public and educational institutions has been outlawed since Ataturk's reforms in the 1920s, laws that have only recently been relaxed.

In 2008, the ban was lifted on wearing headscarves on university campuses, after years of protest.

The number of Christians has decreased dramatically in Turkey in the past century, from about 20-25 percent of the population in 1914, to 0.3-0.4 percent in 2010, according to Pew Research Center.

Mass expulsions and genocide of Christians during the break up of the Ottoman Empire is partly the reason for this decline.

Anti-Christian sentiment is also on the rise as President Erdogan attempts to shape the identity of Turkey into the leader of the Islamic world.

US pastor Andrew Brunson was detained in Turkey on charges of espionage and aiding terror groups. Brunson ran a small evangelical Protestant church in the western port city of Izmir. He became a cause celebre for America's Christian-right during his detention.

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