Turkey (MNN) — While the world was hailing the start of the New Year, a gunman entered a nightclub in Istanbul, Turkey and started shooting. The attacker used a stun grenade as he gunned down the party-goers. In total, 39 people were killed and 70 others wounded. Many of the victims were tourists and hailed from 14 different countries.
ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack on Monday, calling the attacker a “soldier of the caliphate”.
Attacks from Muslim extremists in Turkey have stayed consistent throughout 2016, and this somber starting note to 2017 doesn’t bode well for future stability in the East-meets-West nation.
“Turkey has seen an uptick in attacks just on anything Western,” says Emily Fuentes with Open Doors USA, “whether it’s a nightclub or Christian groups or whatever it might be, because it basically stands for everything ISIS is against.”
While Open Doors monitors Christian persecution in particular, Fuentes says there are notable overlaps between what ISIS sees as Western and what they see as Christian.
“One of the trends we note is that oftentimes ISIS or other extremist groups lump Christianity in with anything Western. They hate anything Western, and Christianity is viewed as that. So Christians are often specifically targeted in a lot of Middle Eastern countries because of their Western affiliation.”
Fuentes notes, “We are monitoring Turkey as a country for Christian persecution and are noting that Christians are continuing to see an increase in persecution and specific targeting for their faith.”
Because of this trend of building attacks and persecution in Turkey, Christians have to be especially alert “because they almost have a double target on their back, you know, seen as Western and then as anti-Muslim. They stand out if they’re not wearing Muslim dress or going to Mosque when others are. There are churches, there are Christian parts of town in Turkey, in Istanbul and some of the other cities. So Christians have to be mindful that it’s almost twice as likely that they could be attacked versus a Western Muslim or something like that.”
At the start of 2017, this attack in Turkey is a reminder to all of us that we need to “pray without ceasing,” as 1 Thessalonians 5:17 calls us to.
“I think it’s important to pray for all citizens, and especially for Christians as they’re facing twice the persecution, just for wisdom and protection [from] these extremist groups, that they wouldn’t live in fear but would have God’s wisdom guide them.”
After you’ve prayed — for Turkey as a whole, for the families who’ve lost loved ones this week, and for Christians suffering persecution around the world — you can take action. Open Doors is coming out with their 2017 World Watch List on Wednesday, January 11th, and with it comes some great action points.
“We’re going to be launching our World Watch List which ranks the top 50 countries where Christians face the most persecution,” says Fuentes. “We’ll have new information on countries like Turkey so people can reach out to their congressmen, to their senators, even the president. We’ll have a petition available when we launch this World Watch List as well with opportunities to speak to our leaders about protecting Christians and then others who are being targeted by ISIS.”
Mark your calendars for January 11th, and then click here to check out the 2016 World Watch List!