Could France turn Turkey in a new direction?

By May 11, 2012

Turkey (MNN) — With a new captain at the helm in France, Turkey believes they'll finally be getting their ticket into the European Union.

Turkey has a rocky history with both France and the EU. Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy strongly opposed Turkey's induction into the Union. Over the last number of years, many Turks have felt slighted by the EU's refusal to recognize Turkey as an official part of Europe. Many Turks have labeled the refusal anti-Muslim, undoubtedly because nearly 100% of Turkey's population follows Islam.

The reaction has been strong enough that, according to the Hudson Institute, "At the start of the accession talks, nearly 85% of Turkish people supported Turkey's EU membership; today, that number has declined to less than 40%."

These feelings have unfortunately come out in Turkey's political leanings, says Patrick Klein with Vision Beyond Borders who just returned from the nation. "Turkey was not able to join the European Union, so now the Prime Minister is actually taking the country more toward radical Islam, kind of aligning them more with Iran. Because of that, the Turks are scared."

Klein adds, "They are more secular Muslims–they don't really practice their religion. They said 97-percent of people in Turkey don't even read the Quran. So people are getting scared because they see what's happened in Iran and the oppression. They're afraid because they're going that way.""

As a result of this fear toward radicalism, Turks are asking more questions than ever before. Out of a population of 74 million, there are less than 6,000 believers, says Klein. And yet Muslims are starting to open up to conversations about Christ.

"People are coming and asking more questions, and they're coming and getting Bibles. They're more open to the Gospel," says Klein. "Even we found that as we witnessed to people on the streets, and gave out the ‘JESUS' film, and talked to people. People were a lot more receptive, and people did not turn down the literature."

At the same time, says Klein, persecution of Christians coming from the government has actually declined recently. Although angry community and family members still pose a threat to new Christian converts, incidents involving the government, like the 2007 Malatya murders, have slowed.

Now that Francois Hollande has been elected as French president, Turkey expects change far from the Iranian temptation. Hollande has promised to repair ties with Turkey, the Turkish Weekly reports, and the Socialists in general have supported Turkey's EU bid.

Turkey's minister of foreign affairs, Ahmet Davutoglu, earlier this week went as far as to call Turkey's EU induction inevitable now, says Turkish Weekly. Davutaglu reportedly said, "Turkey's EU membership is an eventual outcome and requirement of the natural flow of history."

To enter the EU, Turkey would have to agree to a number of conditions, including a change to its practice of religious freedom. This could be significant for the many Christians who may not face direct persecution from the government, but struggle in the workplace and legal system.

If Turkey is to be inducted into the EU, it will take a great deal of time, though. Vision Beyond Borders continues, therefore, to focus on the openness and need in Turkey. Klein says one of the largest needs is for more Christian laborers and long-term workers. Another significant need is for prayer.

Pray for the few faithful believers in Turkey, most of whom are working together to reach as many people as possible with the Truth. Pray that whether Turkey gets more radical or more European, more and more Turks would grab onto God's promises. Pray also for more workers for the harvest.

Learn more about Vision Beyond Borders and their involvement in Turkey here.

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