Turkey (MNN) — The votes are in. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will soon begin a second five-year term, this time with more power than before.
“The message was very clear that there’s only one voice, and the voice is his,” notes Bassma Dabbour, Missiologist and Director of Leadership Development for Voice of the Martyrs Canada. “If you disagree with it, you’re not welcome.
“It is definitely a concerning situation for the Church in Turkey, and those who are serving the Body there.”
Erdogan victory unsettling
Following an attempted coup in 2016, Erdogan began a series of moves to consolidate his control over Turkey. Initially, he declared a national state of emergency and dismissed over 100,000 government workers.
Furthermore, over 50,000 people have been imprisoned pending trial, including U.S. Pastor Andrew Brunson. Brunson was accused of espionage and has been held at a Turkish prison ever since.
“We know, we all know, that he’s not a spy,” says Dabbour. “That was a false accusation. He was there to serve the Body of Christ, and to serve the Turkish community.”
Another “power grab” came in 2017, when Turkish citizens voted to remove the Prime Minister role altogether and give the president new powers. “A single person is becoming the head of the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary and this is a concern for a threat to the survival of the country,” Erdogan’s top opponent told journalists yesterday.
“Turkey has departed from democratic values and Turkey has broken its ties with the parliamentary system which it had. We’re now in a one-man rule — there’s no mechanism to prevent arbitrary rule. We continue to have great concerns about this situation.”
Concern for Christians
According to Dabbour, the Turkish Church is safe — for now.
“Islam is the religion of the state; it’s practiced and imposed on everyone. But, we have to remember Turkey has very strong Christian roots and heritage, and the government does recognize that. The government is smart enough to know that this [Christianity] is important for the culture, for the community, and also for the tourism as a source of economy.”
But, at the same time, “There has been tremendous change, from [a] state of democracy and freedom for everyone to [a state where] protectionism and speaking against Islam is prohibited.”
It’s unclear what will happen next, she says, or how Erdogan’s re-election will affect Pastor Brunson. In light of this uncertainty, your prayers are vital.
Please continue to lift up Pastor Brunson, and ask the Lord to protect His followers in Turkey.
“There’s a huge need for discipleship,” says Dabbour.
“[There are] a lot of people who come from the Muslim faith to Christianity, and because it’s something completely new to them, they want to be discipled, they want to learn it. They want to learn how to worship in their mother tongue, they want to read Scripture in their mother tongue.”
“We thank God for their boldness to witness to their own families and friends and neighbors; I think we need to pray for protection as well.”