Turkey (MNN) — Yesterday morning a car bomb explosion in Istanbul, Turkey killed 11 people: seven police officers and four civilians. 36 others were injured.
The explosion in the Beyazit neighborhood ripped through a bus of riot police and area civilians at 8:40 am local time during the morning rush hour. Authorities believe the police were the target of this attack.
No groups have claimed responsibility for the terrorist attack, but Turkish authorities have four individuals in custody.
Rody Rodeheaver, President and CEO of International Needs USA was recently in Turkey. He shares, “I think there is a great unease in the country of Turkey amongst the citizens. There is the feeling that the country is being seen through the crosshairs of more than one terrorist organization. Obviously they haven’t named anyone in this particular situation yet, but they have several choices: the PKK [which is] the Kurdish terrorist organization; of course ISIS is another one.”
The PKK has been clashing with Turkish authorities since July 2015. Rodeheaver explains, “There is very serious problem in the east with the Kurdish PKK terrorist group and the Turkish security forces fighting many battles very frequently now. The Turkish security forces are trying to gain control over the terrorists as well as some of the real estate they have laid claim to in various locations in the east.”
The fact that this terror attack occurred on the second day of Ramadan, Islam’s holy month, raises concerns over what this means for citizens of Turkey and for the local Christians as well.
“This particular incident comes during Ramadan–it comes at a very holy time in the life of the majority of the citizens of Turkey. So there are lots of questions being asked about security, about the future direction of the country, about leadership. This is a country that is best described from an emotional word as fragile.”
Already since the clashes in Turkey began last year, the country has seen a 28-percent drop in tourism. This is the fourth major terrorist attack in Turkey this year.
“With these types of terrorist events taking place, there is a great threat to the Christian church because often the evangelical churches are targets for these types of attacks. So far, that has been mostly avoided, but there is certainly a lot of concern on the part of the police agencies in Turkey about the danger and the threat to the Christian community,” says Rodeheaver.
Rodeheaver stresses that as Christians, we should not be controlled by a spirit of fear but rather of spirit of hope.
“Remember that Turkey is a big country. It’s a country of about 76 million people. So these incidents, though they loom large on our television screens, they are still only affecting a very small part of the population. But they do have the ability to create fear and havoc, and that is the goal of the terrorists–to create terror. And our role as believers is to bring people back to the hope and confidence we find in Jesus.”
There is an estimated 100 thousand Protestant and Catholic Christians in Turkey, with five to six thousand Evangelicals. Christians only make up less than one percent of the Turkish population. Over 99 percent of Turkish citizens are Sunni Muslim.
One of the simplest ways you can help is to lift up the nation of Turkey in prayer.
Rodeheaver says, “This is a time when we need to be praying for Turkey as a whole. We need to be praying for our Christian brothers and sisters as they continue to stand for Christ at a time when many of them will have targets on their back. The security at many churches is being increased and at the same time, there is a desire on the part of the Church in Turkey to be faithful to its call, be faithful to the opportunity to share the Gospel and the Good News in a place where hope and concern are not equal.”
International Needs currently operates in Turkey under a different name. They minister to Christian children, carry out translation ministries, plant churches, and work with the refugee crisis.