Same song, different chorus rings in Turkey

By June 11, 2013

Turkey (MNN)- – In 2011, Cairo was in the midst of a full scale riot and protest; then, there was the horrifying footage of police vans mowing down protesters. Months later, as nothing changed, the protests began again.

This time, images began appearing of a government crackdown that included the use of tear gas, birdshot, and water cannons. The response only infuriated the crowds and transformed them to a raging mob.

The scene is similar to that in Turkey. Christian Aid Mission Africa Director Brittany Tedesco says it started innocently enough. "The Prime Minister of Turkey is hoping to–for lack of a better word–‘modernize' the city (Istanbul), and the people of Turkey really don't want that."

Soon after they began, legitimate protests were violently quelled by water cannons and tear gas. The Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly dismissed the demands of anti-government protestors, and on 9 June he warned them that his patience was growing thin.

Demonstrators responded by demanding Erdogan's resignation, accusing his government of creeping authoritarianism. Tedesco explains, "I think the people of Turkey are just very concerned that their government is not listening to them, doesn't care what they want, and isn't concerned about what they're concerned about."

It's a pattern that's all too familiar. The response actually breeds frustration that triggers a cycle of civil unrest and instability that could spread, notes Tedesco. "I think it's very possible that it could turn into another situation in Egypt. From a Christian point of view, I always think about the ministries that Christian Aid is supporting, and local believers. What is this going to mean for them?"

Another observation: the changes that followed Arab Spring revolts across the Middle East seem to have paved the way for the political rise of Islamist groups. Many of them had been marginalized and repressed by Middle East political structures. Minority groups have taken the brunt so far, and most of the people in those minority groups are Christians. Tedesco remarks, "As these governments become more radical, I get concerned that this is just going to mean more and more persecution for them."

At the same time, many people in Turkey are curious about Christ. That itself presents yet another challenge to Christian Aid Mission, your link to indigenous missions. "It's very difficult for a Turkish believer because their identity is tied up in this Muslim culture, so to ‘buck' this system is dangerous for them."

Still, there's hope. Although "missionary activities" are still considered a national threat, "One of the strategies of one of the ministries we help there is just to distribute New Testaments in marketplaces and that kind of thing. A lot of Turks will take a New Testament and read it on their own, and then approach them later on with questions, after they have read through it."

By distributing New Testaments, Christian literature, or Gospel DVDs in the marketplace, it's a safe way for people to learn about Christianity. Because of this, the time to act is now.

Your part? Tedesco explains, "Pray especially for protection for them, and for new Turkish believers that they would have the wisdom to know how to go about sharing the Gospel in a way that doesn't put anyone in danger. And also, [pray] for resources. They distribute a lot of New Testaments and Gospel literature."

Or, you can give. The ministry needs more DVDs ($5 each) and Gospel booklets ($1.70 each). Pray for God's Spirit to work in the hearts of these seekers.

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