Turkey (MNN) — Tear gas, water cannons, and police batons punched into the crowds of Turkish protestors rallied in Taksim Square last Friday.
Since then, mass "peaceful" protests have swept Turkey with Taksim Square as the epicenter, making it the nation’s largest demonstration movement in years.
Some are joining the movement in response to police brutality; others have a bone to pick with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his tightening control for a moderate Islamist regime.
According to Rody Rodeheaver with IN Network, “There are obviously more underlying currents going on here because that has now spread to several of the large cities across Turkey–cities like Izmir and Ankara–and you see people turning out in the streets.”
“I think what you see taking place here is…a sense of uneasiness to the perhaps unresponsiveness of the Turkish government…and a concern that the government of Prime Minister Erdogan may be moving toward the more Islamic, more fundamentalist, religiously-oriented government,” Rodeheaver says.
Protesters are calling for Prime Minister Erdogan’s resignation. In an unapologetic response, Erdogan told Turkish Television, “Where they gather 100,000, I will bring together 1 million.”
“The Prime Minister has kind of taken a very cocky stance; a ‘we will do what we want to do’ stance,” says Rodeheaver. “[He] has seemingly not listened or even apologized.”
Police brutality is also concerning. Volunteer doctors near Taksim estimate around 1,000 were injured as of Saturday night.
“There have been over 1,700 people arrested, and there have been huge complaints about the overreaction of the police to these demonstrations. The doctors are talking about seeing over 400 patients in hospitals in Istanbul alone,” Rodeheaver says.
TIME compares the protests in Taksim Square to Tahrir Square and the Arab Spring. Rodeheaver weighs in: “There is kind of a feeling of the Arab Spring being revisited here, but the alarming thing in Turkey is that Turkey has been one of the most stable governments in the Middle East–a constitutional republic–and one that has enjoyed fairly liberal freedoms for its people.”
It doesn't look like it'll be over this week. There are rumors of work stoppages scheduled to take place in various work unions. According to Reuters, the Public Workers Unions Confederation (KESK) "said it would hold a 'warning strike' on June 4-5 to protest over the crackdown on what had begun as peaceful protests." The leftist KESK has 240,000 members.
“If things like work stoppages [occur]…the uneasiness that these situations create in various market places–not only in Turkey, but for other folks who want to do business in Turkey, these are all question marks that raise issues in securities across the globe,” Rodeheaver says.
The situation in Turkey’s neigher, Syria, also adds to the unease. According to Rodeheaver, “Along with this, Turkey is in a very tumultuous time along their border with Syria. That is a great irritant for the Turkish government, and I think the unrest there has also created a sense of insecurity for some of the people in the population because of not knowing what’s going to happen with Syria and some of the long-term results of that whole situation.”
Altogether, the turmoil in Turkey could eventually affect ministry. “If things begin to erupt and if things begin to be unpredictable, what that creates is insecurities in terms of what types of ministry you can do [and] where you can do ministry.”
IN Network’s ministry in Istanbul brings the Gospel to Turkish kids through camp. $100 sends one child to camp for five days, covering food and transportation, among other things. At the camp, kids get to sing worship songs and read the Bible. So far, their ministry is safe from areas of protesting.
But Rodeheaver says, “It could become other pockets of unrest where we are doing ministry…. In these times, people can take advantage to react against the Christian minorities that are in these countries. Our prayer is that this will not go that far, that we will be able to continue our ministry.”
A ministry sharing God’s love with kids can provide calm in the midst of turmoil. But IN Network is only 13% finished with their project to build up the camps. Click here to give $100 and send a kid to camp.
In the meantime, pray for Turkey. Rodeheaver says, “We really need to pray that this can be short-lived and that the government can reach some terms with those who are upset and be able to bring some normalcy back into the lives of the people there.”