Turkey: headaches galore

By September 20, 2016

Turkey (MNN) — Clashes between the Turkish army and Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) killed dozens of people at the end of last week.

(Image capture courtesy International Needs)

(Image capture courtesy International Needs)

At the same time, Turkey crossed into Syria.  Officially, the incursion was aimed against ISIS, which was in control of the invaded area.  Unofficially, it looked more like an ambitious leader trying to curtail the advance of the Syrian Kurdish soldiers and strengthen his grip on the capital, while simultaneously silencing his detractors following a failed attempt to remove him from office.

Essentially, the sense that normal law and order are breaking down in the country of Turkey has dramatically intensified.

International Needs’ President and CEO Rody Rodeheaver says, “The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) is not something new. It’s always been in the background for many, many years and has played a major role in Turkish history.”

The PKK, a separatist insurgency, began in 1984 and has since remained a thorn in President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s side.

He adds, “It seems as if the issues between the PKK and the Turkish government were getting close to being solved and, at the last moment, Erdogan veered off from the course that they were taking with the PKK and [violence] erupted again.”

In 2013, the PKK and the Turkish Government agreed to a ceasefire, but it didn’t take long for that deal to fizzle out.

Fighting in Van, the northeast section of the country, means trouble.  Rodeheaver explains the area is “…more rural and rugged country. This is an area where the terrorist groups find a refuge and hide in the mountainous areas.”

The country now faces a toxic combination of political polarization, government instability, economic slowdown, and threats of violence from an unruly neighbor (Syria) in crisis.   The most recent U.S.-Russia brokered peace deal crumbled over the weekend.  Then there’s always ISIS.

From within, political opposition stirred, leading to a coup.  Put down quickly, the fallout has encompassed thousands of teachers, lawyers, judges, law enforcement, and military leaders.  Not surprisingly, even after a couple months, Turkey is being managed under a state of emergency, he adds.  “This is a time when Erdogan can do basically whatever he wants to do with impunity because of the imposition of martial law.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Image Courtesy: World Economic Forum, Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic | Wikimedia Commons)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Image Courtesy: World Economic Forum, Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic | Wikimedia Commons)

Meanwhile, Erdogan addressed the United Nations World Humanitarian Summit Monday to discuss the large-scale forced displacement of nearly 65.3 million people, focusing on the ongoing war in Syria, with hopes of coming to an agreement that could tackle the crisis.

“There are refugees in several camps who are Kurdish. There are many thousands, hundreds of thousands of Syrians, and also thousands of Kurdish refugees in the camps all over Turkey.”

The camps are in dreadful shape.  A future for the young people has few possibilities.

“This is a way to try to head off the radicalization of young people that happens when they’re detained and kept in these deplorable situations.”

In what was once a bastion of Christianity, Turkey has become a strong force spreading the cause of Islam. IN says believers have declined from 22 percent to only .32 percent between 1900 and 2000, with most of the Christians being non-Turkish.

The existing Church has been responding to the needs, not only in obvious ways, but also in building relationship with the most vulnerable.  “One of the important things for ministry in these days is to be able to reach out to the children who are part of these camps because of the evangelical’s ability to share the Gospel in unique ways with children in these camps.”

(Photo courtesy of International Needs)

(Photo courtesy of International Needs)

The desolation of the camps means many are open to hearing about the God who wants a personal relationship with them. Within this relationship of trust between International Needs workers and refugee families, there is blessed space for sharing stories of hope.

One tool International Needs is using is the Action Bible. The beautiful drawings and simple text share the Gospel message in a kid-friendly way.

International Needs is working to provide one of these special Bibles to every child who asks. “Getting the Church, the Turkish Evangelical Church, involved in building relationships in those places is a step towards helping to grow the Church, and it is taking its opportunity. We need to applaud that, but we also need to pray.”

Please pray for the refugee children in Turkey who can’t go home again.  Remember, too, that many of the believers International Needs supports are in a similar predicament.  “Pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ in Turkey, that they would have wisdom and creativity and innovation as they work to share the Gospel in this very difficult period.”

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