Turkey: search for hope in state of emergency and crackdowns

By August 18, 2016

Turkey (MNN) — Turkey is set to release 38,000 prisoners jailed before a failed July 15 coup attempt to make room for new detainees.

(Photo courtesy SAT-7)

(Photo courtesy of SAT-7)

The government declared a three-month state of emergency on July 21 and began a sweeping crackdown, arresting more than 23,000 people.  The purge has also led to more than 81,000 people being dismissed or suspended from their jobs, including police officers, judges, teachers, soldiers and journalists.

During the state of emergency, Turkish lawmakers also granted President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sweeping powers as a means of countering the ‘threat to Turkish democracy’.  Under the Turkish Constitution, the emergency measures allow the government to “partially or entirely” suspend “the exercise of fundamental rights and freedoms,” so long as that doesn’t violate international law obligations.

However, as the government has taken steps toward Islamizing the country, imams were whipping the Sunni faithful into a frenzy of nationalism that led to attacks on churches.  Persecution watchdog groups like Open Doors USA and Voice of the Martyrs have noted that Turkey, which once boasted two million Christians, has barely 120,000.

(Photo courtesy SAT-7)

(Photo courtesy of SAT-7)

For those remaining, the threat of the crackdown has a ‘chilling effect’– a situation where behavior is suppressed by fear of reprisal, often affecting free speech.

That’s where SAT-7TURK comes in.  Their platform is unique in a time of uncertainty.  SAT-7 USA’s Rex Rogers explains, “We are the only Christian channel broadcasting on Türksat National satellite. And now we’re on something called D-Smart, which is a digital kind of provider. We’re there and we’re able to speak truth to power without attacking current regimes. We don’t get political or partisan, but we do talk about human rights and all referencing who Christ is and what Christianity is about.”

Through their programs, SAT-7 addresses big issues that are top-most on viewers’ minds and invites them to the conversation.   So far, SAT-7 TURK has not been included in the government crackdown.

“We’re still licensed. We’re still broadcasting, in the sovereignty of God.  He’s protecting us.  There are no direct threats at this point in Turkey, to our station, our channel,” says Rogers.

They’re speaking truth, talking about human rights and it’s a message that resounds with the audience. “We have the talent; we’re speaking directly to whatever given audience there is at this moment. They’re calling, they’re responding. All of those are positive indicators.”

Broadcasts serve a potentially huge audience of 4.5 million at a critical place and time.  On top of trying to settle Turkey down internally, there is the brutality of ISIS on its doorstep and the subsequent two million who have sought refuge in Turkey.

As each crisis bears down, Turks grow hungrier for the truth.  In fact, the response has been more than they had anticipated, which also means, “People are hungry. It means they’re curious. It means they may be (as we say over here) ‘seekers’.  They’re asking more about Christianity. They want to read a Bible. They get access to a Bible. So, absolutely, there’s openness.”

(Coverage map courtesy SAT-7)

(Coverage map courtesy of SAT-7)

What draws them?  The remnant Church echoes the truths discussed in SAT7 TURK’s content.

“There’s considerable concern and anxiety. They’re human beings.  They may be Christians who believe in a sovereign God, but they’re still human beings experiencing those emotions.  Worry for their children, for women, in particular, who are more vulnerable, so the anxieties are high.”

It is hope, in the face of fear, he says.  “We don’t like adversity. I would never pray for adversity for you or my children or me. None of us like it. But we also know God works in and through it. So He is clearly at work in this time of pressure there in the nation of Turkey.”

In response to the current situation in Turkey, a SAT-7 TÜRK spokesperson says in an earlier report, “The beauty and mysteriousness of God gives us hope and joy. There is a reason why SAT-7 TÜRK is here. There are no other channels on Türksat that speak of the hope we have. No one else talks about love and joy. Other channels show tension and violence, which spreads fear. We are the only alternative.”

What can we do, as believers living thousands of miles away?  We should  pray.  Just because they haven’t had any specific threats does not mean they’re invulnerable.  There were several hours when the channel was off air on July 15 because the Türksat broadcast center came under pressure from coup organizers.

Rogers asks “Prayer for the security and safety of, not only for our people, but also of churches, of Christian people, in general.  Particularly, if they’ve been converted from the background of another religion, they’re vulnerable to even their family members.”

  • Pray for those who are labeled and treated as traitors after embracing the Christian faith.
  • Pray for God to enable those whose lives are threatened to place all hope and trust in Him.
  • Pray for converts from a Muslim background (MBBs) to minister graciously to their families.

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