Turkey (MNN) — “Everything rises and falls on leadership.”
The saying is especially true in Turkey.
Authorities are deporting foreign church leaders and blocking believers’ attempts to choose their own leadership, International Christian Concern reports. It’s the latest in President Erdogan’s attempts to “snuff out” Turkey’s religious minorities.
“There is strong state control over the Church,” Middle East Concern’s Daniel Hoffman tells MNN.
“The more the current government feels under pressure and feels threatened, the more they try to control things and restrict freedoms, including the freedom of the Church to function.”
Trouble for Turkish churches
As noted here by Middle East Concern, “the constitution establishes Turkey as a secular state, affording no privileged status to Islam or Islamic law.” Nonetheless, multiple reports in recent years describe government attempts to align Turkey with Sunni Islam.
Even though New Testament believers planted churches in Turkey centuries ago, state-sponsored media calls Christianity a Western faith. It’s part of the attempt to tie Tukey’s national identity with Islam.
“Up until a few years ago, hardly anyone in Turkey had ever heard of the word ‘evangelical’ [or] what it means to be an evangelical,” Hoffman explains.
“Nowadays, when you say ‘evangelical’ the first thing that comes to mind is someone who’s dangerous for Turkey; somebody who’s trying to undermine the country [by] working together with foreign powers.”
Last summer, Middle East Forum published this detailed account of Turkey’s ongoing and systematic “anti-Christian” campaign. Though Andrew Brunson’s case briefly shined an international spotlight on Turkey’s mistreatment of Christians, global attention quickly faded.
The future seems ominous for Turkey’s Christian community. However, Hoffman says there’s at least one silver lining to ongoing trouble – it’s deepening believers’ faith.
“People are almost forced to look to God and say, ‘The government is doing all of these things against us. Where does our help come from? Our help comes from our God.’”
Now that you know, would you pray with us? Ask the Lord to strengthen and encourage His followers in Turkey. Pray for believers who left Islam to follow Jesus. Ask God to give them discernment and words to minister graciously and wisely to their families and neighbors.
“The Church in Turkey is definitely facing increased challenges and pressures,” Hoffman says.
“[They] would be greatly encouraged by [the] awareness of their situation by the Body of Christ and prayers on their behalf.”
Header image courtesy of Spyros Papaspyropoulos via Flickr.