Turkey’s bid for economic freedom may lead to spiritual freedom too.

By June 13, 2005

Turkey (MNN)–Turkey’s bid to join the European Union has forced a relaxation of restrictions on Christian activity.

As a result, they are now allowing churches to register. Up till now, just 55 Protestant churches have been publicly identified as places of worship in Turkey’s major cities.

However, none of these facilities have been able to acquire formal, legal status as church buildings. But, with each registration, seven people have to identified themselves as leadership. IN Network’s Rody Rodeheaver says while that sounds good, there’s a darker side to what the registration tells the government. “We’re Christian, and these are our goals. The government will know right where to find them.”

Those prejudicial attitudes may take a while to change and adjust. According to Compass Direct, Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate coordinated a
symposium in March in conjunction with a local university to present academic research on missionary activities in the country.

The conference included reports on Christian missionary activities within Turkey as well as among Turks in Kyrgyzstan, Bulgaria, France and Germany. Conference organizers said they viewed missionary activity in part as a “security issue” with several professors from the local police academy giving presentations.

In light of this, critics believe the changes coming will be purely ‘cosmetic.’ Indeed, the loosening of the restrictions brings about mixed feelings for groups involved with evangelistic work in Turkey.

Rodeheaver explains, “In one sense, it’s a breakthrough, in another sense, it could have negative impact down the road if things would go sour.”

In spite of the risk, Rodeheaver says Turkish believers are hopeful of the future. “They have raised the flag of Christianity, albeit very quietly, but they have stood their ground in a very, very difficult place. Perhaps this is a time when God is going to honor it, and allow some reaping of the seeds that have been sown.”

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