Turkish Christians navigate growing nationalism

By July 21, 2023

Türkiye (MNN) — To be Turkish is to be Muslim. That’s a common rallying cry in Türkiye (formerly Turkey), especially since a failed coup in 2016. Bruce Allen with FMI compares it to the situation in India, where many believe to be Indian is to be a Hindu.

Before the coup, Türkiye wanted to appeal to the European Union. Allen says, “Türkiye is a unique country, because it straddles Europe and Asia. So it could be admitted to the European Union. It did this dance many years ago trying to show Western governments how secular it was pluralistic.”

Turkish Christians

How does this kind of religious nationalism affect local Christians? Allen says, “They’ve already been such a minority that it doesn’t surprise them. It’s a country of about 85 million people. And the evangelical population perhaps totals only .04 percent of the population, with only 10,000 to 12,000 in the country.”

These Christians meet in about 170 small churches, mostly located around the larger cities. Some have buildings of their own, while others use public spaces. Allen says, “They watch very carefully what’s happening with the government because they know a crackdown could happen against them very easily.”

A Turkish pastor that Allen spoke with says they aren’t experiencing persecution right now. “He actually said, ‘What we’re seeing is people are more interested in the Gospel now than during the times when pandemic restrictions and lockdowns were first initiated.’”

Much of the New Testament was written to churches in the borders of modern-day Türkiye. As FMI trains Christian leaders, pray the Turkish Church would grow.

And ask God to challenge the spirit of religious nationalism in Türkiye and around the world.



Header image is a representative stock photo courtesy of Meg Jerrard/Unsplash.