Turkish elections still a question mark for Christians

By July 25, 2007

Turkey (MNN) — Pressing challenges face Turkey's ruling AK party after its win in parliamentary elections earlier this week. The first challenge facing Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan is to settle the choice of a new state president, which is what caused the early elections.

Erdogan's choice, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, is not
liked by the secular opposition who sees the devout Muslim as a militant. They
fear a hard-line Islamic government is coming, which would be a setback to
Turkey's desire to enter the European Union.

However, Johan Candalin, Executive Director of the World Evangelical
Religious Liberty Commission, says this could be the best situation
for Christians in a mostly-Muslim nation.  "It's probably the best party in power
for the Christian minority because the other option would be the nationalistic
party, and they are much more anti-religious and pro-nationalistic than the
ruling party. So we're not choosing between good and bad, but between bad and
even worse here."

Despite the 46.5 percent of the vote, more opposition
candidates were elected to parliament, which could force Erdogan to give in to
the pressure and select a more secular president.

Just weeks ago three Christians were violently attacked and
murdered by radicals.  Constitutionally,
it's legal to practice their faith. Society,
however, takes a different view, and many Christians face arrest and other types
of persecution.

Candalin doesn't believe there will be any changes for
Christians until Turkish leaders begin acknowledging Christians are Turkish
citizens, too . "As long as you have this disinformation, or propaganda,
that all the Christians are paid from abroad and they're there to split the
Turkish nation — as long you have that in the media and no one really challenging
this, you will surely have fanatics who will commit aggressive actions."

While there are a number of Muslims who are sure of their
faith, many more are searching — especially after the high profile murders of
the three Christians by Muslim radicals. Candalin says, "They are not
happy. They are not sure that they will go to heaven. They are very open to
spiritual things. So, I think that many, many people will turn to Christ in the
coming years."

Joining the European Union is important to Turkish leaders,
which will force them to protect the Christian minority "because they
know that [Christians] are the canary birds when it comes to future
negotiations to join Europe."

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