During the 40 days of Lent I’m committed to praying each day for Christians in the 40 countries where the cost of being a follower of Christ is highest. I invite you to do the same. The information on the prayer needs of each country comes from a combination of Open Doors, Barnabas Fund and Operation World.
Praying for Turkey
Although Turkey is a secular state, Christians face some legal discrimination. Only four religious minorities are recognised: everything else is effectively oppressed. Evangelical Christians can only meet to worship if they have received official status. Religious meetings in homes are strongly discouraged in some parts for fear of Muslim extremists. Leaving Islam for Christianity is seen as a disgrace and Christians are negatively portrayed in the media. In 2010 there were reports of Christians being arrested and physical assaulted. Two Christians were given heavy fines for ‘collecting citizen’s information without permission’.
Answer to Prayer
The opening of Turkey to EU influence and its own developing role as a regional diplomatic force. Both invite increased possibilities for sharing the gospel in Turkey.
Challenge for Prayer
Turkey is a nation torn in different directions. Straddling Europe and Asia, neither Middle Eastern nor Western, Turkish society is secular yet Muslim. Critical to shaping the nation’s future are several issues that must be addressed. Pray for leaders who will act justly and wisely, focused on the welfare of all who call Turkey home.
a) The rivalry between secular Turkish nationalism and Islamism.
Legality of the hijab (Islamic headscarf) has been a flashpoint for this division. While the constitution, judiciary and military are secular and notionally meant to uphold religious freedom, secular Turks can be as anti-Western, anti-minority and anti-Christian as any hardline Islamists. Wahhabist influences help to fuel fundamentalist Islam, while hardline nationalism is also strong and rising. Pray that Turkey might steer a moderate path between these twin dangers.
b) The issue of membership in the European Union.
Some strive to introduce necessary reforms for greater integration with Europe (especially on human rights, religious freedom and Kurdish, Armenian and Cypriot issues). Others aim towards leadership of a Turkic bloc of nations and an increased role in the Middle East. The tension between introducing modernity and retaining traditional roots is difficult to resolve.
c) Challenges facing the political realm.
The role of the military within the state needs adjusting to allow for democratic functioning of the civil government. Recent moves toward multi-cultural and multi-religious democratization have ushered this challenge to the fore, with the resulting national identity crisis provoking a notably reactionary response. A power struggle rages between the secularists and pro-Islamic/freedoms groups. Serious failings in human rights must be addressed, and likewise for the Kurdish issue which has cost the lives of thousands of soldiers and civilians.
- For protection for believers who speak out boldly about their faith
- For perseverance for believers from a Muslim background facing pressure to return to Islam
- That Turkish citizens will be free in reality to choose, be educated in and communicate their religion, as decreed in their constitution.