As we prepare for our Gift Day in November, some of our giving will go to help some of the churches who are engaging with the refugee crisis in Turkey. We asked a friend to give us some background to the situation and pointers for prayer:
What’s going on in Turkey?
With Thanksgiving being celebrated last week there has been a lot of talk about turkey this month. You”ll also have noticed that Turkey has emerged as a major theme in recent media too, though not the clucking, gobbling variety!
Turkey is a fascinating nation, bridging the gap between Europe and Asia, with the city of Istanbul straddling both continents. When you set foot in Turkey, you follow in the wake of some remarkable historical figures, including Julius Caesar, and the apostle Paul who travelled through Turkey three times and wrote a significant proportion of the New Testament as letters to the churches there.
Today Turkey is an incredibly diverse and culturally rich nation with captivating character and beauty. There is a flavour of days-gone-by with the ancient buildings lining the city skylines, as well as the winding alleyways and trinket markets that transport you back to another era. On the flip side, there are new and shiny skyscrapers, chic boutiques and fashionable, successful businessmen and women who would not look out of place in London or New York.
The Presence of the Church
Turkey is a predominantly Islamic country but the European flare and equal rights for women under the law is certainly enjoyed by many. It is not unusual to see Muslim ladies dressed in the full burka with nothing but their eyes showing, walking down the street alongside short skirted, tight topped women with their heads uncovered. This is the case for much of the west coast, but you don’t have to venture too far inland to see a shift and change towards more traditional Islamic values.
Though Turkey has a population of 77 million people it has only 236 registered churches that are open for worship. Recent statistics suggest only 0.2% of the population is Christian, making Turkey one of the most unreached nations in the world.
What’s happening with the refugees?
Since 2013, there has been a steady stream of refugees entering Turkey, mainly from Iran and Syria. It’s heart-breaking to see so many families sitting on the streets in Istanbul. The children are often sent out to beg or sell whatever they can find just to survive another day in a new country where they have no stake, no claim, no rights and no security. Many are not allowed to work to support their family while they wait to find out if they will be allowed to stay or must continue travelling to Europe or elsewhere in the hope of making a life for themselves.
The Syrian refugee count in Turkey has jumped by more than 200,000 since June 2015, having risen by just 14,000 in the previous three months. This puts the overall refugee count in Turkey to just under 2 million.
From Turkey, tens of thousands of refugees try to reach Europe by attempting the short but dangerous sea crossing to Greece, though many have drowned on the way. The situation is desperate and with such a large number of people coming and going, it has been logistically impossible for the Turkish Authorities to monitor and support most of these people sufficiently.
How can I Pray for Turkey?
Today, Turkey again finds itself in the world’s spotlight as events unfold in the middle-east. With the Islamic State just across the border, a violent attack on the capital city a couple of weeks ago and the general election coming up in the beginning of November bringing much political unrest, Turkey is in a fragile position. The socio-economic pressure of 2 million displaced people seeking refuge in the country is also no small thing for a nation to deal with at this time.
- Please pray that God would be present and active in Turkey during this challenging time. That He would give wisdom to the leaders of the nation as they make policies and decisions about not only the refugees in need of help but also the future of the nation and their involvement in the fight against IS.
- Please also pray for protection as Turkey borders with Syria and has already seen the violence spill over within its own borders this year.
- Please pray that God would open hearts and minds to him as he raises up his people in Turkey (though small in number) to love, serve and help the overwhelming number of refugees that are flooding in.
- Pray for finances and the material means to help these people, and also for God’s sustaining, encouragement, strength and protection as they demonstrate what it means to be Jesus’ hands and feet.
- Please pray that communities would be impacted and changed by their example and that eyes would be opened to see Jesus, the only name by which they can be saved.
- Please pray for the church in Turkey. Although the number of believers is so small right now, pray that God would bring many, many more to know Him and experience his salvation.
- Pray that God would raise up workers to bring in the harvest and be burdened to pray for Turkey, and for those outside the country to partner with God’s people there to see his Kingdom come.