Turkey is a nation torn in different directions. It crosses 2 continents: 3% is Europe (Thrace), and 97% is Asia (Anatolia). It has economic links with Europe, cultural links with Central Asia, and sits near conflict areas such as Iraq/Syria, the Balkans, and the Caucasus. Turkey is a secular state, yet to be Turk is to be Muslim! The constitution, courts, and military are meant to uphold religious freedom, but even some secular Turks can be as anti-Christian (and anti-Western, anti-minority) as Islamists are. Turkey’s strategic location has made it important throughout history. It could serve as a powerful and stable mediator in a region of great conflict. But more and more, it looks like it is moving toward being a dictatorship rather than a democracy. Thousands of people associated with the political opposition parties have been arrested or lost their jobs. Even some loyalists were "not loyal enough" and lost theirs, too! Pray for God's will to be done in this influential nation and for Turkey to be used for His glory.
The Kurdish situation is a long-standing challenge. Kurds can be found throughout Turkey - numbering as many as 15 million - but make up the majority population in 16 provinces of the east and southeast. Though widespread use in public remains uncommon, the Kurdish language is now recognized. The government is seeking to resolve Kurdish discrimination, but this is a complex issue involving challenges such as poverty and high unemployment in the east. Pray for:
- A complete end to hostilities between the army and Kurdish separatists, and a fair resolution of the causal issues. Over 30,000 have been killed, thousands of villages razed and millions displaced and impoverished. Discrimination and desperation often drive Kurds into illegal and violent organizations such as the Kurdistan Workers' Party.
- Cultural rehabilitation of the Kurds. Vigorous suppression of their culture and language has moderated. Kurdish newspapers are now allowed and the JESUS film in two dialects of Kurmanji has been legalized.
- The Muslim Alevi (with roots in Shi'ism), some of whom are Kurds and Zaza. They are 15-25% of Turkey's population. Nominal Islamic practice, high respect for Jesus and shared identity as a pressurized minority create unique witness opportunities. New literature and music cassettes are being developed specifically for them.
- The emergence of a Kurdish expression of the Church. In mixed areas, most Kurds integrate into Turkish fellowships, in itself an answer to prayer. Pray for all those seeking openings for reaching them - for the effective use of the JESUS film and other Kurdish literature. The Bible in Kurmanji was completed recently; pray for its widespread use.
Other specific unreached peoples and areas abound. Pray for:
- A living, growing fellowship of believers in each of the 81 provinces; most if not all have believers, but the majority still have no fellowship groups. The Black Sea coast (with many Laz) and the central Anatolian plateau are spiritually hard places. The turbulent eastern Anatolian provinces (largely Kurdish) are also in need of prayer.
- University students. There are 1.9 million students in 118 universities and over 1,000 colleges, but there is very little specific campus ministry apart from a few major cities. Pray for the students who have come to the Lord and are now meeting together.
- Children are difficult to reach due to laws prohibiting proselytism of minors. The problem of homeless children is growing, especially in Istanbul which has over 30,000 street kids. A children's Bible and other resources are available in Turkish.
- The ethnic Muslim minorities. The largest of these are the Azeri, Gagauz, Crimean Tatar and Karakalpak. Also included are peoples from the Central Asian republics. The gospel is starting to reach some of these latter groups. Many minorities are isolated, living in their own communities, so connecting with them can be difficult.
- Refugees. Many Iranians fled the violence and Islamic extremism of the 1979 Revolution. Over 620,000 remain in Turkey - many in Istanbul - while others moved on to Western countries. These refugees and emigrés are proving quite open to the gospel. Several groups of believers have formed, but such groups tend to be transitory, comprised of people on the move. Increasing numbers of African and Asian refugees use Turkey as a stepping stone to Europe. They face many hardships and enjoy few rights. A great need exists for ministry among them.
- The Arab minority is a mix between primarily Levant Arabs near the Syrian border and Iraqi refugees in the southeast. A number of them are Christian, but the majority are Muslim.
- The Romani peoples (numbering between 500,000-1,000,000) live in poverty, surviving by seasonal labour and collecting recyclable materials. There is some openness to the gospel among them, and in recent years increasing numbers have been coming to the Lord.
Two TV channels (Kanal Hayat and Turk 7) on satellite are potentially reaching millions with the gospel, both in Turkey and in neighbouring countries, including Europe. Response is encouraging. Follow-up correspondence courses tie into the programmes on these channels.
Pray for the Turkish diaspora:
- The millions of Turks and Kurds in Western Europe. The diaspora of Turks - all approximate numbers - in Germany (2.8m), France (400,000), Netherlands (350,000), UK (300,000), Austria (200,000), Belgium (150,000), Switzerland (80,000) and Sweden (40,000) are far more accessible to Christian workers but are also often more closed to the gospel. There is also a work among the 150,000 Turks in Australia. A number of churches and international agencies seek to evangelize them, but local hostility to migrant workers impedes this outreach. Organizations working outside of Turkey are OM, WEC, Frontiers, Turkish World Outreach and Orientdienst. There are possibly hundreds of born-again Turks as a result of these ministries, but more Turks still come to Jesus inside Turkey than outside. Pray for the multiplication of Turkish and Kurdish Christian groups in these areas and for them to make an impact on their homelands.
- Turks in the Balkans. Opportunities for ministry exist among Turkish minorities in Bulgaria (>750,000), Greece (140,000), North Macedonia (80,000), Serbia (50,000), and Romania (45,000). Little, if any, specific outreach is directed toward many of these minorities. Given the historical enmity between Turks and most Balkan peoples, ministry to Turkish Muslims in Orthodox-majority European countries may fall to expatriate workers, but a loving witness by born-again Balkan peoples would be a powerful testimony.
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Content taken or adapted from Operation World, 7th Edition (2010) and Pray for the World (2015). Both books are published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.