Turkey vies with Saudi Arabia for leadership of the Sunni Muslim world. Its Islamist president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is increasingly open about his ambitions to spread Turkish Islamic influence, as if to re-establish the Ottoman Empire. Repression of religious minorities, fuelled by “hate speech” by the government, is increasing in Turkey, which is at least 99% Muslim.
In the summer of 2020, President Erdogan ordered two historic buildings in Istanbul, originally Christian churches, then mosques, and latterly museums, to be turned back into mosques. Just a month after the controversial repurposing of the world famous Hagia Sophia, nearby St Saviour Church was ordered to be turned back into a functioning mosque.
The tiny remnant Christian community in Turkey, which includes a small number of converts from Islam, still bears the trauma of the Armenian, Assyrian and Greek genocides of the early twentieth century, in which at least 3.25 million believers were killed by Ottoman Turks. Before the genocide, Christians had constituted an estimated 20% of the population of Turkey, a country in whose territory were located the seven churches of Revelation (chapters 2 and 3).
Despite the fact that Turkey has been a secular state since 1928, the Christian community, now swollen by refugees from Syria, Iraq, Iran and even Afghanistan, has continued to be treated as inferior to the Muslim majority (as in classical Islam and the days of the Ottoman Empire). Since 2019, it has become increasingly difficult for overseas church workers serving in Turkey to be granted visas.
On 27 September 2020, fierce fighting erupted between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces over Nagorno-Karabakh, a Christian ethnic-Armenian enclave inside Muslim Azerbaijan. Turkey immediately expressed its support for Azerbaijan and sent hundreds of Turkey-backed Syrian mercenaries to Azerbaijan.
Pray for Christians in Turkey who live in a growing climate of repression and hostility, especially converts and refugees. Ask the Lord to bring an end to President Erdogan’s plans of recreating the Ottoman Empire and that “hate speech” would be replaced with the Word that brings life.
The above content can also be found in the Praying for the Persecuted Church (2021-2022) booklet