The mountainous country with an extensive plateau covering central Anatolia, Turkey has caused Europe enough headaches in 2020 and 2021. Though a multiparty republic with one legislative house; its head of state the president is governing the country like a dictator and trying to make it a totalitarian Islamic state.
Its land area is greater than that of any European state, and perhaps that is the reason why Recep Tayyip Erdoğan would love to have more to say in Europe.
On 1 July 2020, in a statement made to his party members, Erdoğan announced that the government would introduce new measures and regulations to control or shut down social media platforms such as YouTube, Twitter and Netflix. It is also believed that there is a sort of censor. We may also assume that the censorship imposed in Turkey restricts free speech and makes it difficult to preach a faith other than Islam.
A few decades ago you could really see a secular country, where lots of people belonged to a Muslim community. In the past the armed forces had maintained a vigilant watch over Turkey’s political secularism, but of this keystone among Turkey’s founding principles, there is not much to see anymore.
The Welfare Party, Turkish Refah Partisi, with its Islamic orientation got banned in 1997 but the Justice and Development Party, Turkish Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi (AKP), also called AK Party or Turkish AK Parti, in a certain way took over and pushed more and more to Turkey becoming a strong Islamic state.
In the 1990s this was already a reason for us, from Belgium and Holland to try to get Christians out of prison and trying to get those Brothers in Christ from Turkey to our countries where freedom of religion is considered one of our standards.
In 2020 changes in dress and appearance continued to show the world clearly where Turkey wants to go. Segregation of the sexes, the growth of Islamic schools and banks, and support for Sufi orders should be enough signs for the MP’s of the European Union that Turkey can not be a member of the European Union.
At the moment there are still several ecclesial in Turkey, but it has become more dangerous to come into the open than in the previous years. The ecclesiae are made up of Iranian refugees and asylum seekers. There are six ecclesias in four main cities, E***, I***, D*** and K***, where refugees have been placed by the Turkish government. Others are living in isolation in more than a dozen cities scattered around the country. There are around 250 to 300 brothers and sisters in total.
There is also a small embryonic group of Turkish speakers in the largest city and principal seaport of Turkey, Istanbul.
Preaching activity resulted in 80 or so baptisms early in the year, before the Covid-19 outbreak. There are a small number of people, mostly in isolation who have been interviewed and are awaiting baptism, interviews having been conducted remotely from the UK.
Regular contact is maintained with the Ecclesias who either organise their own Sunday services and study classes via social media or ‘tune in’ to bilingual services and studies offered in the UK.
Life as a refugee is always fraught with difficulty. Life as a Christian convert refugee in a majority Muslim country is particularly fraught. Brothers and sisters in Turkey are often discriminated against and are doubly at risk of being made homeless, losing what employment they have and experiencing their children being bullied and intimidated at school.
Health insurance has been removed from Iranian refugees, and many refugees are being deported back to Iran.
Welfare assistance has been provided to these families for food, rent and help with utility bills. This is managed via welfare ‘teams’ of varying sizes dependent on the situation in each of the ecclesias.
Most brothers and sisters are now in receipt of some form of CBM welfare help and the situation is kept under careful review.
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