Many people outside of the region are unfamiliar with Turkey and the Turks. If you know your Bible, you’ve heard of places like Ephesus, Smyrna, Laodicea. If you know church history, you’ve heard of places like Nicaea.
That’s Turkey now.
As a matter of fact, all of the seven ecumenical councils took place in Turkey.
If there was a Bible belt over 1,500 years ago, it was in Turkey. However, that changed with the rise of Islam and its eventual conquest of the region. Then, a few centuries later, the area would be at the heart of one of the world’s most powerful empires, the Islamic Ottoman Empire.
After the decline and fall of the Ottoman Empire, Turkey took a road less traveled among majority Islamic nations—it leaned toward Europe rather than the Middle East.
Turkey has more recently been seen as a moderate Muslim country, though some (including the current President) reject that terminology, and there are troubling signs for the future.
For example, Turkey was recently added to the list of countries violating religious freedom, though not without debate.
However, anyone who has been there knows that Turkey is decidedly different from the rest of the Muslim-majority world.
To understand Turkey, you have to understand the father of modern Turkey Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. After the war of independence, “Atatürk then embarked upon a program of political, economic, and cultural reforms, seeking to transform the former Ottoman Empire into a modern, secular and European nation-state”. Every Turk knows of, and has an opinion about, Atatürk.
Yet, many think that secular, European vision is in jeopardy.
Pray for this nation and the Church and its witness in the midst of complex changing situations.