Turkey played a significant part in the early Christian Church as the centre of much of the Apostle Paul’s work. However, the country became the guardian of Islam for centuries when the Ottoman Empire was established in 1299. Today, approximately 96.6 percent of the population is Muslim, many of whom have never heard the gospel.
Since the sweeping reforms of the 1920s, Turkey has officially been a secular state. There is, however, a fault line between Islamists and secularists. Despite the government reforms to facilitate joining the European Union, there is no indication of increasing religious freedom. While the Turkish constitution includes freedom of religion, worship services are only permitted in “buildings created for this purpose,” and officials have restricted the construction of buildings for minority religions. The few who dare to openly profess Christ face harassment, threats, and imprisonment. Recent death threats and murders of Christians highlight the present reality and severity of persecution and the likelihood of more to come.
In 2006, two men were arrested for sharing their faith. They were charged with “insulting Turkishness, the military and Islam.” Four years later, a Turkish court finally acquitted them but fined them $3,200 CAD each. In April 2007, three members of Malayta Kurtulus Church were tortured and killed by a group of five Muslims. As of May 2011, the trial of the five alleged murderers continues. In June 2008, Turkish Pastor Orhan Picaklar was accused of insulting the prophet Mohammed and the police, and performing a marriage ceremony in the church (which is forbidden by law). Pastor Picaklar denied the charges.
- Pray for opportunities for Christians in Turkey to share the truth of who Jesus is with those around them.
- Pray that local officials will stop harassing Christians.