Date: August 22, 2016
Turkey (MNN) — Last Thursday in Turkey, three separate explosions including car bombs killed 14 people and wounded over 220. The blasts seemed to target Turkish police, though both civilians and officers were killed.
Turkish officials say it was the Kurdish militants, also known as the PKK, who carried out the blasts. Turkey considers the militant-left PKK group a terrorist organization. Since the failed coup, over 180 PKK members have been killed and 3,000 arrested.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Image Courtesy: World Economic Forum, Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic | Wikimedia Commons)
All of this just adds to the tension and conflict of opposing agendas in Turkey, even as President Erdogan has claimed significantly more power since the three month state of emergency was declared.
Todd Nettleton, a spokesman for Voice of the Martyrs USA, says, “So many people have been arrested in Turkey since the coup, people not put on trial, in some cases not allowed to consult with their attorneys. Some real steps back from what we would call human rights and really the rule of law.”
The million-dollar question: how is all this going to play out?
“We need to be watching that as outsiders, and the international community needs to be watching that and holding the Turkish government accountable. I think one of the really key points of time will be when this so-called three month state of emergency is over, what happens. Do they go back to the constitutional system where parliament has a say in the passing of laws? Or does [the state of emergency] somehow get extended?” asks Nettleton.
“If they propose to extend the state of emergency and continue giving basically complete power to Erdogan and his government, then the international community really needs to say, ‘Wait a minute, you’re moving in the wrong direction as far as human rights. You’re moving in the wrong direction as far as democracy,’ and hopefully can influence Turkey to come back to that parliamentary, democratic system that they really held themselves up as.”
Turkey has even announced they will release up to 38,000 non-violent prisoners to clear jail space for those suspected of coup conspiracy. But there isn’t much certainty on exactly what it takes to be arrested as a conspirator.
“I think what it means right now is a lot of uncertainty. The church looks on, the church sees these kind of attacks, and obviously they know they live in a dangerous place. We’ve seen the ISIS attacks in the last couple of months now. We’ve seen additional PKK attacks, as well as the state of emergency that kind of is in a place where anybody can be arrested at any time for almost any reason.”
(Map courtesy of International Needs)
As the smoke hopefully clears over the next few weeks and months, this East-meets-West country may or may not find itself on the democratic side of the fence.
“What we are seeing is Turkey moving in a more Islamic direction. President Erdogan has made it clear that’s his agenda, that’s his priority. I think that positions Turkey more as a Middle Eastern country, and in some ways they are stepping back from Europe, from sort of the Western ideals of democracy and freedom.”
It wouldn’t be hard since Turkey is already 99.8 percent Muslim. In a country where being a patriot and a Muslim go hand-in-hand, Turkish Christians are caught in the shuffle.
“The church looks on and says, ‘What’s going to happen to us?’ Just like us, they have to rely on Christ at the end of the day to say, ‘We don’t know what the government is going to do. We don’t know what the situation is going to be a week from now or a month from now or a year from now, but we do know that Jesus is still on the throne and we’re still called to serve Him.’”
However, there have been hints of encouragement between Turkish citizens, both Christian and Muslim alike. Nettleton shares one uplifting story of unity.
“One thing that happened during the coup is two churches were attacked by sort of angry mobs of people who were in the streets because of the coup attempt. But one of the things that happened that was encouraging is the Muslim neighbors of these churches helped to defend them. They stepped out and said, ‘Wait a minute, this is not the problem. The church is not the problem. They have a right to be here. Don’t harm the church.’ And when the buildings were vandalized, Muslim neighbors stepped forward and helped clean up the mess and helped to repair it.”
(Photo courtesy of Andreas Trojak via Flickr)
As Christians wait to see what happens in Turkey, there may not be much we can do to change the situation for now. But Turkish Christians need to know other believers are praying for them.
Nettleton offers a few requests: “We can pray for God’s protection over them, especially right now with so much going on and so much uncertainty, and we can pray that they’ll continue to have a witness for Christ. It would be easy in a time of uncertainty to sort of hunker down and lay low for awhile, but times of uncertainty can also be great times of ministry because people are asking questions, they’re thinking about the big questions in life, they’re thinking about eternity.
“We can pray for that as well, that there will be that ministry, that the hearts of Muslim Turks will be open to the Gospel, and that Christians will be bold in sharing the Gospel even in a time when it’s risky for them to do so.”