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Turkey: Christians Face Elevated Threat


Date:  July 20, 2016

by Elizabeth Kendal

Shortly before midnight on Friday 15 July a faction within the Turkish 
military and Gendarmerie seized control of strategic locations in Istanbul 
and Ankara. Subsequently, Turkish fighter jets fired at the National 
Intelligence Organisation, the Presidential Palace and the National Assembly. 
Soldiers seized control of the national broadcaster, forcing the presenter to 
read a declaration that the Committee for National Peace had taken charge to 
prevent any further erosion of democratic and secular values. However, what 
the faction failed to do was seize control of President Erdogan who was 
holidaying in the resort town of Marmaris. At 12:30am on 16 July Erdogan 
issued a live statement via the smartphone app FaceTime, calling his 
supporters out onto the streets. Islamic religious leaders and mosques loyal 
to Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) amplified the call, with 
mosques repeating the call to prayer throughout the night to encourage people 
to join the counter-coup. By 2am the coup was falling apart; by morning it 
was over and the elected government was back in control.  

The details of this coup get murkier the deeper you dig and it may be some 
time before the truth becomes clear. Whilst it is not the place of the 
Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin to examine murky details and intrigues 
[watch the Religious Liberty Monitoring blog for that], it suffices to say 
that the failed coup seems not to have been a 'Kemalist'/secularist coup as 
claimed. This is relatively unsurprising as Erdogan - who is a pro-Muslim 
Brotherhood conservative Islamist - had already purged the military of 
powerful secularists. Rather, it seems the coup leaders are indeed linked to 
the influential Gulen movement, a liberal Islamist movement that once 
supported Erdogan - even facilitating his rise to power - but is now 
essentially at war with him and the AKP. Nobody doubts that President Erdogan 
will use this crisis to tighten his grip on power, advance his personality 
cult and even further his dangerous Islamo-Turkic nationalism.  

As soon as he regained control, President Erdogan set about purging the 
'virus' (as he called it) from society; he has signalled he is ready to 
re-instate the death penalty.  By Tuesday night 19 July the number of 
military personnel arrested had risen to some 6,000 (including at least 34 
generals), along with nearly 3,000 judges. Furthermore, nearly 9,000 police 
have been sacked, as have some 1,500 civil servants in the finance ministry 
and 492 from the Religious Affairs Directorate. More than 1,500 university 
deans have been ordered to resign and the licences of 21,000 teachers working 
at private institutions revoked. Twenty-four radio and TV channels have also 
had their licences cancelled.  

Middle East Concern reports that two churches were attacked by Muslim mobs 
during the counter-coup. At the Catholic church of Santa Maria in Trabzon on 
the Black Sea coast, windows were smashed before the church's Muslim 
neighbours repelled the perpetrators and contacted the priest. Likewise, 
windows and glass door panels were smashed at the Malatya Protestant Church 
in south-east Turkey. It is of greater concern that the coup and counter-coup 
have fuelled a dramatic escalation in Islamic zeal and Islamo-Turkic 
nationalism. Responding to the call to remain in the streets, Erodogan's 
supporters are out in full force dressed in Islamic (not Western) garb, 
chanting Islamic slogans in Arabic. This will elevate the threat facing 
Turkey's non-Sunni Muslims (particularly the Alevis, who are already 
reporting pressure) and all non-Muslims (Armenians, Assyrians, Greeks as well 
as Muslim converts).  

Furthermore, because the leader of the Gulen Movement, Fethullah Gulen (77), 
lives in the USA and because Erdogan believes the Gulen Movement provides a 
front for the CIA (American intelligence) activities abroad, Erdogan and the 
AKP have accused the US of being 'behind the coup'. Whether this is true or 
not, the accusation alone will elevate the threat facing Turkey's Gulenists, 
Kemalists/secularists, Kurds and Christians, as well as any foreigners 
perceived to be aligned with the US. The threat facing Turkey's Christians 
may be greater now than at any time since Kemal Ataturk abolished the 
Caliphate in 1924.  


* grace Turkey's Christians with holy wisdom in abundance as they seek to 
navigate the difficult and dangerous days ahead.   

* intervene to restore peace to Turkey so the Church (the Body of Christ) 
will be secure; may the Church's Muslim neighbours reject every attempt to 
incite violence against Christians and resist every temptation to exploit the 
situation to their own advantage.  

* will redeem this crisis, subverting and defeating the enemies of the Gospel 
and sanctifying the Church that the Kingdom of God might grow in grace and 
number throughout Turkey.   

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or 
think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the 
church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. 
Amen. (Ephesians 3:20,21 ESV)   

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