Turkey and Indonesia: Islamic Zeal to Soar Over Easter

Source:  http://rlprayerbulletin.blogspot.com

Date:  April 5, 2017

by Elizabeth Kendal

This RLPB is a little longer than usual as it covers two situations over 
which we must watch and pray from now, through Easter and beyond. [Next 
week's RLPB will simply consist of a short Easter devotion.] Whilst some 
might consider this bulletin alarmist, it arises out of a deep, evidence and 
experienced-based conviction that the situations in both Turkey and Jakarta 
are potentially explosive with serious implications for the church. So the 
call is to watch and pray.  


Turkey will hold a constitutional referendum on Easter (Resurrection) Sunday 
16 April. If passed, the position of prime minister will be abolished and the 
president will gain sweeping executive powers, including the right to veto 
legislation, dissolve parliament, appoint 12 of the 15 justices of the 
Constitutional Court and run for three 5-year terms, all while enjoying the 
guarantee of life-long immunity from prosecution. Pre-polling indicates that 
the vote will be extremely close. Though youths are overwhelmingly pro-'yes', 
they are expressing also a reluctance to vote. It is to be expected, 
therefore, that President Erdogan will play the ultra-nationalist ethnic and 
religious cards relentlessly. Of all the issues that could be exploited for 
political gain, surely none is as powerful or as sensitive as the issue of 
Hagia Sophia.  

Istanbul's Hagia Sophia (Church of Holy Wisdom) was built by Roman Emperor 
Justinian in the 6th Century after the original church, founded by Emperor 
Constantine in the 4th Century, was destroyed by fire in 532. Dedicated on 27 
December 537, Justinian's Hagia Sophia remains an architectural masterpiece, 
its dome still unsurpassed. Long the greatest church in the world's greatest 
city (Constantinople), Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque after the 
Ottoman Islamic conquest of 1453. In November 1934, having already abolished 
the Caliphate, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk announced that Hagia Sophia would be 
converted into a Museum, its doors first opening to tourists on 1 February 

The Islamist campaign to restore Hagia Sophia as a fully operational mosque 
has gathered momentum under Erdogan, who yearns to be Caliph, the leader of 
Muslims. During Ramadan 2016 (6 June to 5 July), Qur'an recitations were 
performed at Hagia Sophia for the first time in 81 years. In October, 
Turkey's powerful ministry of religious affairs (Diyanet) installed Onder Soy 
as Hagia Sophia's first imam in 81 years, although at this stage Soy's 
primary responsibility is to oversee the Hunkar Kasri site next door, a 
former sultan's 'mini palace'. The appointment is purely political. This year 
Ramadan will extend from Friday 26 May to 24 June, meaning Conquest Day (29 
May) - when Turks celebrate the day Constantinople fell to Ottoman forces - 
will be celebrated during Ramadan. If ever there were a time to announce or 
even just promise the conversion of Hagia Sofia into an operational mosque 
surely it would be now, ahead of the constitutional referendum, maybe even on 
Friday 14 April (Good Friday). Would the promise of President Erdogan leading 
prayers in Hagia Sofia on the first day of Ramadan - Friday 26 May, ahead of 
Conquest Day on 29 May - entice Turkey's radicalised youths to the polls? If 
Erdogan takes the path of ethno-religious 'populism', trampling Christian 
sensitivities in the process, the result would doubtless be an explosion of 
ethnic (Turkish) and religious (traditional Sunni Islamic) nationalism and 
supremacism. This would certainly bode ill for the Church in Turkey. Please 
watch and pray.  


Jakarta's gubernatorial run-off election on Wednesday 19 April will be the 
most hotly contested poll in the city's short democratic history. [For 
background see RLPB 395 (22 Feb 2017).] The race pits the incumbent ethnic 
Chinese Christian Governor of Jakarta, Basuki 'Ahok' Tjahaja Purnama, against 
Anies Baswedan who has the support of the Islamists.  Former president and 
current Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) chairwoman, Megawati 
Soekarnoputri, is imploring women to vote for Ahok. First round loser Agus 
Yudhoyono is refusing to endorse either candidate, telling his supporters 
they are free to choose for themselves. Therefore Ahok stands a good chance 
of winning.   

Unsurprisingly, hard-line Islamist groups are increasing the pressure, 
ramping up the rhetoric and the volume, posting hate banners around the city 
and threatening Muslims. On 31 March they held another rally in the city, 
which, despite being denounced by Indonesia's largest organisations,  
Nadhlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah, still attracted an estimated 200,000.

Islamists have also formed a mass movement called Tamasya AlMaidah (Al-Maidah 
Tour). They claim it has attracted more than 100,000 members to date, 
although they say they are aiming for one million. They plan to post 100 
Tamasya AlMaidah activists - men dressed in all white, women in all black - 
at 1000 polling stations they maintain are at risk of election fraud or 
tampering. Aiming to post 'observers' to all 13,032 polling stations, Tamasya 
AlMaidah says it will bring in Islamists from across the country. Many 
Jakartans fear the stage is being set for voter intimidation and violent 

Meanwhile Ahok's blasphemy trial continues, with analysts surmising that he 
may well be acquitted on the grounds that, as a man long-friendly to Muslims, 
he never intended to blaspheme or offend. (Intention is a critical element of 
Article 156A of the Criminal Code as it pertains to blasphemy.) The trial is 
expected to conclude in May. Meanwhile, Jakarta is polarising and tensions 
are running high. If Islamic hard-liners do not get what they want, we might 
see an explosion of 'Islamic resistance'.  Please watch and pray.  


* no matter what happens in the coming weeks, Turkey and Jakarta will remain 
peaceful and the Church safe.  

May the 'God of our salvation, the hope of all the ends of the earth ... who 
by his strength ... stills the roaring of the seas', interpose himself into 
the politically-charged situations in Turkey and Jakarta, and 'still ... the 
tumult of the peoples' (from Psalm 65:5-8 ESV).  

* the Lord of Glory will redeem the situations in Turkey and Jakarta so they 
will ultimately work for the good of the Church. 'And we know that for those 
who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called 
according to his purpose.' (Romans 8:28 ESV)  

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