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Turkey

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This ancient Christian church in Trabzon has been registered as a mosque 
Alaexis / CC BY-SA 3.0

The efforts of Turkey’s government to Islamise Turkish politics and society suffered two major setbacks in 2013. The fall of Islamist regimes in Egypt and Tunisia undermined Turkey’s claim that modern and democratic institutions could be successfully combined with the values of political Islam. And large-scale demonstrations against the government’s Islamisation programme underlined widespread popular discontent with its vigorous attempts to promote Islam.

However, the country’s small Christian minority is still labouring under crippling government restrictions. All religious activity is closely supervised by the state, and the rights of churches to own property, conduct services and open other facilities are severely limited. Difficulties are also made for them in managing their own internal governance, training their leaders and undertaking evangelism and religious education. Some theological schools have been closed down. Controls are especially tight on members of non-traditional denominations.

Many Turkish Muslims regard Islam as an essential part of national identity, and as a result Christians (and other minorities) are regarded with suspicion or outright hostility. They suffer discrimination and harassment, and occasional but sometimes serious acts of violence. A number of ministers and Christian workers have been murdered, and in 2013 a plot to kill a pastor in Izmit was foiled only by counter-terrorism units. Converts from Islam are also particularly vulnerable, as are Christians who share their faith or teach Christianity to children. Christians are often portrayed very negatively in the media and in school textbooks.

Islamists also appear intent on erasing visible evidence of Turkey’s Christian past. In 2013 an ancient Byzantine church in Trabzon, which had been in secular use, was registered as a mosque and its Christian-themed mosaics hidden from view.

Present-day Turkey includes the area where the seven churches of Revelation are located. Turkey, known to the Romans as “Asia Minor”, saw Christianity spread rapidly during the first century after Jesus’ death and resurrection. It was here that several of the early Christian communities, such as the Ephesians and the Galatians, were found. The city of Istanbul used to be Constantinople, the capital of the Christian Byzantine Empire.

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christian, persecution, charity, church, persecuted, sookhdeo, Islam

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    • The landslide victory of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in India’s general election in May sparked alarm for Christians and other minorities in the country. The BJP is the political wing of a Hindu nationalist movement, Hindutva, which is striving to make India a religiously pure nation. It has given support to Hindu extremist groups that attack Christians, and states under the party’s rule have generally experienced a rise in anti-Christian violence. The BJP has introduced “anti-conversion” laws in a number of states, which are used to prevent legitimate Christian evangelism. Prior to the general election, the BJP pledged to introduce national legislation to curb “missionary” activity and end proselytising if elected. Pray that the BJP will rule justly and that the rights and freedoms of all Indian citizens will be upheld. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed 19 hours ago

    • Pray for Christians in Sri Lanka facing attacks from Buddhist extremists, who have forced the closure of numerous churches. In an apparently positive move, the government has created a Religious Disputes Unit to address conflicts between different groups and combat attempts to create religious discord. But many Christians and Muslims believe that Buddhist extremists are allowed to operate with impunity and that the new unit will not solve the problems faced by non-Buddhists. A cap on the building of places of worship has also been announced, and this seems to serve the Buddhist lobby, which is opposed to expanding Christian activity. Pray for protection for Christian congregations and that their ministry and mission will not be further impeded. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Fri, Sep 2014 00:00

    • Cry out to the Lord for Alexis Prem Kumar, a 47-year-old Christian minister from India who was abducted in Afghanistan on 2 June. No group has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, but three Taliban militants have been arrested in connection with it. Alexis had worked for an NGO in Afghanistan since 2011, helping returning refugees. He was leaving a school near Herat for Afghan children who have recently returned from Iran or Pakistan when he was seized. Give thanks for Alexis’ willingness to serve the Lord in what remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world for Christians, and pray for his safe return. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Thu, Sep 2014 00:00

    • The case of an Egyptian Christian man arrested following complaints by Muslim neighbours that he had been using his home as a church without a permit highlights the need of the Christian community for more places of worship. The 55-year-old man from Minya in Upper Egypt, where Christians are particularly vulnerable to persecution, was arrested once before, in 2011, for the same offence. Every church building in Egypt requires a permit, but these are notoriously difficult to obtain. Pray that the authorities will show leniency to the Christian man and that a provision in the new constitution addressing the issue of church buildings will be enacted. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Tue, Sep 2014 00:00

    • Kidnapping for ransom has been a persistent problem for the Christian community in Egypt amid the political upheaval and instability following the “Arab Spring” revolution of 2011. On 14 June, Wadie Ramses, a well-known surgeon, was seized in El-Arish. The assailants opened fire on his vehicle and took him away wounded. They later demanded a ransom of ten million Egyptian Pounds (£800,000; US$1.4 million) for his release. Two days later, Christian merchant Gemal Shenouda was captured near his home in the same city. It is thought that Islamic militants with links to al-Qaeda, who have been behind escalating violence in the Sinai region, are responsible for the kidnappings. Pray for the safe return of our two Christian brothers and that they and their families will know the Lord’s peace. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Mon, Sep 2014 00:00

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