President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is open about his ambitions to spread Turkish Islamic influence, as if to re-establish the Ottoman Empire. Turkey aspires to be both the centre of a pan-Turkic empire that stretches from the Mediterranean to the Great Wall of China and the head of the Sunni Islamic umma (global community of Muslims).
Although Turkey remains technically a secular state, the Christian population, which includes a small
number of converts from Islam, has continued to be treated as inferior to the Muslim majority.
In the period from January 2019 to March 2022, Turkey deported 78 foreign pastors and their families, some on spurious national security grounds. In November 2022 the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Turkey violated the rights of a Greek church by refusing to allow it to register its land. The Turkish government was ordered to pay €5,000 (£4,400; $5,120) to the church.
Christians also suffer persecution from extremists within Turkish society. In June 2022 a Christian family – the only Assyrian Christians in their village in Mardin province – were attacked shortly before a church service. The following month a Christian cemetery in the same province was discovered to have been desecrated.
The Christian community still bears the trauma of the Armenian, Assyrian and Greek genocides of the early twentieth century, in which 3.75 million believers were killed by Ottoman Turks. Before the genocide Christians were around 20% of the population of Turkey – today that figure is less than 0.1%.
In 2020 Turkey gave political and military support to Azerbaijan in its invasion of the Christian-majority Armenian region of Nagorno-Karabakh. Turkey has also launched bombing raids in northern Syria and Iraqi Kurdistan, supposedly opposing Kurdish terrorist groups but seemingly targeting Christians and other minorities.
Pray that Christians in Turkey will remain steadfast despite persecution from extremists and government pressure. Ask that Turkish church leaders will be raised up to replace those deported. Pray that any Turkish plans that threaten Christians across the world will come to nothing.