Thursday, January 03, 2008

Jesus in Turkey

Christianity Today takes a look at the Church in Turkey:
Jesus in Turkey | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction
For the first time in 550 years, Christianity inside Turkey is growing in numbers and influence. But its recent growth comes at a high price: since February 2006, radicalized Muslims have killed five Christians—the kind of cold-blooded martyrdom not seen in decades.

In November, a Turkish court set a trial date for the five suspects involved in the Malatya killings for early January. Police are calling for life imprisonment and said all five suspects have confessed to the murders. The suspects accused the Christians of "forcing local girls into prostitution" and of praising the violence of rebel Kurds. (About 30,000 people have died since the 1980s in rebel-related violence.) Meanwhile, the Alliance of Protestant Churches in Turkey is calling Turkish congregations to pray and fast every Thursday for the next several weeks in preparation for the trial.

Isa Karatas of the Alliance of Protestant Churches in Turkey told Compass Direct News, "It is clear from these statements of the suspects that there is some group of powerful influence behind them. These people want to portray Turkey's Protestants as enemies of the nation."

"At the same time," he added, "because honor is such an important concept in our culture, they are trying to accuse us of having weak morals, so that they can find a justification for their murders."

Few nations have as rich a Christian history as Turkey. This is where Paul founded some of the earliest churches, including the church at Ephesus. Seven churches in this region were addressed in the Book of Revelation. Those in the early monastic movement found the caves of Cappadocia a near-perfect place to live out lives of prayer. Constantinople, now the city of Istanbul, became the capital of the Roman Empire just as it was being Christianized, and the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople has been the leader of worldwide Orthodoxy for centuries.

But Christianity came under Islamic rule in Turkey in 1453 and steadily declined for centuries; the last 100 years have been the worst. In 1900, the Christian population was 22 percent. Now most experts estimate that there are fewer than 200,000 Christians nationwide, comprising less than 0.3 percent of the population.

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