Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Bombing widens division in Turkey

Mission Network News
Deadly twin blasts in Turkey this weekend heightened insecurities over the secular-religious rift.

SAT-7's David Harder says partner TURK-7 feels the pressure. "Turkey is in a very tense time. The ruling political party is on trial right now to prove that it should exist. It's a very complicated scenario. Nobody knows how it will play out. That is a big threat in the background to the stability of the country."

The Constitutional court's decision could shut down the Justice and Development Party's government for alleged Islamism. Doing away with it would fly in the face of the nationalist thinking that ‘"o be Turkish is to be Muslim, and to be Muslim is to be Turkish."

Analysts think any changes to the 85-year-old system could trigger months of political upheaval. Already, the rumblings can be felt in the streets. Add to that the shock of the terror attacks, and the tensions go up even higher.

Christians are often singled out in times of sectarian violence. While the Turkish constitution includes freedom of religion, worship services are only permitted in "buildings created for this purpose," and officials have restricted the construction of buildings for minority religions.

The few who dare to profess Christ face harassment, threats and prison. Evangelism is difficult. According to a 2007 report from I.N. Network, a ministry working in the country, the number of believers reportedly declined from 22% to only .2% between 1900 and 2000, and most of these Christians are non-Turkish.

Even so, the TURK-7 team shares the hope of Christ through programs produced in Istanbul.

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