Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Turkey Earthquake: Christians Respond to 7.2 Quake

The Christian group, Baptist Global Response has offered aid to those affected by the massive 7.2 magnitude earthquake that hit Turkey Sunday Oct. 23.

“Teams are within hours of arriving in the area with tarps and other supplies to assist survivors,” said Patrick J. Melancon, managing director of disaster response and training at BGR, in a press release Monday, Oct. 24.

“The teams are a part of the network of responders trained by Baptist Global Response to provide both rapid response and longer-term assessments during a crisis like this one. These teams provide local response capability wherever the teams may reside,” he added.

The earthquake hit Sunday afternoon and lasted 25 seconds. The provincial capital of Van and the eastern city of Ercis were hit hardest.

Ercis, with a population of 75,000, is categorized as one of Turkey’s most earthquake-prone zones. According to CNN, the earthquake has killed more than 270 people and injured more than 1,000.

“Turkey is particularly vulnerable to earthquakes because it sits on major geological fault lines,” reported BBC News.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Armenians claim roots in Diyarbakır

A group of Armenians, raised as Sunni Muslims, will be baptized today as Armenian Orthodox christians at the historic St. Giragos (Surp Giragos) Armenian Church in Turkey’s southeastern province of Diyarbakır.

The church, which was reopened on Oct. 22 following two years of restoration work, will host the baptism ceremony for dozens of Sunni Muslims of Armenian origin, whose ancestors converted to Islam after the 1915 killings in the Ottoman era.

Among those to be baptized is Gaffur Türkay, who also contributed to the restoration of the church. Türkay was going through emotional fluctuations, he told the Hürriyet Daily News.

“I wish this church had always been open,” he said. “It is unbelievable to be together here with people from all around the world with whom I share the same origins.”

“We have been ostracized by both Sunni Muslims and Armenians,” said Behçet Avcı, also known as Garod Sasunyan, who will also be baptized. “It is a very emotional moment for me and I’m a bit upset, because unfortunately we do not belong to either side.”

The baptism ceremony, which will be closed to the press and outside visitors, will be held today at the St. Giragos Armenian Church and will be led by Deputy Patriarch Archbishop Aram Ateşyan. The names of those to be baptized will not be revealed for security reasons.

A religious service was held yesterday at the church, one day after it was re-opened following the completion of the restoration work.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Turkey: world's largest unreached people group?

It's called the largest unreached people group in the world. It's a country that was the focus of the Apostle Paul's writings in Scripture, yet today it's a spiritually dark place. We're talking about the country of Turkey. It's a country in which being a Christian can cost you your life, or at the very least can cause you to be an outcast of society.

The Evangelical Alliance Mission, or TEAM, operates the government-approved St. Paul Cultural Center in Antalya. It had been closed because of bureaucratic red tape. TEAM Missionary James Bultema says, "The issue with our architect has been fully resolved, and SPCC Antalya is advancing by the day toward full operational mode. Each week, the number of activities picks up, and by the end of October we will be, Lord willing, back into full swing. One final permit is yet to be obtained, but no significant barrier stands in the way of our getting it, just a bit more work."

Pastor Koc came to Christ through the Cultural Center. "I went there to meet with a Turkish pastor and heard the Gospel; I quickly changed my life and came to Christ."

As he was discipled and received Bible training, Koc started only the second church in Antalya with a couple of people. In 18 months, 10 people have given their hearts to Christ. Now he's the pastor of a church of about 20 families. Pastor Koc says it's a challenge being a new Christian in Turkey "because all of a sudden, everything changes. One of my friends who is a lawyer came to Christ, and he said, 'Now what am I going to do? If I can't lie, I cannot be a lawyer in Turkey.' In many jobs, they ask you to lie in many situations. So, it is very difficult for Christians to find a job."

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Baptists in Iraqi's Kurdistan Mark Historic Milestone for Christians

Just as the sun was rising in the west Sept. 29, a new day dawned in Iraqi Kurdistan as Governor Tamar Ramadhan gave Baptists two acres of land worth $2 million for the Grace Baptist Cultural Center--a multi-phase project including a medical clinic, school, athletic facility, church building and seminary in the town of Simele.

Standing in for Ramadhan, Gurgis Shlaymun, the deputy governor of Kurdistan's Regional Government in Dohuk, joined a team from Hillcrest Baptist Church in Pensacola, along with Iraqi, Jordanian and Brazilian Baptists and other evangelical Christians at an hour-long ceremony prior to cementing the top on an engraved, marble cornerstone marking the new property.

Shlaymun, an Assyrian Christian first elected to his post in the Muslim majority government in 2005, delivered remarks at a community center near the undeveloped property in the growing village of Simele. In the Duhok Province of Iraqi's Kurdistan, Simele is on the main road of an agricultural plain about 10 miles from the Turkish border.