Thursday, June 27, 2013

Trabzonspor coach reads Bible to empathize with foreign players

Turkish football club Trabzonspor’s coach said he began reading the Bible for “a better communication” with his team’s foreigner players.

“I will find the way to reach my players’ hearts, I have been dealing with the Bible for the last six weeks. I’m spending my time on Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and trying to understand with which perspective they look at the life, what sort of faith and love they have... That’s why I believe that my connection with them will not be so hard,” Mustafa Akçay said in a press conference on June 27.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Istanbul pastor shows hope to protesters

While protesters and police furiously clash in Istanbul, a pastor there is quietly continuing his ministry.

Nicholas* lives and works in Taksim, the epicenter of the increasingly violent encounters of recent days in Istanbul, Turkey's largest city. In the most recent clashes, tear gas invaded Nicholas' home, forcing his children to abandon their bedrooms and sleep in the living room where it was bearable.

Despite the turmoil, Nicholas said he and his family are not afraid. He is concerned about the uncertainty of the future of Turkey but believes it is a blessing to lead a church so close to the action.

"It is important that the church continue normally and demonstrate our faith," he said. "God is the ultimate authority to whom we submit."

Nicholas said he believes his nervous neighbors need to see the peace that is evident among followers of Christ. On Father's Day, Nicholas led 30 people in a subdued worship service despite the brewing threat of violence on the street.

Refusing to be distracted by the events swirling around him, Nicholas said, "Our mission is beyond this neighborhood and really beyond this world."

He said he admires the passion of the protesters who flocked to Istanbul's Gezi Park, but he sees a lack of clear purpose and goals. That is a sharp contrast to his mission of sharing the real hope that comes from having a personal relationship with God, he said.

A few days earlier, Gezi Park had been the site of tens of thousands of protesters singing, dancing and drinking in defiance of the prime minister. That party is clearly over; driven out of the park by the police, the protesters have fled and taken to the streets. In addition to being battered and shaken, they are angry and defiant, demanding a change in the country's leadership. To the protesters, Nicholas says, "Ultimately we find our confidence in God."

There is a growing fear among Christians in Turkey, but Nicholas said there is always something to fear because Christians live in a broken world.

"Every day there is something to fear -- tear gas, cancer, flu and other illness," he said.

But Christians shouldn't overcome fear, he explained, by "self-righteousness or willpower." Victory over fear, Nicholas said, only comes from God.

"If we live life in fear and depression, we've stopped living," he said.

The church will continue on as it always has, because there needs to be a place for people to hear the Gospel. "There are many more dangerous places in the world where our brothers and sisters in Christ meet faithfully," Nicholas said.

Nicholas asks for prayer for Turkey's leaders to rule with wisdom and justice. For the citizens of Turkey, he prays they would discover the true hope that can be found in God.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Some Turkish protesters, even non-Christians, light candles to St. Anthony

Before taking part in demonstrations in Istanbul’s Taksim Square, “many young people” visit Istanbul’s largest Roman Catholic parish to light a candle to St. Anthony, according to the parish’s pastor.    “They are people of all social classes and religions,” said Father Anton Bulai. “As Franciscans, in this delicate moment for the country we pray, through the intercession of St. Anthony, for the good and peace in the country.”

Turkey: What to Know and How to Pray

Turkey has been in the news. It's been all over the front page and protests have made international news.
Some are speculating it is "on the brink." Considering how the Arab Spring has played out for many Christians, such movements are of particular concern to Christians. At this point, these protests are directed at the government, which has been leading the country in a more Islamist direction, so the protests are a bit more complicated and involve several issues.

So What is Turkey?

Many people outside of the region are unfamiliar with Turkey and the Turks. If you know your Bible, you've heard of places like Ephesus, Smyrna, Laodicea. If you know church history, you've heard of places like Nicaea.
That's Turkey now.
As a matter of fact, all of the seven ecumenical councils took place in Turkey.
If there was a Bible belt over 1,500 years ago, it was in Turkey. However, that changed with the rise of Islam and its eventual conquest of the region. Then, a few centuries later, the area would be at the heart of one of the world's most powerful empires, the Islamic Ottoman Empire.

After the decline and fall of the Ottoman Empire, Turkey took a road less traveled among majority Islamic nations—it leaned toward Europe rather than the Middle East.
Turkey has more recently been seen as a moderate Muslim country, though some (including the current President) reject that terminology, and there are troubling signs for the future.
For example, Turkey was recently added to the list of countries violating religious freedom, though not without debate.
However, anyone who has been there knows that Turkey is decidedly different from the rest of the Muslim-majority world.
Turkey matters for international relations—many have looked to Turkey as a model for the future. Its politics and foreign relations are different than much of the Muslim world. For example, although relationships have been tense lately, the historic relationship of Turkey and Israel is an open secret. But, it also is one of the few places in the majority-Muslim world where Christians can and do share their faith (though not without challenge).

How Can We Pray

So, how can you pray? Well, I will share how I am praying.
I'm praying:
  1. That the protests geared toward the government will lead the people away from increased Islamization and to greater religious freedom.
  2. For the safety of "workers" serving there right now.
  3. For the safety of Turks and for a just end to the violence.
  4. That Turks in Turkey (and the 75 million Turks around the world) will turn to Christ in the midst of the tumult.