WEEK 3: Turkey
Turkey has a rich Christian heritage stretching back to the Early Church, but today Christians make up less than 0.2 per cent of the population. Although technically secular, the Turkish republic has a strong allegiance to Islam, and religious minorities are often treated with discrimination.
Turkey’s political climate has shifted in the last two decades with the rise of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, one of the most powerful and divisive political figures in the Middle East. The Turkish economy also made headlines this year due to an ongoing debt crisis and a plunging currency. Turkey is host to over 3.5 million Syrian refugees, the largest number in any country, adding further pressure to the country’s limited resources.
In the midst of this tumultuous period, SAT-7’s Turkish TV channel has been a lifeline for marginalised Turkish-speaking believers and a powerful voice for the Church in Turkey.
Over the coming week, let’s pray for God’s hope to shine out and transform the nation of Turkey.
“Remember that at that time you were separate from Christ... without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”
Paul wrote this letter to believers in Ephesus, the vibrant church he and Barnabas planted in Asia Minor, or modern-day Turkey. But fast-forward 2000 years and there is only a tiny Christian presence in the country. Thanks in part to SAT-7 TÜRK and the witness of courageous local Christians, however, growing numbers of Turkish people have been committing their lives to Jesus.
Pastor Ramazan Arkan shares his joy in the movement he sees at work: “Christianity is growing in Antalya and not only here but in the whole of Turkey. I believe that what God did 2000 years ago in this land He will do again. Now He has to use me and other people instead of Paul and Barnabas!”
Pray Paul’s words afresh over the people of Turkey – that those who “were far away” would once again be “brought near by the blood of Christ.”
I believe in Jesus Christ because He came as a peace ambassador and He is the only one who will help us. I constantly see Him in my dreams. He takes me places all the time with His light. Really, Turkey needs SAT-7 TÜRK. This country has so much history, and this channel has a lot to offer its people by sharing God’s love!”
“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf.”
Since the failed coup attempt in 2016, waves of violence and arrests have hit Turkey. Over 180,000 teachers, academics, civil servants and journalists have been imprisoned. Worsening economic instability is bringing further pressure on a country which is already host to more than 3.5 million Syrian refugees.
Turkish people are finding themselves at the mercy of huge economic and geopolitical forces far outside their control. At times like this it’s hard not to be fearful. But this verse from the letter to the Hebrews reminds us that hope in Jesus acts like an anchor in the storm. When chaos crashes around us we are held secure by a weight of love that draws us deep in to the source of all hope, whatever our circumstances.
Pray for the growing numbers of Turkish people who are searching for hope in days of trouble to find it in Jesus’ unfailing, all-embracing love.
“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”
1 Peter 3:15-16
Misinformation about Christianity is rife in Turkey, and anti-Christian hate speech is on the rise. Praise God, therefore, for SAT-7’s Turkish programming, which provides gentle, respectful answers to non-Christians while strengthening believers’ understanding and confidence so they can be even bolder in sharing their faith.
Pastor Ramazan Arkan believes SAT-7-TÜRK can play an important part in challenging widely-held negative views. “We haven’t had a platform to defend ourselves,” he says, “but when people hear from SAT-7, these ideas will change.”
Evangelical churches like Pastor Ramazan’s often hold services in public spaces at Christmas and give out New Testaments to passersby. Thank God that, under the constitution, the authorities will arrange police protection for these outreach events. Pray that through them the hope of Jesus will shine clearly through the fog of prejudice.
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
Archaeologists believe they have recently discovered the tomb of St Nicholas in Antalya, Turkey. Despite the glitzy commerciality now so closely associated with Santa Claus, the real St Nicholas was a man inspired by Jesus to acts of radical, life-changing generosity.
He was deeply moved by the situation of vulnerable young women at risk of being sold into slavery because they lacked the dowry needed for marriage. His response was secretly to give them bags of gold coins – in a powerful echo of Jesus’ purchase of our freedom.
Many women in Turkey today are still subject to violence and discrimination. SAT-7 TÜRK broadcasts a range of shows, including the popular Homemade, designed to help their female audience realise their full potential.
Pray for more Turkish women to experience God’s liberating generosity in their lives. Reflect on how you could follow St Nicholas’ example this Christmas and direct your giving to be God’s blessing in and to the world.
“We also glory in our sufferings, because we know the suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”
Turkish believer Doğuş’ faith in Jesus has caused him many difficulties: “I start working at a job and three months later I am sacked because I am a Christian. They want me to live the way they do, but I will never leave Jesus Christ. I have been dealing with many problems as a Christian but I believe that whoever endures will win in the end.”
Both the hardship that Doğuş faces and his courageous, committed response are common to many other Christians across the Middle East and North Africa. By God’s grace they are able to view the loss of career, family or earthly security as little in comparison with what they gain in staying true to Christ.
Thank God for the encouragement, teaching and sense of fellowship that SAT-7’s programmes bring into the homes and hearts of viewers across the region facing such challenges. Pray that the fruit of their suffering and perseverance – hope – would change their nations forever.
I will never leave Jesus Christ. I have been dealing with many problems as a Christian. But I believe that whoever endures will win in the end.”
“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.”
1 Timothy 6:17-19
The gap between rich and poor in Turkey is one of the starkest in the world. The country’s economic crisis is deepening, and many are facing financial hardship.
Here in the affluent UK, use of food banks has soared, as have numbers of children going hungry in the holidays. Meanwhile, idealised images of luxury presents and food put pressure on creaking budgets. Even as the wrapping paper is binned the debts start mounting – and with them often comes family tension and breakdown. Those who are financially rich also find themselves spiritually poor when they make wealth their treasure.
Thank God for the soul-satisfying riches found in Him. Pray for people in both Turkey and the UK, whatever their financial circumstances, to “put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.”
“But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
It can sometimes seem that every day brings more tragedy in the Middle East. Assassinations, attacks, hatred and deep division: it is easy to lose heart and hope in the face of such relentlessly bad news.
But Isaiah reminds us that placing our hope in the Lord leads to a renewal of strength, to an ability to persist and even pick up speed that is not drawn from our own natural resources.
Sometimes it’s good simply to pray for the energy and ability to keep praying. That can extend to circumstances that seem beyond redemption in our own lives, or in the lives of those we love.
What situations do you need fresh strength from God to continue hoping and praying for? Thank God for His promises, and ask for new determination to keep pushing forward in prayer until you see breakthrough in the people and countries that you carry in your heart.