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Turkey

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This ancient Christian church in Trabzon has been registered as a mosque 
Alaexis / CC BY-SA 3.0

The efforts of Turkey’s government to Islamise Turkish politics and society suffered two major setbacks in 2013. The fall of Islamist regimes in Egypt and Tunisia undermined Turkey’s claim that modern and democratic institutions could be successfully combined with the values of political Islam. And large-scale demonstrations against the government’s Islamisation programme underlined widespread popular discontent with its vigorous attempts to promote Islam.

However, the country’s small Christian minority is still labouring under crippling government restrictions. All religious activity is closely supervised by the state, and the rights of churches to own property, conduct services and open other facilities are severely limited. Difficulties are also made for them in managing their own internal governance, training their leaders and undertaking evangelism and religious education. Some theological schools have been closed down. Controls are especially tight on members of non-traditional denominations.

Many Turkish Muslims regard Islam as an essential part of national identity, and as a result Christians (and other minorities) are regarded with suspicion or outright hostility. They suffer discrimination and harassment, and occasional but sometimes serious acts of violence. A number of ministers and Christian workers have been murdered, and in 2013 a plot to kill a pastor in Izmit was foiled only by counter-terrorism units. Converts from Islam are also particularly vulnerable, as are Christians who share their faith or teach Christianity to children. Christians are often portrayed very negatively in the media and in school textbooks.

Islamists also appear intent on erasing visible evidence of Turkey’s Christian past. In 2013 an ancient Byzantine church in Trabzon, which had been in secular use, was registered as a mosque and its Christian-themed mosaics hidden from view.

Present-day Turkey includes the area where the seven churches of Revelation are located. Turkey, known to the Romans as “Asia Minor”, saw Christianity spread rapidly during the first century after Jesus’ death and resurrection. It was here that several of the early Christian communities, such as the Ephesians and the Galatians, were found. The city of Istanbul used to be Constantinople, the capital of the Christian Byzantine Empire.

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    • Give thanks to the Lord that Barnabas Aid is able to help oppressed and persecuted Christian communities by providing grants to Christian students in higher education. Pray for those who have received this help in the past, that they will give a voice to their brothers and sisters and will help to resource, empower and protect them in the face of hostility. Ask that God’s sustaining grace will uphold those who are currently studying, often under severe pressure from the majority community, and pray that they may be equipped for spiritual leadership. Praise God for their dedication to His service, and ask Him to use them powerfully in their various vocations. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed 5 hours ago

    • Almighty God, we pray that You will protect Your people in the Holy Land. We pray especially for the congregation of a church in Gaza City, whose church compound was attacked with a small explosive device on 26 February. We give You thanks that the church, school, nursery and pastor’s house were undamaged and that a fi re that was lit under the pastor’s car was extinguished when Christians came outside to investigate. We pray that the congregation may stand firm for You in the face of the threatening message that was written on the wall facing the church gate: “We’ll get you soon, O worshippers of the cross.” We ask that there will be no further attempt to attack this church or others in the area. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Thu, Jul 2014 00:00

    • Taliban militants attempted to attack a Christian-run day-care centre in Kabul, Afghanistan, on 28 March, saying it was “a church used to convert Muslims to Christianity”. The attackers mistakenly targeted the next-door building, which houses workers on an agricultural and de-mining project, instead; two Afghan civilians, one a young girl, died in the crossfi re. All five Taliban bombers were also killed in the raid on the heavily-secured compound. The day-care centre that they were attempting to target, which is used by expatriates, is said to hold Christian worship services on certain days. Ask the Lord to change the hearts of those who plan and carry out terrorist attacks against Christians and other targets in Afghanistan; pray that they will turn instead to Him. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Wed, Jul 2014 00:00

    • “He was always a light for Christ and he had a love and commitment that he expressed for the Afghan people because of that love for Christ.” The widow of Dr Jerry Umanos, an American doctor who was shot dead at the Christian-run hospital where he worked in Kabul, Afghanistan, spoke of her husband’s faith and ministry. Two visiting American Christians, father and son Gary and John Gabel, were also killed on 24 April when an Afghan security guard opened fire on the staff he was meant to be protecting. Pray for comfort for the grieving families of the three men, and ask the Lord to safeguard the future of the hospital, which provides much-needed medical care and also trains Afghan doctors and nurses. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Tue, Jul 2014 00:00

    • “We ask all Christians and members of other faiths to reconsider their own beliefs and join Hinduism.” Krishna Hari Baskota, secretary at the Office of the Prime Minister in Nepal, was speaking about the application process for a new identity card that will show citizens’ religious affiliation. Christians and members of other minorities will be subjected to greater scrutiny before obtaining the official documents and will be asked to reiterate their faith. One Christian rights activist said that the government is trying to discourage people from converting from Hinduism. Pray that the Nepalese authorities will not discriminate against Christians but will treat them on equal terms with the Hindu majority. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Mon, Jul 2014 00:00

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