Turkey’s ancient Christian heritage has been largely forgotten, and Christianity is now widely seen as a foreign import. Government statistics show that 99 percent of the country is Muslim, and most Muslims are Sunni. Small minority groups include Christians, Jews, Yazidis, Baha’is, and atheists.
The secular state officially protects religious freedom, but in practice Christians face restrictions on owning property, training leaders, and obtaining visas for foreign workers. In 2015, the government granted permission for a new church building, the first in 90 years. Christians also endure societal opposition, threats, vandalism of church buildings, and discrimination in employment.
Home to some of the earliest known human civilisations, Turkey was also the site of many important events in early church history. The country was later occupied by the Byzantines and the Mongols. The Ottoman Empire was formed there in the thirteenth century and remained powerful until its defeat by Allied forces in World War I. In 1923, a group of military cadres led by future President Mustafa Kemal Ataturk resisted Allied authority to form the Republic of Turkey.
A long history of mainly secularist rule ended in 2002 with the election of the conservative Justice and Development Party (AK). The government has since survived mass protests and a failed military coup in 2016 that prompted a crackdown on those it perceives to be its enemies.
Turkey is a multicultural, multi-ethnic country that has seen much civil and political unrest amongst ethnic minorities. The Kurds of south-eastern Turkey have campaigned for several years for greater autonomy and political representation. The conflict in neighbouring Syria has worsened sectarian divisions. Two deadly mass terrorist attacks by the so-called Islamic State group have targeted Istanbul, one at the Ataturk airport in June 2016 and the other at a nightclub in January 2017.
- Pray that the security situation in Turkey will improve and for increased understanding and good will between different communities.
- Pray for strength and safety for Christians in Turkey who have faced increased hostilities since the failed coup attempt.
- Pray that the government will afford better rights and protections to members of all religious minorities.