Archive for the ‘Turkey’ category

Dreams and the Church in Turkey

November 16, 2011

The website of the European Baptist Federation carried the following story  on Tuesday 15 November. Authored by Klaus Rösler

In Turkey, more and more Muslims are becoming Christians because they have dreamed about Jesus Christ. Recently, the pastor of the evangelical Agape Church in Samsun, on the Black Sea, Orhan Picaklar, reported such a case.
A young woman became a Christian after Jesus Christ appeared to her in a dream. But that’s not all: after she had been attending worship services, she brought her mother and her younger sister along with her in the mid-October. This is quite extraordinary, since in general, the families of converts are extremely critical of them. In a prayer letter, Picaklar wrote that after the worship service, the mother even promised to tell her husband that his daughter was now a Christian “at the right time”, so that he would not have a negative reaction.
Again and again, there are unexpected meetings with interested people. For example, at the market, Picaklar offers free Bibles and invites those interested to come and see his church. Recently, a woman came by. She told him that she had taken eight Bibles from the market and had given them to women in her neighborhood. She was delighted to have a Christian church in her neighborhood, although she herself was not a Christian. She urged Picaklar to make sure that the church remained in its current place, although there are no plans to move.
The church was planted in 2003. A short while ago, there was a baptism ceremony where four people were baptized. About 50 attend worship services each Sunday. The Agape Church is the only  evangelical church in the Samsun Region, which has a population of 1.2 million. It is in close contact with the European Baptist Federation (EBF). Picaklar is a former Muslim who became a Christian through reading the Gospel of John.

Turkey, EU membership & religious minorities

August 13, 2010

As the secular state of Turkey continues the long and drawn out journey towards membership of the EU, there remain important aspects of its commitment to religious freedom that need urgent attention. Forum 18 reports on the why it is still the case that Jewish, Greek Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic leaders are chosen with government permission as leaders of religious communities which do not exist in law and whose personal positions are not recognised in law.

These three religious communities strive very carefully to avoid confrontation with the Turkish state authorities but de facto are expected to seek permission from the Turkish state to elect new leaders for their respective communities. This is not legally required but it is widely acknowledged that if it were not sought, it would be extremely difficult for those leaders to gain recognition from the state as the representative leader of the religious community.

There three groups are recognised by the Lausanne Treaty of 1923  as legitimate ethnically composed religious communities. Other groups, including evangelicals, are not recognised as religious communities and so may choose their own leaders without the expectation of state interference. However, these leaders are not recognised therefore by the Turkish state as representing any religious community or church. Christian mission presence in Turkey must also exist in a ‘grey zone’ of existence.

The Orthodox Church has been present in Istanbul (formerly Constantinople) for over 1600 years but in 2007 the Turkish courts ruled that the leader of the Orthodox Church in Turkey was not to be called the ‘Ecumenical Patriarch’ but the ‘Patriarch of the Fanar’ (The Fanar is the Istanbul district in which his residence is based) and that he had no authority over Orthodox churches outside of Turkey. All this is despite the fact the world Orthodox community clearly views him as the ‘Ecumenical Patriarch’ with authority over quite a number of scattered Orthodox communities in other parts of the world.

There is certainly a geographical and economic case to be made for Turkish membership of the EU, but until such dangerous eccentricities in its treatment of its religious minorities are addressed, Turkey is likely to face considerable opposition to its membership from other member countries of the EU.