Building Bridges of Witness in Turkey

To be Turkish is to be Muslim.

In the turbulent world of international politics, Turkey sits right in the middle. Here in the historic city of Istanbul, the stakes for one-upmanship are growing. On the day I arrived, the President of Turkey refused entrance to Americans.

There are times when my Canadian passport comes in handy.

As part of the old Syrian conglomerate of nations, Turkey is at a curious moment of decision: Does it want to be part of European success stories, or assert its role in creating an Islamic dominated caliphate? Or perhaps build its own bridge of Europe and Asia through Syria, Iraq, and around the Mediterranean to North Africa?

Into the mix come those who exercise the political craft of faith, learning to live with fidelity, integrity, and human ingenuity. And that’s why I’m here—to again visit those whose lives are close to the center of Christian witness.

Make no mistake about it. Turkey is one tough place to live out the life of Christ. One wonders whether the attributed words of Tertullian—“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church”—really work.

Up to this point, not in Turkey.

At the turn of the 20th century, Turkey was about 20 percent Christian, mainly Armenian Christians. Today, the Christian population doesn’t even register on the census. Silas, a Turkish organization that counts carefully the numbers of Christians, says there are 5,000 evangelicals in the country with 150 churches that have an average Sunday attendance each of 50.

Turkey is a critical society in the witness of the gospel in the Middle East as it bridges Europe and Asia. The country is home to 79 million and has one of the largest Islamic populations in the world. It enjoyed enormous power as the Ottoman ...

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