• OTHER \ Jul 10, 2002
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    Turkey Seen as Key for Revival in the Middle East
Turkey Seen as Key for Revival in the Middle East A report in the August issue of "Charisma" magazine, which comes out next week, reveals that mission activity is on the rise in the wake of the 10/40 Window international prayer movement, the Reconciliation Walk by Christians to apologize to Muslims for the Crusades, the involvement of Christian agencies with the victims of the 1999 Turkey earthquake, the long-term work of Phoenix-based International Turkish Network, as well as other initiatives.

Larry Mills, a graduate of the Rhema Bible Training Center in Tulsa, Okla., and a missionary to Turkey, Germany and Bulgaria since 1986, said Turkey is ready for revival. "Something has softened up the hearts of the people," he said.

The pastor of a church in Istanbul, Mills told "Charisma": "I am convinced that the many prayer initiatives -- the prayer during Ramadan, the Muslim holy month; the prayer through the 10/40 Window -- have played a major role. If we find ways to spread the Word to the masses -- for example, by employing mass media -- we will see a major revival."

He added: "I believe Turkey is a key to the entire Muslim world. Christianity is not illegal in Turkey, and the ambition to prove itself a democracy and a worthy candidate for the European Union keeps the country from yielding fully to the nationalist lobby."

But the number of ethnic Turks associated with charismatic and evangelical churches is still minuscule in Muslim Turkey -- about 2,000 in 50 million. The population of Turkey totals some 66 million, but about 13 million are Kurds, and 3 million are of other minorities.

The indigenous Turkish church was established in the last 15 years, but its steady growth has unnerved the government, which is under constant pressure from nationalist lobbies and popular opinion to preserve Turkey's traditional identity as a Muslim nation.

In the most recent wave of discriminatory measures against Christians, local authorities notified 15 congregations that their buildings were not "licensed for worship" and ordered them to abandon their services. A Christian school in Ankara was closed, and seven of its foreign staff members were deported. Ankara believers have received bomb threats, and a series of national TV talk shows have stirred anti-Christian sentiments.

Turkish pastors who met with "Charisma" in Istanbul told how the latest wave of harassment had not only failed to cause the country's Christians to lose heart, but also revealed a determination not previously displayed by Turkey's believers during periods of government pressure.

They pointed out that not one church has bowed to the threats or complied with the close-down order. Instead the pastors have joined forces, hired a lawyer and appealed the ruling in a concerted legal action that is unprecedented in Turkey.

In spite of the resistance, the charismatic and evangelical churches in Turkey are growing in number as well as Turkish identity. Carlos Madrigal, a missionary from Spain, said that until 1995 foreign workers were taking the spiritual initiative to spread the gospel, but after that time Turkish church leaders started developing a vision for their nation and taking the lead.

The full story can be read in the August issue of "Charisma" magazine, out next week