Republic of Turkey
November 5-7

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Area 779,452 sq.km. Straddles two continents; 3% in Europe (Thrace), 97% in Asia (Anatolia). Also controls the Bosphorus Strait and the Dardanelles, vital sea links between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. Its strategic position has made the area of prime importance throughout history.

Population Ann.Gr. Density
2000 66,590,940 +1.68% 85 per sq. km.
2010 76,054,450 +1.24% 98 per sq. km.
2025 87,869,200 +0.86% 113 per sq. km.

Capital Ankara 3,250,000. Other major cities: Istanbul 10.1m; Izmir 2.4m; Bursa 1.3m; Adana 1.1m. Urbanites 65%.


Strong pressures on ethnic minorities to adopt Turkish culture and language make it hard to obtain objective figures.

Turks 76- 80%. A Central Asian people that conquered and largely absorbed the indigenous peoples of the land from the 11th Century onward. Though ethnically diverse, Turks have a fairly homogeneous culture. Distinctive sub-groups: Azeri 680,000 in the east; Koruk (Gagauz) 665,000; Crimean Tatar 400,000.

Kurds 14- 20%. (The Kurds claim 21-25%). An Indo-Iranian people in southeast Anatolia, probably related to the ancient Medes. Many Kurds use Turkish as their primary language. Main language groups: Kurmanji 5- 9m; Dimli (Zaza) 1.15m.

Arabs 1.8%. In south Anatolia adjoining Syria.

Muslim minorities 1.8%. Gypsy (Turkish, Arlije, Domari) 590,000; Kabardian (Circassian) 550,000; Laz 137,000; Bulgarian Pomak 300,000; Albanian 91,000; Bosnian 90,000; Abkhazian 39,000.

Refugees 1.3%. Iranians 560,000; Bulgarian Turks 200,000; Central Asians 90,000.

Non-Muslim minorities 0.2%. Armenian 45,000; Jews 8,000; Assyrian 2,000; Greek 4,000. Rapid decline through emigration. Note religious graph. There were 1.75m Armenians and 1.5m Greeks in Turkey in 1900.

Literacy 82%. Official language Turkish. All languages 36. Languages with Scriptures 7Bi 5NT 5por 13w.i.p.


Tourism, agriculture and industry are all important to the economy; rapid development in 1980s. It is self-sufficient in agriculture. Remittances from the 3 million Turks working in Western Europe are a significant source of foreign exchange. Inflation in the 1990s, again in 2001 and the devastating 1999 earthquake have slowed growth. Massive development of both the Tigris and Euphrates river basins in the east. The economy needs to be modernized in preparation for possible entry into the EU. Turkey has the world’s 17th largest economy. It is, at the same time, one of Europe’s poorer nations yet the richest and most developed of the six Turkic nations of west and central Asia. HDI 0.728; 86th/174. Public debt 24% of GNP. Income/person $3,130 (10% of USA).


The Turkish Ottoman Empire once stretched across North Africa, Arabia, Western Asia and Southeast Europe. Its demise and final fragmentation in World War I led to revolution, the birth of modern Turkey and the formation of a republic in 1923 by the much revered Atatürk. Periods of social disorder and military rule led to a return to democratic government in 1983, but with the military still retaining considerable influence. Turkey is a member of NATO, but is in dispute with fellow NATO member, Greece, for long-standing historic reasons and over territorial rights in the Aegean Sea and the division of Cyprus. Suppression of the large Kurdish minority moderated during the 1990s. The long, bitter war with Kurdish separatists caused 30,000 deaths and the ravaging of the southeast, but after 1999 its intensity was considerably reduced. Turkey’s economic links with Europe, cultural links with Central Asia and proximity to conflicts in Iraq, the Balkans and the Caucasus have enhanced its strategic importance. There are tensions between Turkey and nearly all its neighbours.


Turkey’s Ottoman Empire was for centuries the guardian of all the holy places of Islam and its chief protagonist. Since the sweeping reforms of the 1920s, Turkey has officially been a secular state. In recent years Islam has become politically more important. The constitutional guarantee of religious freedom has not been fully upheld; instances of discrimination and harassment of religious minorities are many, but there has been a distinct improvement since 2000. Persecution index 39th in the world.

Religions Population % Adherents Ann.Gr.
Muslim 99.64 66,351,213 +1.7%
Christian 0.32 213,091 +3.7%
Jewish 0.04 26,636 +1.7%

Sunni Muslims 72-80%, Alevi 17-25%, mainly, but not only, among the Kurds. Shi’a among Azeri and Iranians. There are also Yezidis among the Kurds.

Christians Denom. Affil.% ,000 Ann.Gr.
Protestant 6 0.03 19 +2.7%
Independent 4 0.02 14 +10.7%
Anglican 1 0.00 2 +0.1%
Catholic 2 0.05 30 +2.0%
Orthodox 10 0.21 138 +4.9%
Marginal 4 0.01 5 +3.1%

Churches MegaBloc Cong. Members Affiliates
Armenian Orthodox O 19 25,749 43,000
All Foreign Protestants P 51 5,594 16,000
Catholic C 50 9,281 15,500
Catholic Eastern Rite C 56 8,982 15,000
Greek Orthodox O 5 2,098 3,000
Turkish Indig. believers I 34 2,000 3,000
Jehovah's Witnesses M 23 1,559 2,600
All Minority Indig. Prots P 8 600 1,500
Other denoms [19]   43 58,400 112,700
Total Christians [27]   289 114,300 213,000

Trans-bloc Groupings pop.% ,000 Ann.Gr.
Evangelical 0.0 20 +8.4%
Charismatic 0.0 11 +7.1%

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Answers to Prayer

1 The emergence of a small, but significant Turkish Evangelical Church. Turkish believers probably numbered about 10 in 1960. This had risen to about 2,000 in 34 fellowships by 2000.

2 The legal recognition of the existence of a Turkish Protestant Church and the official establishment of several Protestant congregations.

3 The increasing openness on the part of the authorities to recognize Turkey as a multi-cultural, multi-religious country.

Challenges for Prayer

1 Turkey remains the largest unreached nation in the world. For over 1,000 years it was a bastion of Christianity, but it became a strong propagator of Islam. The Christian population has declined from 22% to 0.32% since 1900 — most of these Christians being non-Turkish. Few of the 66 million Muslims have ever heard the gospel.

2 Turkey is a nation torn in opposite directions. It straddles Europe and Asia; some strive to bring the country into the EU, others to strengthen ties with Muslim states to the south and east. The constitution, judiciary and army are secular and uphold religious freedom, but many politicians, the police and the growing Islamist movement are hostile to anything Christian. Pray that all attempts to restrict religious freedom may be frustrated, and that ambiguities in the law may be clarified — it is the latter that open the way for mis-treatment of Christians.

3 The many critical issues facing the nation need political leadership of high calibre for their resolution. The military needs to serve the government rather than manipulate it. Serious failings in human rights need to be addressed and a solution found to the Kurdish issue. Raging inflation and an archaic economic system need to be courageously tackled. A harsh application of Atatürk’s strong secularism is feeding a rising Islamist movement and needs to be rethought.

4 The barriers of prejudice and hatred of the gospel can appear insurmountable. Pray for the following to be broken down:

a) Historical. Turkey’s long association with Islam and more than a millennium of bitter wars with ‘Christian’ Europe make conversion appear almost an act of treachery.

b) Cultural. To be a Turk is to be a Muslim, even if only nominally so. Family pressure, police intimidation and threats from Muslim extremists keep many from coming to Christ, and force others to remain secret believers.

c) Fixed attitudes. A deep-seated resistance in the general public to anything Christian makes any form of witnessing difficult. A radical change in public attitudes and press coverage of Christians must be prayed for.

d) Biased understandings. Evangelical Christians are lumped together with Armenian terrorists and Jehovah’s Witnesses. Sensational articles in the Press and biased television programmes spread untruths about Christians, further inflaming public opinion. Muslim misconceptions about Christian doctrine present another major barrier.

e) The legacy of violent past suppression of Christian minorities. The turbulence and political instability before and after World War I brought about widespread violence and forced deportation for many Armenians. Armenian nationalists, urged on by Russian agents, fought for a separate homeland. The horrific Turkish response resulted in the virtual elimination of Armenians through expulsions or massacres. Some estimate 1.5 million died. Pray that the cloud of prejudice and darkness might be lifted and many might find joy and peace in the forgiveness offered by the Lord Jesus.

5 The ancient churches survived until the beginning of the 20th Century, but since then have been decimated by massacres (Armenians), severe persecution (Assyrians) and emigration (Greeks, etc.). Pray for the remnant that survives — for re-kindling of faith and for a work of the Holy Spirit. Their numbers have been reduced to an estimated 138,000 in 12 different traditions.

6 The Turkish Church has at last become a visible reality, but still only constitutes 0.003% of the ethnic Turkish population. Pray for:

a) The Turkish Protestant Christian Council. This links all the evangelical fellowships and their leaders. Denominationalism has not been an issue — but could be. Pray that the Turkish leaders may be discerning and wise in developing the appropriate structures, teaching, hymnody, worship patterns and fellowship levels.

b) Strong, united fellowships Close family ties and the security it confers mean that family rejection after conversion can be traumatic. Fellowships need to become surrogate families. Backsliding has been common, compromise in marrying non-Christians frequent, and relationship breakdowns between believers disheartening.

c) Avoidance of internal dangers — doctrinal extremes, legalism, personality clashes, disunity.

d) Courage in persecution. Social ostracism, harassment by police, arbitrary arrests, and disruptions of church services on spurious pretexts have all occurred — bringing some insecurity, fear and uncertainty. The courts usually throw out any charges made against Christians, but inevitably this is stressful.

e) Perseverance. Emigration is often a way to escape persecution, find a good paying job or find a foreign marriage partner.

f) Legal recognition of the Protestant Church as a whole. This has yet to be gained, but a number of individual congregations have been legally recognized thus enabling them to build or buy property.

7 Vision for the future is developing.

a) In 2000 goals were set by the Church that by 2005 there be a congregation in 50 of Turkey’s 80 provinces (15 had a congregation in 2000) and 10,000 Turkish evangelical believers. Pray that this may be achieved.

b) Bible training for leaders. There are now two small Bible schools — Hall of Tyrannus near Ephesus and Bithynia Bible Institute in Istanbul, with several others being planned. A TEE programme is in operation.

8 Kurds are a majority in 16 provinces in east and south-east Turkey; 500,000 annually leave for other areas in Turkey and Europe. Pray for:

a) A complete end to the hostilities between the army and Kurdish separatists and a fair resolution to the causes. Over 30,000 have been killed, thousands of villages razed and millions displaced and impoverished.

b) Cultural rehabilitation of the Kurds. Vigorous suppression of their culture and language has moderated. Kurdish newspapers are now allowed and even the JESUS film in Kurmanji has been legalized.

c) The Muslim Alevi and Yezidi sects (the latter based on Zoroastrianism and the occult) many of whom are Kurds. Their nominal Islamic practice and high respect for Jesus give unique witness opportunities. New literature and music cassettes are being developed specifically for them.

d) The emergence of a Kurdish expression of the Church. There may be 300 Kurdish believers world-wide, but no fellowships exist in Turkey, though there are a number of Kurdish believers in Turkish-speaking fellowships. Pray for all those seeking openings for reaching them, translation of the Scriptures (all main Kurdish languages are being worked on), use of the JESUS film and other Kurdish literature.

9 Other specific unreached peoples and areas abound. Pray for:

a) A living, growing fellowship of believers in each of the 80 provinces — 56 of them have no Christian workers or groups. Especially needing prayer are the turbulent eastern Anatolian provinces (largely Kurdish) and the Black Sea coast (many Laz).

b) University students. There are 1.4 million students in 817 universities and colleges, but there is very little specific campus ministry apart from Izmir, though a number of students have come to the Lord.

c) Children. They are difficult to reach. The problem of street children is growing in Istanbul and Izmir. A Turkish children’s Bible was published recently. Camp ministry has been effective (Kuçak).

d) The ethnic Muslim minorities and Central Asian refugee communities listed under Peoples above. None of these peoples have been evangelized; many live in their own communities, though use of their languages is declining.

e) Iranian refugees who have fled the violence and Islamic extremism of the 1979 Revolution. Over 560,000 still remain in Turkey — many in Istanbul, while many others have moved on to Western countries. There has been a response to the gospel in Istanbul and Ankara and small Persian-speaking congregations have been established with possibly 50 believers in 2000.

10 Missionary work began in 1821, but was soon directed to the more receptive non-Muslim minorities in the hope of reaching the majority through them. Since 1960 renewed prayer and effort is slowly yielding fruit among Muslims. All expatriates have long lived under the threat of police harassment and expulsion from the country, but earlier expulsions were quashed and declared illegal in three court cases in 1992. Pray for:

a) Those called, equipped and gifted for tentmaking ministries in this land where vital opportunities to share one’s faith are hard to find.

b) Opportunities for ministry that will enable the whole country to be exposed to the gospel. Most expatriates are engaged in teaching, study, business, or on tourist visas. Few have ever lived in eastern Anatolia, the Black Sea coast or the interior provinces.

c) The right relationship with indigenous believers — too many foreigners in an area can stifle the development of mature leadership.

d) The 50 or so agencies, with around 400 expatriates, from over 20 countries with a specific burden and calling to minister to Turks, and for the continuance of fruitful cooperation among them.

11 Other means of witness are bearing fruit and need prayerful support:

a) Bible translation. Both Turkish NT translations published in 1988/89 have been well received and widely sold or distributed. The Bible Society is overseeing the completion of the entire Bible for 2001.

b) The Bible Society has a well-visited bookstore in Istanbul and is able to distribute Bibles and Christian literature to colporteurs and secular bookstores. Newspaper advertisements in 2000 generated an unprecedented response.

c) Christian literature. There are now seven Turkish Christian publishing houses that handle Bibles, over 100 book titles and two magazines. Literature is often well received but distributors are sometimes threatened by Islamic extremists. There is a great need for Turkish Christian authors.

d) Postal evangelism in innovative ways — pen pals, broadsheets, offers of BCCs, etc., — has generated increased response. Good News Ministries oversee a large BCC programme with follow-up.

e) Christian radio. The breakdown of regulatory controls has opened the way for a 24-hour Christian FM station in Istanbul. International broadcasters also have significant input. TWR, partnering with IBRA, broadcast 10 hrs/wk from Central Asia and Russia. There are plans for Christian television by satellite.

12 Ministry to Turks outside Turkey:

a) The 3 million Turks and Kurds in Western Europe. Migrant labourers in Germany (2.1m), Netherlands (290,000), France (250,000), UK (200,000), Austria (100,000), Belgium (95,000), Switzerland (50,000) and Sweden (37,000) are far more accessible to Christian workers but are also more conservative. A number of churches and international agencies are seeking to evangelize them, but local hostility to migrant workers impedes this outreach. Among such are OM, WEC, Friends of Turkey and Orientdienst. There are possibly 100 converted Turks as a result of this ministry. There is also a work among the 95,000 Turks in Australia. Pray for the multiplication of Turkish and Kurdish Christian groups in these areas and for them to make an impact on their homelands.

b) Turks in the Balkans. There are opportunities for ministry among Turkish minorities in Bulgaria (1.1m), Macedonia/Serbia (250,000), Romania (150,000) and Greece (140,000). The opening up of Bulgaria and Bulgarian Turks to the gospel may be of great significance for the Church in Turkey. Over 12,000 Turks and Turkish-speaking Gypsies in the Balkans have come to Jesus through a people movement since the late 1980s. Pray for ministry directed to teaching and mobilizing these believers.

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