Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Turkey a model for Arab revolutions? Think again!

Should Turkey, the "moderate Islamic democracy", be an example for countries going through Arab revolutions?

"Think again! Lift the covers off this mythical wonderland, and you'll find a cesspool, a government showing utter contempt for its own people by jailing scores of reporters, blocking thousands of websites, severely punishing anyone who dares utter a word of criticism."

Joel Brinkley, professor of journalism and former Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign correspondent, goes on to ask, "Guess which nation has jailed more reporters than any other. China? Iran? No, it's Turkey. The Turkish media say say 68 reporters are in prison right now - double the number last reported in either China or Iran. And some are jailed not just for a few days or week."

The Turkish government now blocks thousands of websites it considers offensive or insulting. Human Rights Watch says Turkey was blocking 8,170 websites when it checked early this year.

Turkey's leading Islamist political party controls all three branches of the government, and the military has been sidelined. Little will stop them from changing the rules to keep power into the indefinite future. The Justice and Development Party (AKP) has been in power since 2002, the recent elections are likely to be the country's last fair and free ones, according to political commentator Daniel Pipes. The AKP fell just a few seats shorts from the two-thirds parliamentary needed to unilaterally change the constitution, and will now put pressure on a few lawmakers to change their affiliation so that this can happen.

Such developments are a serious concern for Christian ministries. Here's why:

When in firm control, Islam does not allow competition. Freedom of religion is a Western concept that is only tolerated by Islamists for economic or political reasons.

Strict Muslims follow Sharia, a harsh code of laws derived from the Koran and the teachings and life of Mohammed. When circumstances allow, they normally enforce this code on others, including non-Muslims.

Sharia calls for the killing of any person who converts from Islam to Christianity. It also demands that all Christians be humiliated on a regular basis and be required to pay a special tax not assessed to Muslims.

If Islamists have their way in Turkey we can expect the deportation of most foreign Christian workers, the persecution of national believers, and the likely closure of most of their churches. Some might even have to flee the country.

To all Christian brothers and sisters: your prayers and support are important to the future of believers in Turkey!

(from a Christian prayer letter, July 2011)

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