American Christian Worker in Istanbul Opens Dialogue on Helping Persecuted Churches in Turkey

Monday, July 2, 2001

By Michael Ireland
Chief Correspondent
ASSIST News Service
July 2, 2001

ISTANBUL, TURKEY (ANS) -- An American Christian working in Turkey has called for open dialogue on the issue of persecution of churches in that country.

The following letter was received at the US office of Turkish World Outreach in Grand Junction, Colorado.

"I am a worker in Istanbul. Recently a group came here on a volunteer trip. As expected, they had several opportunities to minister to and meet young Turkish believers. They were honored and blessed by their hospitality and friendship and gladly extended an invitation to visit America if the opportunity ever arises.

"Two weeks ago a young believer showed up in America, asking for help to defect from Turkey. My friends then immediately called us in Turkey to check the authenticity of the story. I soon discover that this young man was fleeing Turkey because he was afraid to do his military service. Because I advised them to send him back to Turkey, this young man has now moved on to another American believer's house.

"I advised them (with the help of a Turkish pastor) not to help this young believer defect to the states. We stated that the growth of the Turkish Church depends on Turkish believers staying in the country. The Turkish Church needs to learn how to reach out to it's own and boldly depend on the Father for protection and help. We also validated that he misrepresented himself and is in fact not under harassment, but fleeing military service.

"With this advice, I proceeded to call the other family and passed on the same advice. They "strongly" disagreed with this approach and are committed to doing all they can in assisting this young man in his plan and say they will do this if other believers should also arrive. We agreed, in love, that we disagreed on this issue.

"So, I'm not sure to make this a prayer request or a request for an open dialogue.

"As per TWO's June/July 2001 newsletter, God is doing great things in Turkey, and not surprisingly a little persecution is happening. Interesting enough, the difficulty seems to be around the workers and not the Turks. I also being one of the ones who distribute Bibles through the newspaper (advertisements offering New Testaments). When I have spoken to Turkish pastors they feel as if they have more freedom then ever before. They feel that now is the time to increase their outreach activity.

"Reporting that one church is having difficulty and not reporting that 39 are excited about new growth may give a false impression that the whole church in Turkey is under persecution. As Americans we love to hear stories of persecution because we feel with our money and power we can rescue our brothers in Christ. This is a false sense of help, and a violation against scripture. We should not encourage fleeing from harassment, but teach, equip and support Biblical principles that help the Turkish church turn toward our Heavenly Father.

"Please take this letter, not as a rebuke of your (TWO's) excellent prayer letter, but as a voice of concern. I feel Americans need to know that the best way to help Turkey is to pray for the strength and unity of the Turkish Church. Opening the door for Turkish Christians to flee hurts the Turkish church and the country. I'm not sure what to do next. Maybe you can decide to make this a request or open a dialogue.

"Thank you for allowing me to vent and for your continued prayers."

TWO's Steve Hagerman said:" We share this brother's concerns, though we think other workers in Turkey will strongly disagree with his view that only one church is having difficulty with harassment or persecution."

You may contact Steve Hagerman by telephone at 1-970-434-1942, by email at or by snail-mail at: Turkish World Outreach, 508 Fruitvale Court, Grand Junction, Colorado 81504.

Assist News Service. Used with Permission.