The Turks originated in Turan, a region that lies between the Caspian Sea and the Mongolian Desert. They arrived in Anatolia, Turkey (Asia Minor) in the eleventh century as conquering warriors. By the year 1299, the Ottoman Dynasty began ruling over what would become a vast empire, greater in area than the Roman Empire, and held the Caliphate lamented by Muslim fundamentalists. Over twenty states fell under Ottoman rule, including Southern Russia, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Libya, and Saudi Arabia. This huge empire lasted until Turkey became a republic in 1923.
Under the Ottomans Christians and Jews were tolerated, but were second-class citizens. The Armenians were persecuted and murdered in mass numbers. After the Empire collapsed in World War I and in subsequent war with Greece, many of the remaining Greek Christians were driven out of western Turkey. Since the 1920s modern Turkey has become a secular, developed nation that sits, literally and symbolically, between the Christian West and the Muslim world.
Turkey is considered to be a "link" between the Orient (Chinese and Mongols) and the Occidental (Anglo-Saxons, Slavs, Goths, and Latins). The Turk, therefore, have a knowledge and mixture of both Eastern and Western cultures.
Turkey is the only secular republic with a majority of the population being Muslim. Turkish law is not based on Islamic law, but is rather a republic modelled after the Swiss and French legal systems.
The Turks represent a great opportunity to create a "fulcrum" church movement that could reach many other Muslim people groups.
Where Are they Located?
The majority of Turks live in their home country but significant numbers live elsewhere. Several million Turks live in Germany alone as either guest workers or German citizens. Many more live throughout Europe and North America; a small but significant population lives in disputed Northern Cyprus.
The Aruban Turks live in not only a western, Christianized area but also a tourist destination which can bring both problems and oppotunities for evangelism.
What Are Their Lives Like?
Though traditional ways continue to exist in some areas, the typical Turks lives a secularized, modern urban life, with all the materialistic advantages and temptations that go with it. Much cultural sexism remains as women are often viewed through traditional Islamic beliefs. Only 80% of women are literate as compared with 95% of men. A quarter of the population is under age 15.
Some of the Turkish men and women in Turkey are doctors, lawyers, architects, or engineers. About 60% of Turks live in major cities such as Istanbul (with 15 million people), Ankara, Izmir and Adana. About 40% of Turks are employed in agricultural sector living in villages and using natural resources to earn a living. Some peasants live as nomads, moving their sheep from place to place in search of greener pastures and dwelling in tents or huts.
For many of the peasants in Turkey, the clothes they work in, their homemade tools, and their livestock are their only possessions. Those who specialize in export crops or combine farming with a seasonal job, however, may become quite wealthy and even donate money to charities. The peasant communities that are located along the lush coastal plains or the low foothills by the seas usually live comfortable lives as farmers. However, those that live among the salt marshes lead more difficult lives.
Turk men work outside while the women spin yarn, dry fruits and vegetables for winter, prepare meals for their families, care for the children, and do the household chores. They also sometimes help with the men's work. Children help their parents with the outside duties if no school is located in their community. They may ride in ox-drawn grain carts or help make colorful knots in rugs.
The diet of the Turks consists of a heavy bread, olives, cheese from sheep or cows milk, onions, molasses from grapes, fresh fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Meats such as fish, wild game, or poultry are only eaten once a week. Wealthier peasants may also eat lamb and beef, but Islam prohibits them from eating pork.
Village social life includes picnics, barbecues, and betting on horse races, cock fights, and wrestling matches. Soccer is Turkey's most popular sport. Children enjoy games such as hide-and-seek and follow-the-leader. They also love to hear fairy tales.
Relaxation is of the utmost importance to the Turk. Coffee houses are places where men meet to visit and talk politics or business. In general, the Turks are courteous, gentle people who readily show hospitality to strangers. They are also very patriotic and have a deep sense of nationalistic pride and love for their country.
Most of the Turks in Turkey have dark hair and brown eyes, but there is no distinctive physical type because of intermarriage with the surrounding peoples. In fact, some have blond or red hair and blue eyes.
What Are Their Beliefs?
The Turks of Turkey are predominantly nominally Sunni Muslim, believing in one god (Allah), and an eternal heaven and hell. However, they also have many ethnic beliefsas well. For example, they believe that men have the power to curse others by giving them the "evil eye." They believe that one is protected against such a curse by wearing blue beads, which the evil eye cannot face. Another way to avoid this cursing glare is to spit in a fire and pray to Allah. They also believe that if a woman puts fish oil around a door and a man walks through it, he will love her for the rest of his life.
One of the unique characteristics of Turkey is that they are a country where Muslims sometimes go and pray in churches and synagogues on special occasions. Judaism and Christianity and their prophets are generally respected by Turks. There might be extremes, as also seen in other religions, but it is generally not approved by the Turkish majority.
Memories of conflict with Christians, and a desire to join Europe while remaining Islamic may stand as barriers.
What Are Their Needs?
Although the Turks of Turkey have Christian resources (both the Bible and the Jesus film have been translated into Turkish) available to them in their language and missions agencies have worked among them, they remain strongly Muslim. Prayer alone has the power to break through the strongholds of Islam. Intercessors are needed to daily stand in the gap and pray for the salvation of these precious people.
Negative attributes of modern urban life such as drunkeness, drug use, and prostitution exist. Such an atmosphere can lead to identity crises that could lead individuals to Christ, or to fundamentalist Islam, or to destruction.
* Pray that churches and missions organizations will accept the challenge of adopting and reaching the Turks.
* Ask God to give the Turkish believers boldness to share the Gospel with their own people.
* Pray that God will grant wisdom and favor to missions agencies focusing on the Turks.
* Ask the Lord to save key leaders among the Turks who will boldly declare the Gospel.
* Pray that many Turks living abroad will be reached with the Gospel and will take it back to Turkey.
* Pray that Turkey will avoid both ethnic strife (especially with the Kurds) and resurgent Muslim fundamentalism.