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Ecclesias in Turkey

As Christian converts in a majority Muslim country, life in Turkey is problematic.
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Three or four years ago, it was a great surprise for our small ecclesia in the UK to welcome Iranian refugees into our community. It was an even greater surprise sometime later to learn that there were also ecclesias of Iranian asylum seekers in Turkey who had fled there for refuge in fear for their lives because of their new-found Christian beliefs. Today there are 250-300 brothers and sisters in Turkey, with ecclesias in four main centers and others living in isolation in more than a dozen cities scattered around the country. 

Our recent visit to the country (March–April 2023) confirmed that as Christian converts in a majority Muslim country, life in Turkey is problematic. Our brothers and sisters are under constant observation by the Turkish police, often intending to deport them back to Iran. They are discriminated against regarding employment, housing, and education. Sometimes they are forced to work illegally or for long hours and receive little pay while facing a worsening economic situation and rampant inflation.

Nevertheless, they continue to preach to those of their neighbors, who are themselves Christian converts, but who have come to know the Truth about the one God of the Bible. New baptisms are a regular feature of our visits. 

Not unexpectedly, welfare is a significant concern, with brothers and sisters in the UK having contributed more than £400,000 to the needs of our spiritual family in Turkey since the start of the COVID-19 epidemic. The distribution is coordinated by local members and welfare committees in the Turkish ecclesias, who can ensure that help is provided fairly and consistently to those who need it most.

There are 250-300 brothers and sisters in Turkey

CBM UK currently has sufficient funds to meet the need. Nevertheless, we understand brothers and sisters may want to contribute, and if so, they can make donations to the CBM UK Welfare Fund. For those in North America, it would probably be easiest to forward donations to CBMA for them to be consolidated and passed on.

The act of providing welfare help comes, of course, with its own challenges. Even the Lord Jesus remarked at one point that his hearers were only there for the loaves and fishes. We ourselves have experienced the gratitude and joy from sharing the material benefits the LORD has blessed us with.

But we have also witnessed the deep divisions, and erosion of fellowship and trust caused within the Turkish ecclesias and between individual brothers and sisters due to the unintended consequences of generous giving: arguments about money and motivation for church attendance.

These consequences happen particularly when giving is not coordinated and especially when contributions are made directly to individuals. The widespread use of social media means we are regularly informed of requests for help received from people purporting to be brothers and sisters in Turkey.

If you would like advice regarding any such claims, please forward correspondence to turkey@cbm.or.uk, and we will provide any help and advice we have available.

There are specific ways brothers and sisters in North America can help. Due to renewed United Nations Refugee Agency sponsorship schemes in recent weeks, we have seen an uptake in brothers and sisters departing from Turkey for the US—for example, to Los Angeles, Boston, Seattle, and San Diego, with others likely to follow.

Please help them settle into their new surroundings. Some may only have an extremely basic grasp of English. We understand there may also be sponsorship schemes recently introduced enabling the resettlement of refugees in the United States. We are in regular contact with brothers and sisters under serious threat to their well-being in Turkey who would welcome your help and prayers. We would happily work with a coordinating committee of brothers and sisters in the US to examine these possibilities.

Peter Simpson,
CBM Link for Turkey

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