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Reach the Last: Lifting the Veil of Darkness in Türkiye

21 March 2024

Spanning Europe and Asia, Türkiye (formerly known as Turkey) has long been a crossroads of civilization. As such, the Turkish way of life is marked by a unique blend of cultural influences.

Türkiye is closely linked to the historical narrative of Christianity. Most of the apostle Paul’s missionary journeys were concentrated in present-day Türkiye, and the ruins of the seven churches of Revelation dot its dramatic landscapes.

Yet today less than 1% of Turks identify as Christian, according to Joshua Project. The vast majority are nominally Sunni Muslim, and Islam is deeply intertwined with Turkish nationalism. Christians often lack the same societal privileges as their Muslim neighbours, and though freedom of religion is protected, many Christians face obstacles to openly practice their faith.

It is especially hard for Turkish women who convert from Islam to Christianity, says Open Doors, an organisation dedicated to helping persecuted Christians worldwide. Discriminatory practices and abuses against women are prevalent in this context.

Unfortunately, harassment and violence against Turkish women extends beyond religious conversion, with hundreds of murders occurring each year. This disturbing reality mirrors the story of a TWR Women of Hope listener who shared:

“My brother abused me for years and later went to prison for it. Then he was murdered in prison. I couldn’t get over this trauma and didn’t have money for a psychologist. … One day when I was working, the radio was on, and I heard your programme. I never knew a radio programme could touch someone like this. I didn’t have the chance to go to a doctor, but Jesus did a lot in my heart. He gave me a rest and a peace.”

Through Christ-centred media, thousands of Turkish people like this woman have been transformed by the message of Jesus.

In this continuation of TWR’s yearlong Reach the Last series, exploring some of the world’s least-reached people groups, we look at the Turkish people. Most Turks live in Türkiye itself, with a diaspora spread across 67 other countries. TWR uses radio and digital media to broadcast hope through programmes like Women of Hope, Men of Courage, The Way of Righteousness, Thru the Bible, In Touch and A Different World 



Media Resilience 

Situated between two major fault lines, Türkiye is prone to seismic activity. When twin earthquakes shook the nation on 6th February 2023, the official death toll surpassed 44,000.

Just three weeks before the earthquakes, one of TWR’s ministry friends in Türkiye started a radio station in Antakya, the biblical city of Antioch. “We were just warming up when the earthquake happened, and we lost our signal because there was no electricity,” the media group’s director said. Soon after, they placed a container with a generator near the antenna to strengthen the signal, determined to share God’s comfort and promises with those who were hurting.

“We will not forget who died,” the director explained. “Praise God that he is talking to us and giving us new songs, inspiration from Scripture and a new perspective. We will listen and encourage people according to their needs. We will stay with them, and I think this will take a long time, but praise God that we can talk to the people and help renew these nations.” 

In addition to their regular programmes, the team aired peaceful Christian music to connect with those grieving. The team’s director described the style of music as crying out to God in a posture of listening for his voice and soaking in his presence.

TWR has a solid presence in Türkiye and can adapt media content in response to prevailing circumstances. In times of natural disasters, for example, more Gospel-centred programmes dealing with trauma and emotional healing are aired.

In Türkiye, radio is a popular media format and the most effective media format for sharing the Gospel. It easily reaches listeners in their own homes where they may be free from outside pressures to conform to Islamic traditions. Poverty is also prevalent, with ongoing issues of unemployment making it difficult for people to afford expensive technology. Radios typically come at a more affordable price compared with most other media devices.

“Radio softens the heart of the listener,” a ministry friend of TWR said. “We need it to consistently dispel the lies people believe about Christianity and the church. Turkish culture is hard spiritual ground, and radio is a 24/7 outlet to pour out the love and hope of Jesus that the world desperately needs. Social media is effective at connecting with people, and we will use it to point them to the radio broadcasts.” 

Many of today’s Turkish youth feel hopeless about their futures due to inadequate education and job scarcity. A Different World is a radio programme that helps young people know themselves in a deeper way. Topics such as emotional and physical health, time management and healthy relationships are examined from a Christian perspective.

However, radio is just one of many media formats TWR uses to share Christ with Turkish people. TWR360, a versatile app and online platform with biblical content in 140-plus languages, is widely popular among Turkish audiences. In June 2021, David Creech, TWR’s global digital marketing and operations manager, highlighted Türkiye in a blog post as one of the top 10 countries with the highest engagement on TWR360

Additionally, video has been an effective media format for Men of Courage episodes in the Turkish language, especially for the talk-show-style segments. Topic experts are invited to appear on the show, and questions are posed to the audience during these discussions.

One of the programme’s listeners wrote, “There are no other men’s programmes like Men of Courage available. … The men in our [Bible-study] group are very happy about this programme, and they await every new episode. If they miss a programme, they go and listen to the podcast.” 

Engaging the Global Turkish Community 

Though most Turks live within their home country, Joshua Project documents the significant Turkish populations dispersed throughout Europe and North America. One such example is Germany, home to several million Turks.

The Bible has been translated into the Turkish language and missionaries are reaching Turkish communities, yet most Turks remain strongly Muslim, as noted by Joshua Project.

When one Turkish woman was invited to listen to Christian podcasts, her response was, “This isn’t relevant for Muslim people who already have faith in Allah and the prophets.” The Bible reminds us in Ephesians 6:12 that we face a spiritual battle against forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Knowing this, join us in praying for a spiritual breakthrough among Turks.

Through digital media, TWR and its ministry friends build connections with Turks worldwide. Christian teaching that is aired on the radio is also available for digital streaming, giving Turks all over the globe access to solid biblical teaching.

Northern Cyprus is home to Turkish Cypriots, who are of Turkish ethnicity and share cultural and linguistic ties with Türkiye. The region, shaped by its prevalent Islamic influence, has remained relatively unexplored by Gospel outreach. Recognizing the power of radio to transcend geographical, political, and religious boundaries, TWR cooperates with a ministry friend to share hope through the airwaves.

Caleb Petersen,* TWR’s Muslim ministry coordinator in Europe wrote, “On Northern Cyprus, the women are often vulnerable, especially the many young women coming to the island from all around the Muslim world. Human trafficking and various kinds of trauma are a big challenge for many. We want to get in contact with these women, help them heal, and give them hope and new life through the transforming power of the Gospel.” 

To that end, TWR Women of Hope launched Bridge of Hope Online in 2023, a platform offering Turkish-speaking women a safe space to discuss difficult topics. Much of the content focuses on trauma counselling and anti-trafficking.

A Challenge 

Necati Aydin was one of three men who were brutally murdered in the Zirve Publishing House in Malatya, Türkiye, in 2007. Aydin, a Turkish Christian, was targeted in the attack because of his faith and association with Christian literature.

His brother-in-law, Wolfgang Haede, writes in his book, Faithful Until Death, that Aydin’s relatives saw him “as a traitor, as a blemish on the family” after he converted to Christianity.

“Despite his humility and his willingness to help in any emergency, Necati always got the cold shoulder from almost all of his relatives and was confronted with new accusations again and again,” Haede writes. 

Haede challenges us to be “living sacrifices” for Christ, bold in our faith like Aydin.

Please come alongside us in prayer, asking for a spiritual breakthrough among the Turkish people. Pray that the small percentage of Turkish Christians around the world will have the courage to boldly proclaim the Gospel.

* A pseudonym, used for security reasons