Prayers for Turkey: John 17:6-19
In today’s passage, Jesus is praying for God’s continued protection of those whom he, the good shepherd, protected during his lifetime. Jesus was concerned for their safety since in their act of following him, they set themselves apart from the norm, therefore subjecting themselves to condemnation and persecution. After Jesus’ death, many fled and became refugees. Refugees are people who are running from incredible difficult circumstances. In Syria, over 55,000 have escaped the conflict or direct persecution, into neighboring Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Turkey. Up to 25,000 Syrians have moved across the Syrian-Turkish border over the past months, seeking shelter and protection. The government of Turkey, with the assistance of the UNHCR, has established tent cities in several areas along the border, providing food and shelter and a place for children to play. Tensions do exist, as there was one incident of gunshots being fired over the Turkish border from Syria, wounding two Syrians and two Turks. We truly pray Turkey is not pulled into this conflict.
The ethnic religious blend throughout the Middle East is a very delicate and complex balance, with allegiances often being pulled between the nation state and one’s religious and ethnic identity. It can become difficult to define the “norm” of a society. Groups take it upon themselves to define the norm, thus turning on those not meeting their criteria, persecuting them, and driving them away. Refugees from such conflicts seek shelter and safety. One Armenian Evangelical Church in Aleppo has written on their website, “Pray for our country.” That we can most certainly do!
Dear God … We pray for the people of Syria as well as for the people of Turkey. We pray for the innocents who are caught up in the conflict. We pray for those whom are fleeing, in search of shelter and protection. We pray for the safety and wisdom of the mediators, UN observers, aid workers, the Turkish government officials, and the volunteers working to control and solve the conflict as well as providing for the refugees. Life is so very fragile and each life is so very precious. When one innocent life is snuffed out, you mourn with us and comfort us. I pray, in particular at this time, for the youth and school community that I work with as we mourn the young life of one taken from us. I pray for youth to face the uncertainty of the future with strength and determination, knowing that they are loved and cherished, no matter who they are or what they have done. God loves us in this way. It is our sacred obligation to love others in a similar way. Ultimately, it is this that truly matters and has the power to change the world.
(Prayer and Mission Moment by Alison Stendahl)
Video Resources for Turkey:
Skype Interview with Alison Stendahl: http://globalministries.org/resources/multimedia-resources/videos/video-mission-moments/stendahl.html
Global Ministries International Partners in Turkey:
Istanbul Interparish Migrant Program: Predecessors of the current Global Ministries personnel in Istanbul organized local parishes to serve the influx of refugees to that city during the First Gulf War in 1991. Hearing the continuing call to minister to the needs of economic migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees stranded in Turkey – they number at least 100,000 today – the parishes over the years have sustained and further developed this ecumenical program of Christian mission. The focus is on the most marginalized group of migrants, namely women with children. Services include food, clothing, health care, counseling, voluntary repatriation, adult education and emergency shelter subsidies. IIMP is a critical presence in the lives of those they help. Its work overlaps with NGOs that advocate for the rights of migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers.
Health and Education Foundation (SEV): SEV, a Turkish secular philanthropy, began in 1968 to protect and renew the educational and medical institutions of the American Board, which represents the founder of these institutions more than a century ago. SEV consists of volunteers who are the graduates of the American Board schools. There are three high schools in Turkey (Tarsus, Istanbul, Izmir), a hospital in Gaziantep (SEV American Hospital) and a publisher (SEV-YAY), founded by the American Board but now managed and owned by SEV, which has full responsibility and authority for them. The institutions exemplify the positive possibilities for bridging cultural divides and building trustful relationships that are needed in today's pluralistic world.
For more information on Turkey, click here: http://globalministries.org/mee/countries/turkey/
Global Ministries Personnel in Turkey:
Alison Stendahl serves as Academic Dean of and a math teacher at Uskudar American Academy in Istanbul, Turkey. She also represents, along with Peter Makari, Global Ministries on the Near East School of Theology (NEST) Board in Beirut, Lebanon.
Ken & Betty Frank served with the American Board in Istanbul, Turkey. They shared the job of General Secretary of the American Board and follow closely the historical institutions now managed by SEV. They also served on the board of the Istanbul Interparish Migrant Program (IIMP) and work in its programs. They have retired and our visiting churches on their last home assignment.