Historical Context

Turkey (the Republic of Turkey) is a country in Eurasia; a part of the country is located in Southwestern Asia and another part in South Europe. The contemporary Republic of Turkey was formed in the beginning of 1920s, because of collapse of the Ottoman Empire. The capital city is Ankara.

From east, Turkey is bordered by Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Iran; from south, by Iraq and Syria; from west, by Greece and Bulgaria. The borders of Turkey are surrounded by 4 seas: the Black Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, the Aegean Sea and the Marmara Sea. Turkey is an Islamic country, with a  population of 72.6 million. According to the official figures, 96.1% are followers of Islam, 2.3% are agnostics, 0.9% are atheists, 0.6% are Christians and 0.1% profess other religions.

Turks have emerged on historical stage very late; there are no records about this nation before its Islamic period. Even the scarce records about the first centuries of the Islamic period give us almost no information about their life. In the historical records of other nations (Chinese, Byzantines) with whom Turks had relations in some measure, the information about them is scarce as well.   

Nomadic communes of Turkish-speaking tribes known as Oguz to Byzantines, which later were called Turks, lived in the Altai Mountains. Around the 5th century, because of unknown circumstances, probably because of pressure from China, they moved toward south-west and conquered Turan (Turkistan), from where they expelled Avars. Seljuk was the first Turkish dynasty, the army of which conquered the Armenian Plateau in the 11th century, and later subdued the most part of Byzantine Empire and Armenia.


Christian Context

At the end of the 19th century and in the beginning of the 20th century, Turks committed genocide of Armenians and Greeks; during the mass displacements they massacred 1.500.000 Armenians and 500.000 Greeks. Those terrible events took place on basis of religion, which means that so many Armenians and Greeks were killed for professing and following Jesus Christ. The Great Genocide and Holocaust are the most studied genocides in the world.

Most of Christians living in Turkey have non-Turkish origin. Turkish constitution and jurisprudence are secular and accept religious freedom; however, most political figures, the police and Muslim extremists, who are growing in number, are disposed aggressively toward Christians. In a country which has been Islamic for so long and has had cruel wars with Christian nations, becoming a Christian (conversion or professing Jesus) is considered treachery. To be a Turk means to be Muslim; consequently, fear of problems in family, of police and of threats of Muslim extremists keeps away many from professing Jesus Christ (conversion).

Hundreds of thousands of secret Christians live in Turkey. These are Armenians and Greeks, who had a narrow escape from the Genocide of 1915; however, because of unwillingness to forsake the land, which belonged to their nations for centuries, and the property, which was earned with great toil, they started to live hiding their faith. Thousands of Christian families that stayed in their homeland and had to pretend to be Muslims. These secret Christians show themselves in public as Muslims, however in their homes they are still Christians and observe Christian festivals. On the surface, these secret Christians go to mosques, attend to Musilm ceremonies, often showing themselves as supporters shariah, but in fact it is just an outward appearance, because in their hearts they continue to profess Christ. This matter is very serious and sensitive, that is why open discussion about it is out of question, as in any case discovery of different religious convictions of thousands of people would cause great uproar, and persecutions of them could not be ruled out. That is why any mention about this matter is prohibited. In other words, because there is no real freedom in Turkey, the conscience of these people has become captivated by their circumstances; even more, they are suffering, as they have to hide their real faith and true origin.  

Christianity has been present on the territory of today’s Turkey from the times of the Apostles. It was here, in Antioch, that the followers of Christ first were called Christians (Acts 11.26). Born in the city of Tarsus, Cilicia, Paul the Apostle started Christian Churches here, among the Greek-speaking population, in the 1st century. He preached to the people of Pamphylia (Acts 13.13), Iconium (Acts 14.1), Lycaonia (Acts 14.6), Cilicia (Acts 15.41), Galatia and Corinth. Great and influential Christian communities were formed in Ephesus (Paul has addressed one of his epistles to the people of this city), Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea as well (the 7 Churches of the Revelation in Asia).

Anatolia was the central part of Christian Byzantium. Byzantine Empire ceased to exist after 11 centuries of rule, when Ottoman Turks conquered the Caesar’s capital city of Constantinople in 1453, May 19. However, after this millions of Christians (along with other religious minorities) continued to live already in Islamic Empire populated with Turks who at that time called themselves Ottoman.

Despite of persecutions, more and more Turks continually converted and accepted Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, they did not make it public and continued to remain secret Christians.

In 2011, 8.000.000 copies of the Turkish Bible were sold in Turkey. This tells us about increase of Turkish Christians in percentage. These figures evidence that the number of Christians in Turkey reaches several million people. 

  • Here the ways of the Apostles were paved and their first sermons were heard.
  • Here the followers of Jesus were first called Christians.
  • Here the first persecutions on Christians took place.
  • Here the first basilicas were built and the remains of the saints are laid.
  • Here the foundation of history of Christianity was laid.