It mostly began as an environmental movement protest against the demolition of the only park left in Istanbul, the largest city in Turkey. In its place, a mall and high rise buildings would be built.
For the past week, protesters predominantly aged between 16 and 25 have occupied Taksim Square and the leafy Gezi Park. Tents scatter the park and a makeshift food centre has been set up where throughout the day volunteers are serving basic foods to protesters. Barricades are set at every street entrance to the square and enterprising opportunities have arisen for the sale of swimming goggles and surgical masks to combat tear gas and water cannons used by police during clashes.
Two people have been killed and over 4,100 wounded in the week-long anti-government protests across Turkey, the Turkish Medical Association has reported. (www.globaltimes.cn)
Those protesting together are a disparate crowd, but all united by their growing exasperation with their Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. They see Erdogan as imposing the values of his Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP). The party received approximately half the vote and hence came into power two years ago. (www.mnnonline.org)
Prime Minister Erdogan is seen as having overstepped the post-World War 1 boundaries where modern Turkey was established as a secular state that should avoid overextending its reach beyond its borders. Erdogan is pushing for aggressive economic expansion and reducing civil liberties, from media freedom to the consumption of alcohol. (www.forbes.com)
The International Needs (IN) Network empowers local churches and their leaders with resources so they can bring the gospel alive in their communities. Currently the network has Christian national staff on the ground in Turkey observing the situation.
Rody Rodeheaver with IN Network reports, "From everything that I've been able to learn from our people, it really is not [an extremist-organised protest]. It is more a protest that has bubbled up from the discontent of the people in the country who feel they're not being heard, who feel the government is getting more overpowering and taking charge of their lives in ways that should not be happening in a constitutional republic." (www.mnnonline.org)
Despite the chaos, IN Network is reaching out to this young adult demographic with teen camps starting next week. "It's very timely," says Rodeheaver. "We will have a group of young people in one place and be able to really talk about and allow them to air their feelings. [We will] talk about how Christ enters into this conversation, how Christ is relevant into this kind of environment."
They're expecting several hundred teens at IN Network camps across Turkey. The camp project is only 13% funded. It costs $100 to send a teen to camp.
Rodeheaver says, "It is a great opportunity for people to say, 'I'm going to invest in a Turkish young person and help that young person--at a very critical time in the country of Turkey--really hear what Christ has to say about how you live, how you communicate, and how you're a citizen of this world while being a Christian.'" (www.christiantelegraph.com)
At this critical time in Turkey, IN Network has an important role in the lives of Turkish young people. At a time that may not make sense to them or may create upheaval within their hearts, minds and souls, they have the opportunity to show the value and intrinsic plan of the peace of God.
In John chapter 14 verse 27 Jesus says, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid."
I pray Jesus' promise of peace permeates the people, the police and leadership of this predominantly Muslim country at this turbulent political time.
Belinda Croft lives in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne with husband Russell and sons BJ (aged 12) and Ardon (3 weeks old). She has a passion for God, writing, creativity, missions and social justice.
Belinda Croft's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/belinda-croft.html