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Istanbul pastor shows hope to protesters

ISTANBUL (BP) — While protesters and police furiously clash in Istanbul, a pastor there is quietly continuing his ministry.

Nicholas* lives and works in Taksim, the epicenter of the increasingly violent encounters of recent days in Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city. In the most recent clashes, tear gas invaded Nicholas’ home, forcing his children to abandon their bedrooms and sleep in the living room where it was bearable.

Despite the turmoil, Nicholas said he and his family are not afraid. He is concerned about the uncertainty of the future of Turkey but believes it is a blessing to lead a church so close to the action.

“It is important that the church continue normally and demonstrate our faith,” he said. “God is the ultimate authority to whom we submit.”

Nicholas said he believes his nervous neighbors need to see the peace that is evident among followers of Christ. On Father’s Day, Nicholas led 30 people in a subdued worship service despite the brewing threat of violence on the street.

Refusing to be distracted by the events swirling around him, Nicholas said, “Our mission is beyond this neighborhood and really beyond this world.”

He said he admires the passion of the protesters who flocked to Istanbul’s Gezi Park, but he sees a lack of clear purpose and goals. That is a sharp contrast to his mission of sharing the real hope that comes from having a personal relationship with God, he said.

A few days earlier, Gezi Park had been the site of tens of thousands of protesters singing, dancing and drinking in defiance of the prime minister. That party is clearly over; driven out of the park by the police, the protesters have fled and taken to the streets. In addition to being battered and shaken, they are angry and defiant, demanding a change in the country’s leadership. To the protesters, Nicholas says, “Ultimately we find our confidence in God.”

There is a growing fear among Christians in Turkey, but Nicholas said there is always something to fear because Christians live in a broken world.

“Every day there is something to fear — tear gas, cancer, flu and other illness,” he said.

But Christians shouldn’t overcome fear, he explained, by “self-righteousness or willpower.” Victory over fear, Nicholas said, only comes from God.

“If we live life in fear and depression, we’ve stopped living,” he said.

The church will continue on as it always has, because there needs to be a place for people to hear the Gospel. “There are many more dangerous places in the world where our brothers and sisters in Christ meet faithfully,” Nicholas said.

Nicholas asks for prayer for Turkey’s leaders to rule with wisdom and justice. For the citizens of Turkey, he prays they would discover the true hope that can be found in God.
*Names changed for security reasons. Ralph Brock is a writer for the International Mission Board based in Central Asia. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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  • Ralph Brock