Turkey, A Conundrum of History and Culture

Turkey bridges Europe and Asia


Across Two Continents

Turkey is a land without a continent or more correctly, a nation spanning two continents:  Europe and Asia.  This alone is enough to make things complicated, but it gets even more confusing.

The Turks, the people group for whom the country is named, don’t come from the area.  Instead, the earliest records of the Turks can be traced to Mongolia.  Various tribes, like the Khazars and Seljuks, came out of the Mongolian steppes and over time converted the Persian Empire into their own fiefdom.

Meanwhile, the area which became Turkey is comprised of a distinctly Asian eastern part, once called Anatolia, which developed a completely different culture than that of the more European western part, which was called Thrace.

The Confluence of Cultures

The country that is now Turkey acted as a land-bridge between ancient kingdoms.  Persia reached out across this land to attack Greece.  Alexander pounded across it in the other direction to conquer Persia.  Then along came Rome and established Constantinople.  In time, the Turks came.  What had been the Byzantine Empire  became part of the Ottoman Empire.

Constantinople, the capital of Byzantium, stood at the crossroads of the world.  Like the Hagai Sophia, the control of the area flowed back and forth between various powers over the centuries.  Also, like the magnificent church building, the various controlling powers added their flavorings to the modern city now called Istanbul.

Until the end of World War I, Turkey was a multi-ethnic state whose people groups did not mix with one another and thereby retained separate ethnic and religious identities within the empire.   The nation was dominated by a Turkish and Southern European ruling class, but there was no effort to unite the various cultures into one.

After World War I efforts were made to create a national and cultural identity, but instead of cultural homogenization the traditional Muslim culture practiced in the East clashed with the more cosmopolitan West creating a confusing yet enchanting mosaic.  The result was one of the most westernized Islamic nations that ever existed.

Tokapi Palace

Turkey Today

Today the culture of Turkey is dominated by its Islamic past, even though its deepest roots go back to the the Bible.  Many cite the most important literary contribution as Ottoman Divan poetry, a highly ritualized and symbolic art from inspired by the Persians.  Ottoman architecture is seen in the famous Tokapi Palace and beautiful onion-domed  buildings throughout the country.  Oiled wrestling, another Ottoman contribution, is the national sport.  In food, Turkish coffee, a sweet called Turkish Delight and other dishes enjoyed in Turkey trace their roots to the Ottoman Empire.

According to many sources, such as US News, Turkey’s President Erdogan has completely abandoned the practices of his predecessors, which once made Turkey among the most westernized of Islamic countries and has “flooded the country’s politics, education system and foreign policy with Islam.”  Opinions differ in their assessment of Erdogan, some call him a tyrant while others believe he is merely fulfilling the wishes of his people.

Whatever the truth of the political situation is, there are people in the nation of Turkey, even in this season of Islaminaton, who seek out the Author of Truth, Jesus Christ, in spite of the efforts of those who promote Islam and regardless of the personal danger. Through a network of hidden churches and bold Believers, the Gospel is gathering Turks into Christianity.  One of the ways Turks come to know our Savior is through the programming of GHM.

Help Reap the Harvest

Fulfilling the Great Commission in this generation.
Fulfilling the Great Commission in this generation.

You can partner with Global Heart Ministries to fulfill The Great Commission in this generation in countries like Turkey. Together we can bring the light and the truth of Jesus Christ right into the living rooms of every deceived child, every oppressed woman, and every hurting home. This is our message. This is our call.

We invite you to join this vision as a volunteer, a prayer warrior, or a financial donor. Contact us today by phone or email. Let us know how you’d like to partner with us as we reach out to the Most Unreached Regions of the World.




One thought on “Turkey, A Conundrum of History and Culture

  1. Pingback: A Touch of Turkish

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