In This City is a challenge to journey with us in prayer for twelve key cities in 2019. We ask you to commit to praying for fruit that will ripen and bear the seeds for mature, vibrant and multiplying churches across the Arab world. Find out more in this article from the leader of Pioneers’ Middle East Region.
Istanbul, Turkey. A city where East meets West. The Bosphorus Strait, a narrow waterway, connects the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara. It also divides the city in two: half on the continent of Europe and half on the continent of Asia.
Once known as Byzantium, then Constantinople, Istanbul is where the Roman Empire lost to the Ottoman Empire.
Today, Istanbul is the fourth largest city worldwide. Thousands from the Middle East, displaced by wars, call this city ‘home’. We pray that they will meet Jesus on their journey.
Population: 15 million, approx. half a million Arabs
Religion: 98.3 per cent Muslim, 0.2 per cent Christian
Ethnic groups: Turkish, Syrian, Iranian, Iraqi, Syrian Kurd, Armenian, Greek, Yemeni
Geographical size: 2,063 sq miles / 5,343 sq kilometres
Location: Northwest Turkey
Key historical events: Became new capital of Roman Empire (330 AD). Was the site of the Council of Chalcedon (451 AD). Was captured and made capital of Ottoman Empire (1453), and then occupied by British, French and Italian troops (1918-1923) before Turkish independence was declared.
We will focus on the Arabs of Istanbul and their challenges and needs.
Most Arabs in the city are trying to get settled, secure a decent job and find some semblance of decency, community and hope for their or their family’s future. Most hold menial, manual labour jobs and their salaries are very low. Their children are slowly being integrated into Turkish schools and Turkish society. While some still desire to return to Syria, most Arabs who have made it to Istanbul are trying to settle there as immigrants.
Seekers and believers
As a secular state, the Turkish government does not have laws against conversion or proselytism. However, social pressures and persecution are very prevalent. Friends and family members can make life difficult. There are distinct pockets of different sects and groups that are associated with ISIS and other extremist groups.
Fear inhibits new believers from sharing their faith and stunts the growth of the church among their people. Fear also prevents disillusioned Muslims from actively pursuing a life of faith in Christ. Imagine how much seeking, sharing and evangelism could happen if the barriers of fear were removed!
The team greatly needs more like-minded, fluent Arabic-speaking team members. They have many contacts, mostly men, who need to be followed up. Most of these have been passed on to them through media.
The team’s vision is to plant indigenous Arab house churches throughout the city of Istanbul, and there is hope that some Arab nationals will join them soon. However, many new believers prefer a more traditional church, and are not eager to start their own house church within their community.
- Spiritual breakthrough would happen among Arabs in Istanbul. Some individuals are coming to faith, but we ask God for a breakthrough in spiritual hunger, sharing, miracles, healings, dreams and a widespread acceptance of the gospel message. We want to see new believers meeting to study the Word and pray together in their homes, and to see God moving among them.
- God would provide more spiritually mature, trained Arabic-speaking workers who have an understanding of cross-cultural ministry and church planting.
- God would lead us to some key Arab seekers and believers who are members of communities and open to the gospel.
- Miracles, healings and answered prayers would be more common among ministries in the city.
- God would break the barrier of fear among both seekers and believers.
- Those who are suffering persecution would not be discouraged or feel weak. May they gain more strength, confidence, faith and tenacity through their experiences, and may they be an example to future generations of believers.
One last thing…
Our colleagues write: ‘We recognise God is up to something. In his sovereignty, he is bringing millions of Arabs out of the comfort of their home countries, into a difficult and needy situation, shaking their foundations, and moving them closer to where Christians can meet them and share God’s message of truth and freedom. Many hearts are questioning and opening up to the gospel. We believe the harvest is ripe, but perhaps God is waiting… waiting for us to fill up the bowls of incense in prayer for this purpose (Rev. 5:8, 8:3-5).’
Thank you for praying with us
Next month we pray for Al Ain in the United Arab Emirates.