Six “Hot Spots” in the Turkic World

Ramadan Turkic Peoples Prayer Focus: Week 4

Monday, July 29, through Sunday, August 4, 2013

This is the fourth post in a five-part series that presents prayer requests for the Turkic Peoples during Ramadan.

Monday: Radical Islam is feared by politicians. A massive influx of money and Muslim missionaries has established thousands of Mosques and Islamic schools. Pray that God powerfully draws the Turkic peoples into his Kingdom instead.

Tuesday: The Back to Jerusalem Movement –Chinese house churches want to send 100,000 workers back to Jerusalem along the Silk Road, making disciples of the least reached as they go. Pray for this missionary sending movement.

Wednesday: Business as Mission projects can help meet needs and overcome visa restrictions. Pray for workers to overcome bureaucracy and corruption to start these ministries.

Thursday: Arab Spring spill over – popular uprisings against authoritarian governments are spreading to Turkey, Syria and other Muslim countries. Pray that these result in people movements into Christ’s kingdom.

Friday:  House Church Networks are developing due to increasing restrictions. Pray for wise and godly leadership of these networks.

Saturday: Persecution – All Central Asian countries are listed among the 50 most persecuted nations, growing more intense since 2000. Pray that believers stand firm.

Sunday: Praise! Thank God for drawing to himself tens of thousands from among the Turkic peoples, often through miraculous means.

You can learn more about these countries and peoples from the book, Operation World or JoshuaProject.net.  The final post will be Saturday, August 3.

Six Forgotten Turkic Peoples

Ramadan Turkic Peoples Prayer Focus: Week 3

Monday, July 22, through Sunday, July 28, 2013

This is the third post in a five-part series that presents prayer requests for the Turkic Peoples during Ramadan.

Qashqai

The Qaskqai of Iran

Monday: The nomadic Qashqa’i of Iran (1.8 million) don’t have a written language, any part of the Bible or any known believers. Ask the Lord of the Harvest for messengers to take them the Good News.

Tuesday: The Khorasani of Iran (854,000) have no known believers and are without any Christian resources. The 1979 Iranian Revolution makes it very difficult to reach this people. Pray for open doors and open hearts.

Wednesday: The Afshari in Iran (342,000) are very resistant to the Gospel. There are no known believers; no part of the Bible exists in their language and no recent church planting activity. Pray for Bible translation to begin.

Thursday: Tatars in Uzbekistan (665,000) have about 1000 believers, but no intentional church planting in recent years. The NT was finished in 2001. Pray that its message will be believed.

Friday: Uzbeks in Tajikistan are the largest minority (1.7 million). There are some Uzbek believers, but almost no churches. Pray for Uzbek churches to be started.

Saturday:  The Azeri Turks (17.6 million in 5 countries) don’t have the Bible in their language, and political barriers make it difficult to reach the 14.9 million Azeri in Iran. Pray for workers who will overcome these barriers.

Sunday: Praise! Publication of the Scriptures in the Turkish, Kyrgyz, Kazak, Turkmen and Uzbek languages in the last 25 years has resulted in many coming to faith. God’s word is living and active!

You can learn more about these countries and peoples from the book, Operation World or JoshuaProject.net.  The next post will be Saturday, July 27.

Six Minority Turkic Peoples

Ramadan Turkic Peoples Prayer Focus: Week 2

Monday, July 15, through Sunday, July 21, 2013

This is the second post in a five-part series that presents prayer requests for the Turkic Peoples during Ramadan.

The Karakalpak “Black Hats” of Uzbekistan

The Karakalpak “Black Hats” of Uzbekistan

Monday: The Tatars of Russia number 5.3 million with over 20,000 believers. Tatarstan is a republic in Russia. The NT was finished in 2005. Pray for the entire Bible to be finished soon.

Tuesday: Central Asians in Russia number 10 million, many coming there to work. Pray that they discover the truth of Jesus the Savior and take the Good News back to their homelands.

Wednesday: The Hazara of Afghanistan (2.9 million) are Shiite Muslims and are persecuted by the Sunni majority in Afghanistan. There are now several hundred followers of Jesus and some portions of the Bible exist in their language. Pray for the continued translation of the Bible and for the Church to be strengthened and grow.

Thursday: A few thousand Karakalpak (translated “black hats”) in Uzbekistan have recently become believers despite persecution. Pray for completing the translation of the Bible and for the Church to stand fast and keep growing.

Friday: The Gagauzi in Turkey (412,000) have few, if any, known followers of Jesus. The Bible does exist in their language. Pray for workers to take them the Good News.

Saturday: Uighurs of China (11 million) live in a region of Western China sometimes called Turkistan. There are 400 believers. Pray that the Good New spread from house to house.

Sunday: Praise! –The Gagauzi in Moldova experienced a movement to Christ in the 1990s. They are 6% Evangelical and have growing churches. Pray for them to enter the Harvest Force!

You can learn more about these countries and peoples from the book, Operation World or JoshuaProject.net.  The next post will be Saturday, July 20.

Six Majority Turkic Countries

Ramadan Turkic Peoples Prayer Focus: Week 1

Monday, July 8-Sunday, July 14, 2013

This is the first post in a five-part series that presents prayer requests for the Turkic Peoples during Ramadan.

map Turkic world

Monday: Turkey has the largest Turkic people group (52 million). From 10 believers in 1960, the Turkish church has grown to 4000. Pray that the Gospel would spread rapidly throughout Turkey, just as it did in Paul’s time (Acts 19).

Tuesday: Azerbaijan –From 40 in 1991, Azeri believers are approaching 10,000 in the face of significant opposition. Pray for a strong Church with an effective witness.

Wednesday: Turkmenistan –Believers among the Turkmen (4 million) have grown from a few to 1000. Of these six countries, the greatest persecution is here. Pray for believers to stand firm and to lead others to Christ.

Thursday: Uzbekistan –A generation ago there were probably no Uzbek believers; now there are at least 4500. Pray for leaders for the fast growing churches.

Friday: Kazakhstan –In a generation the Church has grown from a handful of Kazak believers to 16,300, the largest in Central Asia. Pray for continued growth in spite of persecution.

Saturday: Kyrgyzstan –The emerging Kyrgyz church continues to grow in the freest country in Central Asia, though persecution is still an issue. Pray that foreign workers and the Kyrgyz church, numbering 5000, make the most of these opportunities.

Sunday: Praise! From less than 1000 Muslim background believers in 1990, there are now over 40,000 in these six countries. Give thanks that in spite of difficulties, this generation has seen the Church taken root among these Turkic peoples.

You can learn more about these countries and peoples from the book, Operation World or JoshuaProject.net. The next post will be Saturday, July 13.

Who are the Turkic peoples and why pray for them?

Ramadan Turkic Peoples Prayer Focus

From Turkey to NW China, Turks, Azeri’s, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Uzbeks, Turkmen, Uighurs and more belong to the same basic cultural Turkic affinity cluster.   One in ten Muslims (167 million) in the world is a Turkic person.

Sign Post

“There are more ruins of churches in this area than followers of Christ.” Worker in Cappadocia, Turkey

In ancient times this was a Christian “Bible belt,” now it is a spiritual desert.  Formerly the land of Paul and many churches of the NT, according to GCPN research (https://www.gcpn.info/index.php/regions) this region now has the least number of believers and churches per capita of anywhere in the whole world and therefore needs the most outside help.

Yet God is on the move!  In 1990 there were probably less than 1000 Muslim background believers (MBBs) in this entire region.  Yet today God has grown his Church to over 50,000 Turkic followers of Christ.

God’s heart is that we pray that His Kingdom come among all peoples, including the Turkic peoples!

A series of five future posts will present prayer requests for the Turkic Peoples for each week of Ramadan. Ramadan runs this year from Monday evening, July 8 until August 7.

Future posts will focus on:

  1. Six Majority Turkic Countries
  2. Six Minority Turkic Peoples
  3. Six Forgotten Turkic Peoples
  4. Six “Hot Spots” in the Turkic World

Ramadan Prayer Focus, July 8-August 7, 2013

IMG_5725 smallRamadan is a period when Muslims fast for 30 days.  Initially Ramadan commemorated the month when Muhammad received his first revelation. Eventually the observance of Ramadan became one of the Five Pillars of Islam. They neither eat nor drink while the sun is in the sky; only after nightfall may they refresh themselves. Besides fasting, alms giving, prayer, reading the Quran and abstaining from bad deeds are emphasized. This year Ramadan runs from Monday evening July 8, until Wednesday evening August 7.

Globally, there are approximately 3,500 Muslim people groups numbering 1.6 billion adherents. More than one in five people in the world are Muslims.

Why Pray for Muslims during Ramadan?

Ramadan is a particularly good period for followers of Jesus to pray for the Muslim peoples. 2013 marks the 20th year for a prayer initiative that encourages followers of Jesus to pray for the Muslim peoples during Ramadan. (Find out more about this 30 prayer initiative at http://www.30-days.net/) .

From the earliest days, followers of Jesus have prayed “for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity” (1 Timothy 2:1-2). Thus a prayer focus on Muslim peoples is a specific application of this general teaching. Future posts will provide a similar prayer focus for the Turkic Peoples that are found along the Silk Road from Eastern Europe through Central Asia to Northwestern China. The Turkic peoples are among the most neglected Muslim people groups.

Answered Prayer for the Muslim Peoples

There are indications that God is at work among the Muslim peoples. Since the 1990s, when several concerted prayer efforts made up of followers of Jesus from  around the world, believers from Africa and Asia, North and South America, Europe and Australia, began to intercede for the Muslim peoples, there has been  a significant increase in the number of Muslims becoming followers of Jesus Christ. In fact, more Muslims have come to faith in Christ in the last 30 years than any time in history and most of these have come to Christ since 9/11 (www.charismamag.com “When Muslims find Jesus,” Accessed 21 February 2010.).

Here are some “snap shots” of Muslims becoming followers of Jesus Christ.

  • Every day 16,000 Muslims convert to Christianity or 5.8 million per year.
  • Iran: In 1979, at the time of the overthrow the Shaw of Iran, there were 500 believers in Iran. Now there well over 100,000 Muslim Background believers (MBBs).
  • Iraq: During Saddam Hussein’s rule, there were only several hundred MBBs in Iraq. Now it is estimated that there are 53,000 MBBs in the country.
  • Uzbekistan: In 1986 there were very few Muslim background believers; now there are at least 4,500 MBBs.
  • Kazakhstan: in 1990 there were only three known MBBs; today there are over 16,000 Kazak followers of Jesus.
  • Church Planting Movements among Muslims: In 1997 only two church-planting movements among Muslim people groups were known. By 2010, over 1,000 baptisms and/or 100 churches had been planted among at least 25 Muslim people groups. (Source: Mission Frontiers, March 2011)

One author declares that “The greatest spiritual awakening in the history of the Middle East is under way.” (Joel  C. Rosenberg. Inside the Revolution).  If these “snap shots“ are indicative of broader  trends, this could indeed be an accurate observation.

Certainly many different factors contributed to these millions becoming followers of Jesus Christ. There have been political factors. The dissolution of the Soviet Union opened access to Central Asia. The attacks of 9/11, pierced the conscience of many Muslims as they were repulsed by this act of terrorism. Technology has made it possible to for Jesus’ message to be shared via internet, satellite television networks, DVDs and now mobile phones. The Bible has been translated into the mother tongue of many Muslim peoples during the last 20-30 years and that often results in many becoming followers of Jesus. We also hear many reports of Muslims having dreams that lead them to follow Jesus. Personally, I do not find it coincidental that this breakthrough began after followers of Jesus began to focus their prayers on the Muslim peoples.

Pray for the Persecuted

Ramadan is also a good time to also remember those followers of Jesus who are persecuted by Muslims. Since the first century A.D., it has been a part of Christian teaching to “Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves are also in the body” (Hebrews 13:2 NASB).

42 of the top 50 countries where Christians are persecuted are Muslim majority countries or countries where the Christian majority is persecuted by the Muslim minority (Source: World watch list http://www.worldwatchlist.us/world-watch-list-countries/). Those who choose to follow Jesus Christ in a Muslim country face strong familial and social pressure to renounce their faith and return to Islam. For some, this leads to physical harm or even death. Those in the West are less aware of the persecution and martyrdom followers of Jesus experience in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. A notable exception is the imprisonment of Iranian-American Pastor Saeed Abedini, who was arrested in September 2012 and is serving an eight year sentence at the Evin prison in Tehran.

Terrorism carried out by Muslim extremists also adds to the number of those suffering. The attack on the Benghazi Embassy on 9/11/2012, the Boston Marathon bombing (4/15/ 2013) and the public knifing of a British soldier in London (5/22/2013) have been in the media spotlight in recent months.

And let us not forget the violence perpetrated between rivaling factions within Islam. The Shia vs. Sunni roots of the civil war in Syria and the attacks of the Taliban in Afghanistan against their own people are current examples of inter-Islamic conflicts that have cost the lives of tens of thousands of people.

The Peace Making Power of Prayer

Jesus taught his followers to be peace makers (Matthew 5:9) and to pray for their enemies. Hear his words as he speaks in Luke 6:27-36 (ESV).

“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”

 St Francis of Assisi exemplifies a person who fully embraced this teaching of Jesus. Though he lived in the time of the Crusades in the 12th and 13th Centuries – there were three crusades during his lifetime plus the disastrous Children’s Crusade of 1212 – he was the first to reach out to the Muslims in North Africa via peaceful means.  His outlook on life is well captured by this prayer:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.

All who read this article can pray that multitudes from among the Muslim Peoples may find peace with God, and consider other ways to be peacemakers. This Ramadan prayer emphasis is a good occasion to focus on the Muslim Peoples.

Future posts will focus on specific prayer needs for the Turkic Peoples, which are found along the Silk Road, stretching from Eastern Europe to North Western China.