Interview with Johan Candelin on Turkish elections by Misson Network News

General es 25/07/07

Turkish elections still a question mark for Christians

Turkey (MNN) -- Pressing challenges face Turkey's ruling AK party after its win in parliamentary elections earlier this week. The first challenge facing Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan is to settle the choice of a new state president, which is what caused the early elections.

Erdogan's choice, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, is not liked by the secular opposition who sees the devout Muslim as a militant. They fear a hard-line Islamic government is coming, which would be a setback to Turkey's desire to enter the European Union.

However, Johan Candalin, Executive Director of the World Evangelical Alliance's Religious Liberty Commission, says this could be the best situation for Christians in a mostly-Muslim nation. "It's probably the best party in power for the Christian minority because the other option would be the nationalistic party, and they are much more anti-religious and pro-nationalistic than the ruling party. So we're not choosing between good and bad, but between bad and even worse here."

Despite the 46.5 percent of the vote, more opposition candidates were elected to parliament, which could force Erdogan to give in to the pressure and select a more secular president.

Just weeks ago three Christians were violently attacked and murdered by radicals. Constitutionally, it's legal to practice their faith. Society, however, takes a different view, and many Christians face arrest and other types of persecution.

Candalin doesn't believe there will be any changes for Christians until Turkish leaders begin acknowledging Christians are Turkish citizens, too . "As long as you have this disinformation, or propaganda, that all the Christians are paid from abroad and they're there to split the Turkish nation -- as long you have that in the media and no one really challenging this, you will surely have fanatics who will commit aggressive actions."

While there are a number of Muslims who are sure of their faith, many more are searching -- especially after the high profile murders of the three Christians by Muslim radicals. Candalin says, "They are not happy. They are not sure that they will go to heaven. They are very open to spiritual things. So, I think that many, many people will turn to Christ in the coming years."

Joining the European Union is important to Turkish leaders, which will force them to protect the Christian minority "because they know that [Christians] are the canary birds when it comes to future negotiations to join Europe."