By Andrew Richards INcontext Ministries International in A World in Motion, Edition 170, April 2017
President Tayyip Erdogan declared victory in a referendum last Sunday (April 16) to grant him sweeping powers in the biggest overhaul of modern Turkish politics.
Erdogan said 25 million people had supported the proposal, which will replace Turkey’s parliamentary system with an all-powerful presidency and abolish the office of prime minister, giving the “Yes” camp 51.5 percent of the vote.
“For the first time in the history of the Republic, we are changing our ruling system through civil politics,” Erdogan said, referring to the military coups which marred Turkish politics for decades. “That is why it is very significant.” (Reuters)
Although Erdogan’s victory is seen as a positive move forward for at least half of all Turks, the fact that he has now accumulated all executive powers to himself is a cause for concern for his Western allies within NATO.
Erdogan won the referendum vote by 51%-49%, a result that clearly shows the divide within Turkey, with almost half the population fearing an Erdogan dictatorship. This division becomes more marked along demographic lines, with voters in the major cities tending to oppose the changes while those in rural areas, who are usually more religious and conservative, voting in favour of them.
Turkey remains a key player when it comes to the ongoing refugee crisis facing Europe, with most refugees having used Turkey as gateway to freedom in Europe.
In its bid to gain European Union membership, Turkey has promised to stop the wave of refugees before they can cross over into Europe. Yet even with this incentive for Turkish membership, the EU remains reluctant because of Turkey’s human rights violations track record.
Erdogan’s sweeping new powers will allow him to change the constitution and undermine the rule of law – something the EU is not willing to go to bed with.
From a Christian perspective:
INcontext asked Brother Marko, director of Egeiro Ministries and former Turkish convert from Islam, for his perspective on how the referendum results could impact the region and what it means for the Church: “Based on the ideology and long-term plans Mr Erdogan has for the Middle East and Europe, the referendum results are very concerning.
“With Mr Erdogan emerging victorious from the referendum, he has successfully sidelined all the secular voices in Turkey, especially those from the education and judicial institutions. Anyone (journalists included) who opposes his Islamist agenda has been silenced, and will continue to be silenced now that he has all the power.
“Mr Erdogan is much the same as the Ayatollah in Iran. What Mr Erdogan has just done through the referendum was what the Iranian Revolution did in 1979 when it toppled the secular government there, and then proceeded to convert Iran into an Islamic Republic. This is Mr Erdogan’s objective: to turn secular Turkey into an observant Islamic republic.
“He also wants to unite the old Ottoman Empire. He wants to Islamise every inch of land that once belonged to the Ottoman Empire, in much the same way as Russia’s Vladimir Putin wants to unite the old Soviet Union – minus the communism.
“To understand Mr Erdogan, you need to understand the history of Islamisation and the Ottoman Empire. Mr Erdogan is living with the mindset of a defeated Muslim. For staunch Turkish Muslims, the fall of the Ottoman Empire is a shame that every generation carries with it, and the only way that shame can be removed is to conquer the region again with Islam (some would argue that the Middle East region is already Muslim, but what Mr
Erdogan is after is a Turkish Caliphate, not an Arab one).
“It’s important to understand that Mr Erdogan has only one objective, and that is to revive the Ottoman Empire – nothing else, and nothing less.
“He does not live by the values and principles of secular Europe, but by the values and principles of Islam. Therefore, he has no real regard for any European leadership, and no regard for the human rights regulations that the European Union wants to place on Turkey as conditions for joining it.
“However, there is one thing that Mr Erdogan fails to understand, which is that Islam has never been in a bigger crisis than it is in today.
“For the first time in the history of Islam, Muslims in great numbers are doubting Islam. They are turning against Islam. They are criticising Islam. Muslims are questioning the ideology and theology of Islam, and they are turning away from Islam.
“Mr Erdogan is banking on the idea that there are millions upon millions of Muslims in the world that will unite behind him when he says, ‘We go in the name of Allah, let’s go and invade Europe’.
“Mr Erdogan is banking on these millions of followers just like the Ottomans did during the expansion of the
“However, in the days of the Ottoman Empire, the Ottomans could count on the people to do what they wanted them to do, by forcing their subjects into submission. Today, Islam is in a crisis, and if the Arab Spring is any indication as to how Muslims are revolting against authoritarian rule, then Mr Erdogan will not last very long.”
“Mr Erdogan’s referendum victory and illusion of a united ‘Islamic (Ottoman) empire’ is challenged by almost half of all Turks, a divide that could bring Mr Erdogan to his knees.
“If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand, and if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand” (Mark 3:24-25).
PRAY: > For unity of purpose for Turkey and their re-constructed government, after this deeply
divided referendum > For believers to be active agents of reconciliation > For non-believers,
questioning their faith, to find truth in Jesus