You may have heard about the suicide bombing that killed 31 people in Turkey last week (Yahoo News). Those attacked were part of an activist group that had gathered to prepare an aid mission to the Syrian city of Kobane, just across the border from where they were in Suruc. The group’s aim was to help rebuild Kobane, war-torn after multiple advances from ISIS. Indicators suggest that the man who carried out the deadly attack had links to ISIS.
Such tragedies merit the attention of the Christian community as we seek to love our neighbors well. But the closing few lines of the Yahoo News article cited above, easy to gloss over, deserve our attention as well:
Suruc, once a centre of silk-making, is home to one of the biggest refugee camps in Turkey housing Syrians who have fled their country’s bloody four-year conflict.
The camp shelters about 35,000 refugees out of a total of more than 1.8 million refugees taken in by Turkey since 2011.
A steady exodus of refugees fleeing a four-year long civil war doesn’t naturally lend itself to headlines, but such numbers are alarming. We’ve talked before about the Syrian refugee crises, but let’s focus in on Turkey for a moment.
In large part due to the Syrian war, Turkey hosts more refugees than any other country in the world, the population still rising. There are over one million Syrians now in Turkey, and, as we’ve discussed, there are 18 unreached people groups in Syria. But this is a case of need on top of need, because, percentage-wise, Turkey is the least reached country in the world.
The weight of need in Turkey grows with each new refugee that’s registered there. Meanwhile, ISIS continues its advance along the Turkish border. Might it be that God is at work in the hearts of people there, using their sense of physical peril to open their eyes to the imperiled state of their eternal soul? In Acts 17, Paul says of the nations that God has “determined allotted periods and boundaries of their dwelling place that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him” (vv. 16-27). God is sovereignly orchestrating the migration of people groups that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Many of them are now in Turkey; who there will tell them what they’re looking for?
As Syrian refugees in Turkey lose their homes and their sense of safety, who will tell them of the divine comforter? As Turkish nationals anxiously peer into Syria, the rumblings the terror now at their doorstep, who will tell them about the reigning Prince of Peace? As ISIS militants visit the Turkish border, will they see anyone bearing witness to the God who is “just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom 3:26)?
At the bottom of it all, the question is this: “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” (Rom 10:14)