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A CHRISTIAN CIVILISATION



Türkiye is a country unique with its historical sites, culture, and traditions. Geographically, Türkiye occupies land that bridges the continents of Asia and Europe. I went on a 10-day pilgrimage tour to Türkiye with 22 other pilgrims from 5-15 May 2024. My pilgrimage was magnificent! I enjoyed the beautiful sights and gained a deeper understanding of the New Testament. It was breathtaking and mind-refreshing, particularly learning about the journeys and works of the apostles - St Peter, St John the Evangelist, St Paul, St Barnabas, and others - in Asia Minor, which is now known as Türkiye.

 

St. Paul played a significant role in the spread of Christianity through his three missionary journeys, which are recorded in the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles. St. John the Evangelist was also a crucial figure who wrote letters from Patmos Island to the seven churches in Türkiye: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea. In his letters, he urged them to repent, hold firm to their faith in Christ, and be on guard against evil (cf. Revelation chapters 2-3). Some of these towns’ names have changed to modern names, such as Smyrna to Izmir, Iconium to Konya, and Pergamum to Bergama, etc. Their missionary works helped Christianity take root in the land of Türkiye, and spread throughout the early Roman Empire.

 

After the fall of the Roman Empire, the Islamic civilisation flourished during the time of the Ottoman Empire (1299-1923). The Christian civilisation declined, and Islam spread rapidly in the region during this time. On 29 October 1923, Türkiye became the Republic of Türkiye, with Ankara as its new capital, and Mustafa Kemal Ataturk became the country’s first president. Türkiye is a secular state with a predominantly Muslim population, making up 99% of the total population of 86 million. Istanbul alone has about 3,000 mosques, and there are over 90,000 mosques throughout the country.

 

In 1927, the Christian population in Türkiye was estimated to be 200,000 to 320,000, which is equal to 3-5% of the total population. However, by 2022, the Christian population had decreased to 0.2% due to migration, religious discrimination and familial pressure. Currently, there are approximately 70,000 Catholics, 70 Catholic priests and 3 bishops in Türkiye.

 

Centuries ago, many churches, cultural heritage sites and buildings in Türkiye were badly destroyed by earthquakes and have not been successfully restored. Archaeologists are still excavating these sites, and attempting to restore them, but they face difficulties due to financial and political issues. In Cappadocia, we have seen how monks stayed in natural volcanic rock caves formed by eruptions. Many caves in the castle are currently being used as pigeon houses. It is disheartening to see our Christian civilisation lost in Türkiye.

 

Ephesus was a delightful destination because we had the opportunity to visit the House of Mary, St. John the Evangelist’s burial tomb, and the birthplace of St. Paul at Tarsus. The house of Mary has puzzled many of us. It is believed that John would have taken Mother Mary to Ephesus, and from there, he would have travelled and spread the Good News (cf. John 19: 26-27). If the Blessed Virgin Mary can be present everywhere in the world, why can’t we believe that she would have stayed in Ephesus in the early 1st century?

"You are to put aside your old self, which belonged to your old way of life, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self." (Ephesians 4:22-24).



























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