By Rhett Burns
Last Tuesday night, shortly after millions of Turks gathered to break the daily Ramadan fast, three assailants attacked Istanbul’s Atatürk International Airport, killing 41 people and injuring over 200 more.
The incident was the sixth major terrorist attack in Turkey this year. World leaders, including President Barack Obama, sent condolences to the Turkish people, while many private citizens around the world took to social media to voice their support, sadness, and sympathy.
Similar to responses after recent attacks in Paris and Brussels, many Christians punctuated their social media remarks with the hashtag #PrayforTurkey. But what are some specific ways American Christians can pray for Turkey in the wake of the most recent terrorist attack?
I have lived in Turkey almost six years, three of those in Istanbul. I’ve walked the international terminal at Atatürk Airport countless times, most recently last month.
The Turkish people are dear to our family, and we count many as close friends. So I welcome the prayers of the larger Christian community for this beautiful country and its citizens, especially during such a time of unrest.
Here are four ways to specifically pray for Turkey.
1. Pray for the families of those who died.
The news cycle will quickly move on, but the grief these families carry will not give way so easily. But do not just pray generally for the families of the 41 victims, but acquaint yourself with their stories, and pray accordingly.
Pray for Yusuf Haznedaroğlu’s fiance—they were set to marry in ten days. Pray for the mother of Serkan Turk—he went to the airport to pick her up, but was killed when he went to help after the first explosion. Pray for Murat Güllüce’s four daughters, who will grow up without their father.
The 41 people who died bore the image of God, as do their families who are left behind to deal with the agony. Pray the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort would comfort them in their affliction (2 Corinthians 2:3-4).
2. Pray for peace.
Turkey has been hit recently by a wave of terrorist attacks, many believed to have been carried out by ISIS. This year alone 132 people have been killed. The last twelve months have seen 14 major attacks, killing over 280 people.
However, not all of these attacks are carried out by ISIS. Many are related to the ongoing conflict with Kurdish militants in the southeast region of the country. Additionally, Turkey shares a 511-mile border with war-torn Syria to the south and has had icy relations with Russia to the north since Turkish forces downed a Russian jet last year.
Turkey is experiencing tension and fighting both within and without its borders. Pray for the day when swords will be beaten into plowshares, spears into pruning hooks, and nations learn war no more (Isaiah 2:4).
3. Pray for trust in the midst of fear.
Airports, police stations, pedestrian streets, bus stations, public squares, and tourist areas are among the locations targeted in the recent wave of terror. The Turkish people are resilient—after all, Atatürk Airport reopened the morning after the attack this week—yet many in Turkey also live in ever-present fear.
“When and where will the next bomb go off?” is a question on most minds in Turkey. We think about car bombs now. We look for possible assailants. We wonder if we really should go to the shopping mall or some other crowded place.
When an attack does occur, sheer panic is one of the most common descriptors cited by survivors. Pray that when people in Turkey are afraid, they will put their trust in God (Psalm 56:3).
4. Pray for Turkish Christians and churches.
Turkey’s population is 99.9 percent Muslim. But there is a growing Christian population as well. In addition to Orthodox, Catholic, and Syriac communions, approximately 5,500 evangelical Protestant Turkish believers gather to worship in churches country-wide.
These brothers and sisters live, work, and play among the majority Muslim population and face the same challenges of unrest and instability.
In the wake of the recent attacks and in the face of an uncertain future, pray that Turkish Christians will be beacons of light (Matt. 5:14) pointing to God, who is a refuge and strength when the earth gives way and the nations rage (Psalm 46).
In the midst of global tragedy and terror may we pray with specificity and faith, setting our hope on the Lord of all nations.
RHETT BURNS is a freelance writer currently living in Turkey.