Introduction / History
The small population of Rumelian Turks in Bosnia-Herzegovina are descendants of the Ottoman Turks who migrated from their central Asian homeland, conquered Anatolia (modern day Turkey), and eventually established the Ottoman Empire. At its peak, the empire encompassed the Balkan Mountains, Arabia, and North Africa.
Rumelian Turks are also known as the Balkan Turk. (Rumelia means "land of the Romans" and refers to the Balkan Mountain region). Bosnia-Herzegovina was part of the Ottoman Empire for more than 400 years.
With the breakup of the empire after World War I, Bosnia-Herzegovina became part of Yugoslavia. When Bosnia-Herzegovina declared its independence in 1992, Bosnian Serbs began a civil war with the goal of removing all non-Serbs from Bosnian territory. This savage war cost the lives of over 200,00 Bosnians and forced thousands of Muslim families from their homes.
What are their lives like?
During the long Ottoman Empire reign, Rumelian Turks often settled in Balkan towns and served as military personnel or administrators, or worked as craftsmen. After Yugoslavia, Greece, Albania, Bulgaria, and Romania became independent countries in the nineteenth century, many of the Rumelian Turks who returned to Turkey were given land. Their Turkish villages are still referred to as immigrant villages by the local people.
Although Ottoman Turks ruled the Balkans for centuries, they were always an ethnic minority. Religious, linguistic, and social differences kept them from intermarrying with the local populations in large numbers. When they did intermarry, Turkish men usually married Muslim, non-Turkish women. Polygamy is prohibited by law.
Some Islamic traits have persisted longer in Bosnia-Herzegovina than in Turkey. For example, Bosnian Muslim women wore the veil until it was banned in 1950, and traditional Bosnian Muslim men still wear the fez (a typical cone-shaped hat). Both customs have been prohibited in Turkey since 1922.
Lamb, a favorite meat of Turks, is typically prepared as a pilaf (rice and oil cooked with small bits of meat). Musaka (roasted meat and eggplant) and kapama (mutton with spinach and green onions) are also popular dishes. The Turk relish sweets and are especially fond of Turkish delight (a gummy confection usually cut in cubes and dusted with sugar). The Muslim religion forbids drinking alcoholic beverages; instead, the Turk drink large quantities of strong coffee and yogurt.
During and after the civil war, the United Nations supplied Bosnia-Herzegovina with some basic necessities, although food was limited by a UN sanctioned trade embargo.
What are their beliefs?
The Communist government that was established after World War II tolerated Muslim religious observances and institutions, including Islamic schools. However, Muslim Turks were required to follow the compulsory state educational system. During the civil war, Bosnian Serbs not only killed hundreds of innocent civilians, but they also destroyed scores of mosques, several well-known Islamic libraries, and other Muslim institutions.
What are their needs?
Many Rumelian Turks are bitter against what they see as Christian (Orthodox and Roman Catholic) attempts to make them leave their homeland. They also see the inability of the Christian (Protestant and Roman Catholic) countries of Western Europe to intervene for their peace and stability.
The Bible and the Jesus film are available in Turkish. However, very few of the Rumelian Turks in Bosnia-Herzegovina are known to have become Christians. With few missions agency working among them, there is little chance they will ever hear the Good News about Jesus.
* Ask the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers to live and work among Rumelian Turks of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
* Pray that God will raise up prayer teams to break up the soil through worship and intercession.
* Pray for effectiveness of the Jesus film among Rumelian Turks.
* Ask God to anoint the Gospel as it goes forth via radio to Rumelian Turks.
* Ask God to use the small number of Rumelian Turk Christians to share God's love with their own people.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of Rumelian Turks towards Christians so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
* Ask the Lord to bring forth a strong and growing Rumelian Turkish Christian presence for the glory of His name!