Introduction / History
Rumelian Turks are descendants of the Ottoman Turks who migrated from Central Asia during the thirteenth century, conquered Anatolia (modern day Turkey), and eventually established the Ottoman Empire. At its peak, the Ottoman Empire encompassed the Balkan Mountains, Arabia, and North Africa.
The nearly five hundred years of Ottoman-Turkish dominion significantly impacted the Bulgarian language, culture, and economic development. The large Turkish minority in Bulgaria and the strained relations between the Bulgarians and the Turks-both individually and nationally-are partly the consequences of this period.
Since Bulgaria's independence in 1878, thousands of Turks have migrated back to Turkey. The remaining Turkish community has suffered growing discrimination and resentment by the Bulgarian population.
What are their lives like?
During the Communist rule in Bulgaria (from 1947 to 1989), Muslim Turks, with their "outdated" religious customs, were considered an obstacle to a modern industrialized society. From 1984 to 1989, the Communist government carried out a bitter persecution program against the Turks, forcing them to take Bulgarian names, destroying Muslim sections in cemeteries, and forbidding Islamic religious practices. Thousands were beaten, imprisoned, or killed. At the height of the persecution in 1989, an additional 350,000 Turks fled to Turkey, overwhelming that country with refugees at a time of high unemployment.
Since the collapse of Communism in 1990, Rumelian Turks have enjoyed greater freedom and the Muslim community has returned to some of its old customs. Today, the Turkish Party holds the balance of power in a parliament where Democrats and Socialists (ex-Communist Party) fight for influence.
The end of the Soviet Union (formerly Bulgaria's main trading partner) and the trade embargo against Iraq have profoundly affected the export-oriented agricultural business, which is where most of the Rumelian Turk now work.
Historically, the Turk settled in towns and served as military personnel or administrators, or worked as craftsmen. Because of religious, linguistic, and social differences, Turks have not often intermarried with the local Bulgarians. When they do intermarry, Turkish men usually marry Muslim, non-Turkish women. The Turks favor dishes made with lamb and vegetables. They also enjoy milk products such as yogurt and cheeses, as well as strong Turkish coffee.
What are their beliefs?
Most Rumelian Turks in Bulgaria are Hanafite Muslim, even though the Communists closed most of their mosques and converted them into schools, libraries, museums, and government buildings. Today, the mosques are being restored and rebuilt. Financial support from Turkey and Saudi Arabia has enabled Rumelian Turks to build Islamic schools and finance the training of Muslim teachers. Although Muslim missionaries from Turkey and Iran are endeavoring to make Rumelian Turks stronger Muslims, many Turks consider themselves secularists or atheists because they are frustrated with Islamic fundamentalism, corruption, and hypocrisy.
What are their needs?
The Communist government trampled on the culture and traditions of Rumelian Turks, denied their existence, and prohibited their religious practices, all of which made the Turks treasure their Turkish language and culture even more. Most Turks are bitter also against what they see as Christian attempts to make them forsake Islam by force. An obvious sign of concern and love would be for Christians to learn their language and communicate God's Truth with it.
Although the Bible is available in the Turkish language, a high illiteracy rate (especially among women) hinders the opportunity to reach the Turk with the Scriptures. Perhaps Christian teachers will have the greatest opportunity to minister the love of Jesus to these hurting people.
* Pray that God will raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the spiritual soil of Bulgaria through worship and intercession.
* Ask God to grant wisdom and favor to missions agencies focusing on Rumelian Turks.
* Pray for effectiveness of the Jesus film among Rumelian Turks.
* Ask God to anoint the Gospel as it goes forth via radio to these hurting people.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of Rumelian Turks towards Christians so they will be receptive to the Gospel.
* Ask the Lord to bring forth a vigorous Rumelian Turkish Christian presence in Bulgaria for the glory of His name!