Introduction / History
Rumelian Turks are a remnant of the Ottoman Turks who migrated from their homeland in central Asia in the thirteenth century. Rumelian Turks conquered Anatolia and eventually established the Ottoman Empire, which encompassed the Balkan Mountains, Arabia, and North Africa. The Rumelian Turk name is derived from the word rumelia, which means "land of the Romans" and refers to the Balkan Mountains.
During the rule of the Ottoman Empire, Turks often settled in towns in the Balkans and served as military personnel, administrators, and artisans. After Yugoslavia, Greece, Albania, Bulgaria, and Romania became independent countries in the nineteenth century, many urban Turks left the Balkans and the Rumelian Turkish population was reduced by several million. Rumelian Turks are largely untouched with the Gospel.
What are their lives like?
Because most Rumelian Turks live in other parts of the Balkans, little is known about the particular lifestyle of Rumelian Turks in Greece. However, Turks everywhere have similar traits and their culture has deep roots that affect their daily lives.
Although Ottoman Turks ruled for 500 years, the Turks were always an ethnic minority. They did not intermarry in large numbers with the rest of the population because of religious, linguistic, and social differences. Where they did intermarry, Turkish men usually married non-Turkish women, often of another Muslim ethnic group. Today, polygyny (having more than one wife) is prohibited by state law.
Architecture throughout the Balkans still bears evidence of long Turkish-Ottoman influence: Ottoman-style domed mosques with pencil-thin minarets are modeled after those in Istanbul. Other typical details are wooden houses with latticework windows, separate quarters for men and women, and marketplaces where specialty stores are grouped together.
Lamb is a favorite meat of Turks. The most common way of preparing it is pilaf, where small bits of meat are cooked with rice and oil. Musaka (roasted meat and eggplant) and kapama (mutton with spinach and green onions) are other popular dishes. Turks are very fond of sweets and eat large quantities, especially the kind known as Turkish delights (gummy confections usually cut in cubes and dusted with sugar). Rumelian Turks are not supposed to drink alcohol because their Islamic belief forbids it. Instead, they drink much coffee and sour milk, or yogurt, which is said to keep people healthy.
What are their beliefs?
Rumelian Turks of Greece are virtually all Hanafite Muslims. Islam is a religion of works-based on the five central teachings or "pillars": (1) A Muslim must affirm that there is no god but Allah and Mohammed is his prophet. (2) Five times a day he must pray while facing Mecca. (3) He must give an obligatory percentage (very similar to tithes) on an annual basis. (4) He must fast during Ramadan, the ninth month of the Muslim year. (5) He must try to make at least one pilgrimage to Mecca in his lifetime.
Even after the establishment of Communist rule in the Balkans in the years that followed World War II, authorities tolerated Muslim religious observance and institutions. This toleration extended to Islamic schools, which were allowed to continue to operate, but only as a replacement for the compulsory state educational system.
What are their needs?
The Bible and the Jesus film have already been translated into the language of the Turks. However, only a small number of Greek Rumelian Turks are known to have become Christians. Prayer is the key to reaching them with the Good News of salvation.
* Ask the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers into Greece to work among Rumelian Turks.
* Pray for the effectiveness of the Jesus film among Rumelian Turks.
* Ask God to anoint the Gospel as it goes forth via radio in their area.
* Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the spiritual soil of Greece through intercession.
* Ask the Lord to bring forth a triumphant Rumelian Turkish church for the glory of His name!
* Ask the Lord to save key leaders among Rumelian Turks who will boldly declare the Gospel.