Thousands of Christian tourists travel to Turkey each year to visit the biblical sites. We spent two weeks in Turkey in 2002 and found the Turks to be very friendly. In the larger cities, younger Turks especially, are hardly distinguishable from Western Europeans.

Everyone knows that the Christian Church was "born" in Jerusalem at Pentecost, but persecution set in soon afterwards and Christians fled in many directions. Saul of Tarsus (Tarsus is located in Turkey) traveled to Damascus in hopes of devastating the young church there, but God stopped him in his tracks and turned him into the great Apostle Paul. Instead of hunting down and persecuting the Christians, Paul himself became one who was persecuted for the name of Christ.

Some Christians sought refuge by hollowing out dwellings in the lava mountains of Capadocia or living in caves and underground cities. Other Christians settled in cities that had large Jewish populations such as those mentioned in Revelation two and three. On his missionary journeys, Paul visited many Christians who fled to Asia Minor. There were soon numerous strong churches in Asia Minor, now called Turkey. Constantine made Istanbul the Capitol of the Roman Empire in 320.

Now, seventeen centuries later, Turkey is a nation of around 68 million inhabitants, 99% of whom are Muslim. But Turkey is much different from other Muslim nations in that it maintains good relations with America and, when we visited in 2002, they even had good relations with Israel. The beloved founder of the Turkish Republic, Atatürk, ruled the country from 1923 until his death in 1938. Atatürk means "Father of Turkey." His real name was Mustafa Kemal Pascha. Atatürk introduced many social, educational, political and economic reforms, which set the future course of Turkey towards the West. Among other things, he changed the Cyrillic alphabet to Roman characters, which gives Turks a distinct advantage when using computers and in making business deals with the West. Although only a small part of Istanbul is located on the European continent, Turkey wants very much to be accepted into the European Union. The first formal request was turned down because of Turkey's lack of religious freedom. We expect these laws to be relaxed soon.