Turkey's largest minority group, the Kurds, represent nearly 11 million people. But missions and church leaders in the country think it unwise to explicitly tailor evangelistic efforts to attract them.
One ethnic Turkish pastor said, "We don't specifically try to reach Armenian or Syrian language groups." Even in the heart of Kurdish regions, pastors are cautious about using "Kurdish evangelism."
Other leaders agree. Jerry Mattix, a Bible teacher in the region, says, "We don't make any deliberate effort to reach Kurdish-background Turks." The American teacher says Westerners who come to Turkey to target Kurds as a "people group" provoke strong police reactions, making ministry more difficult in the long run.
Since 1978, the socialist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) has engaged in violent attacks, hoping to establish an independent nation-state for the 30 million or more Kurds in Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria. Throughout 2007, violence persisted along Turkey's southern border.
Mattix believes Christian outreach in areas where Kurds live will naturally attract Kurds. "We get 30 visitors a day at our church. Many of them are curious and want to talk," he told CT.
In southeastern Turkey, where many Kurds live, several Kurdish-majority churches and fellowships have experienced rapid growth. For example, the Diyarbakir Evangelical Church, at which Mattix works with pastor Ahmet Guvener, has grown from 20 to 60 members in five years, with about 70 percent of its new members being Kurdish-background Turks.
The Diyarbakir church is widely known for its innovative outreach, selling books in public markets and running a tea parlor out of its building. There are also small, growing fellowships in the nearby Kurdish cities of Van and Ufaz.