Since the founding of the modern Turkish republic two significant factors have shaped a Turkish self-understanding extremely resistant to the concept of modern pluralism.‑ Ataturk forged a new cultural and ethnic identity of the “Turk” hoping to minimize ethnic strife and instill in the citizenry a fierce Turkish nationalism to preserve the homeland. In general this apparently worked, though the persistent Kurdish problem has proved tremendously costly for the country.‑ Ataturk’s foreign policy began with a home policy, “Peace at home, peace abroad.”‑ Presently, the Kemalist elite particularly in the academy, military, press, and judiciary highly suspect anything that hints at accentuating differences between people.
Secondly, though Ataturk and the Kemalists opted for a strong secularism believing that religion had kept Turkey behind the West, particularly in technology and education, they knew the functional importance of religion as a unifying factor for the Turkish people.‑ Since defeating the Greeks and swapping populations in the early days of the republic, Turkey has had one of the largest Muslim-majorities of any country in the world.‑ They view this monolithic majority as one of their national treasures, guarded at any cost.
For some, the idea of a monolithic Turkish Muslim community stirs memories of the Ottoman past with its Caliphate and inspires hopes of Turkey once again rising to wider influence.‑ Al-Jazeerah counsels Turkey to reconsider how Islam can insure the countries regional, if not global importance. On January 16 Al-Jazeerah said, “[Abdullah] Gul should dwell profoundly on Turkey’s past in order to discover how the present Turkey can occupy a new position in Europe. He would quickly conclude that only in Islam and under the shade of the Khilafah state did Turkey occupy a pre-eminent position amongst the nations of the world.”
However uncomfortably Turkish nationalism and Islam have coexisted since the days of Ataturk, the two have uncompromisingly agreed to tolerate only the other.‑ The lure of EU membership has now put Turkey in a new position, exposing it to outside standards of human rights and putting stress on its rigidly mono-cultural society.‑ The nature of the public debate still seems to be mostly about why Turkish society is not and cannot be pluralistic rather than how it can evolve into a pluralistic society.‑ Until Turks move the debate to the question of how to evolve toward pluralism, Turkish citizens like Patriarch Bartholomew I must watch his damaged Church of the Presentation of the Virgin bear the damage of the 2003 terrorist attack and the unhelpfulness of the Turkish government.
Understanding the vast and complex Muslim world has held Ron and Jean Coody’s attention for fifteen years. The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 gave them an unprecedented open door to move into the newly formed Central Asian country of Kazakstan. For the first half of the decade they worked alongside Kazaks seeking to address the many problems left behind by Soviet rule. After serving five years in Kazakstan, the Coody’s relocated to Cyprus. There they studied the Muslim context and helped produce media materials in the Arabic language. In 2002 they began working in Istanbul, Turkey.
After leaving Kazakstan in 1998 Ron wrote a book about their years among the Kazaks to help Westerners better understand the Muslim world. Even in the age of electronic communication Ron considers written material to be one of the most powerful means of communication. While in Turkey Ron will continue to write with the purpose of providing glimpses into the Muslim world.
Ron and Jean have four boys, John, Elliot, Judah Paul, and Isaiah. Ron grew up in north Louisiana and Jean near Taylor University-Fort Wayne. Ron is currently studying for a Ph.D. from Concordia Theological Seminary and Jean graduated from Indiana Wesleyan University in nursing. They belong to Avalon Missionary Church and consider the Waynedale area one of their home communities.
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