Local believers and their Syrian colleagues serve Christians and Muslims alike in cooperative effort at relief aid.
An unnamed Turkish man dug through the rubble. The stench from rotting corpses filled his nostrils; the cries from trapped survivors pierced his ears. Finally, he located a little girl he could help, removed the surrounding debris, and gently pulled her from the clutches of death.
And social media cursed him.
The man filmed the whole episode on Facebook Live. And contrary to his expectations, comments of derision poured in from across the country. While his religion is unstated, Turkish Christians warned of similar earthquake exploitation from their brothers and sisters in faith.
When Bibles were distributed in Kahramanmaras, between the epicenters of the 7.8- and 7.5-magnitude quakes, local authorities responded by saying they did not want help from the church.
“This is not the way of Jesus; it is opportunistic, and doesn’t work,” said Ilyas Uyar, an elder in the Protestant Church Foundation of Diyarbakir. “We say we are Christians all the time, but it is disgusting to connect this to aid.”
The Protestant Association of Turkey (TeK) has been hard at work to establish guidelines. Last week, after expressing a “debt of gratitude” to all who have prayed and given to support relief efforts, it issued six directives.
Alongside the prohibition of Bibles and evangelistic materials was a basic request to work with the local church to navigate Turkish sensitivities. These included basic requests to coordinate aid, as well as the avoidance of political commentary and unauthorized photos.
But permission is not the only issue. A Christian group from Italy came to Diyarbakir to offer help, Uyar said. They filmed and took pictures and then asked for church assistance to move onward to Kahramanmaras.