In late 2017, I wrote this Flatland column about people in the Kansas City area from Turkey. As I noted, "The brutal, imperious reaction of Turkey’s dictatorial government to a failed coup attempt last year has turned life into a nightmare for most, if not all, Kansas City-area residents of Turkish nationality."
But, of course, Kansas City area residents were not alone in this. Lots of Turkish people all over the U.S., of course, also were affected and remain so today.
One of the responses to this trouble has been the creation of an organization called Advocates of Silenced Turkey (AST). As the group explains on its website, "Since the July of 2016, the Turkish government has improperly imprisoned 130,214 homemakers, teachers, NGO workers, academics, judges, prosecutors and journalists.
"Once upon a time, the Republic of Turkey was lauded by insiders and outsiders for constituting a powerful model for democratization. In New Turkey, however, silence against the regime’s draconian laws, mass imprisonment, and frequent violations of universal human rights has become the sole norm.
"In a regime which ranks as the worst upholder of the rule-of-law in Eastern Europe & Central Asia, 187 media outlets have been shut down and 308 journalists. . .are political prisoners of the state. Dissent in New Turkey is absent. Human rights in New Turkey are absent. Respect for human dignity in New Turkey is absent."
Recently I spoke by phone with Zeynep Girdap, a representative of Advocates of Silenced Turkey, and she added to that information.
"AST," she told me, "does a lot of things. They organize events to foster donations (to help Turkish people who now can't go back home and whose relatives may be in prison in Turkey) and to contact members of Congress to inform them about these issues." AST also writes white papers about what's happening in Turkey.
AST, she said, doesn't have a headquarters but is made up of people all over the U.S. and Europe who work together online.
People interested in staying up to date on AST's activities can sign up for a regular e-mailed newsletter on the organization's website (scroll to the bottom of the opening page).
It's always intriguing to me how people react in times of crisis, whether it's a family matter or something involving an entire nation. The people who eventually make a difference are the ones who volunteer to get engaged in the kind of information and advocacy work AST does. Such volunteers also get a chance to shape the response to the disaster and to correct course if the organization in question drifts into waters it should avoid.
Turkey, of course, is a predominantly Muslim country but under earlier national leadership it sought to create a secular government that would protect the religious freedom of all its citizens. The current regime has been violating all kinds of freedoms of its citizens, no matter their faith tradition. I don't know how much longer other NATO nations will put up with a member that does such atrocious things.
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BEYOND SEX OFFENDER REGISTRIES
More faith communities are doing background checks on potential employees to make sure they don't hire sexual offenders, but as this RNS story notes, they may need to dig deeper than the standard checks normally do. The primary goal here, in case anyone has forgotten, is to protect children. Is your congregation doing all it can to accomplish that?