General Secretary A. Roy Medley and other American Baptist representatives are currently overseas, participating in the Baptist World Alliance Annual Gathering in Izmir, Turkey, from July 5-12, 2014.
The Baptist World Alliance (BWA) is a fellowship of 228 conventions and unions in 121 countries and territories comprising 42 million members in 177,000 churches. American Baptist Churches USA is a member organization of the BWA.
Day 3 here in Izmir was the beginning of the work of the BWA meeting. I spent all day chairing the Resolutions Committee which worked to craft three statements: one against the continuing assaults on religious liberty in Burma; a second on the cost of corruption in government and business and a third that is still a work in progress about the Baptist churches here in Turkey.
There are only four Baptist congregations in all of Turkey, and even though Turkey is by and large tolerant with regards to faith, it is still difficult to live and witness as a Christian here. One of the Baptist pastors told me today that for the past six years, the police have provided him a bodyguard everyday because of the threats against him by radical fundamentalists.
In contrast to that experience was the one we had tonight. This pastor was invited along with several of us who are on the BWA Baptist-Muslim dialogue committee to join in an iftar, the meal after sundown that breaks the day’s fast during Ramadan.
We were well received and placed at a table of honor. The evening was full of wonderful music punctuated by welcoming speeches by politicians (some things are constant the world over). It was interesting to note that quite a number of them spoke of our basic oneness. In one speech, it was phrased as “we are all human beings regardless of our particular faith.”. Another spoke of us as “all being on one ship and that if it goes down, we all go down.”
These words are especially poignant given the bloodshed that is occurring just outside Turkey’s borders in Iraq and Syria.
Rev. Dr. A. Roy Medley, General Secretary, American Baptist Churches USA