An ATPI Gathering in Istanbul 2016
A LETTER FROM AN ATPI EVENT ATTENDEE...
This past week I witnessed Heaven on Earth. I witnessed grandchildren of the offenders come together with the grandchildren of their victims. They came together not because of politicians. They came together not because of the idea of humanity. They came together not because of some philosophy. They came together not because of societal and community pressures. They came together not because they were paid or had any kind of incentive. They came together not because a punitive demand from a human rights court of law.
The Turks and Armenians came together because Jesus Christ had reconciled them to God through the Cross. They came together because Jesus Christ is at the center of their hearts and lives. They came together because their King and Master is the Prince of Peace and the King of reconciliation. They came together because they heard the voice of their Shepherd and followed Him. Both parties had been at enmity with God, both had sinned greatly against God, both had received God’s salvation, forgiveness and reconciliation, and both had received this without condition. Both groups offered apologies with many tears, embraced each other, forgave each other, and forged friendship that will last for eternity!
The Turkish pastors at first felt apprehensive, would the Armenian leaders accept them and their apology? The Armenian pastors did not know what to think, many of them were not even aware of God’s work among Turkish/Kurdish people! Without explaining every detail of the meetings, (I wish I could), I will summarize a few key statements that I heard from both sides then provide below the “Pasadena Covenant” that came out of this.
Armenian pastors: 1. “I would have never believed that I would have witnessed something like this in my life-time.” 2. “I hated you and your people, my grandfathers even killed some of you.” 3. “We forgive you, without condition, without demand, we forgive you.” 4. “We were forgiven so much, we forgive you.” 5. “Please forgive us for not taking the Gospel to your people when we had the chance.” 6. “I am in total shock.” 7. “I now want to take my congregants to the country of Turkey, to their historical villages to meet with the villagers there.” 8. “We bless Turkey, we stretch out our hands and take away the curse from Turkey and we ask for God’s mercy for Turkey.” 9. “We love you, accept you as our brothers, and embrace you.” 10. “How can we partner with you and work together in Turkey?” 11. “It is only Jesus Christ that could do something like this.”
Stories of the atrocities were passed down to these Armenian pastors. All still fresh in their minds. When the Turkish pastors asked for forgiveness and confessed the generational sins. Old men, young men both began to weep uncontrollably they embraced each other and offered forgiveness and acceptance. This was a major breakthrough for the Armenian Christians as well, as they have held grudges so long and have never released the object of their pain and anger to Christ until now.
Turkish pastors: 1. “What kind of people were we that would cause us to do such horror?” 2. “My grandfather explained that we would put our rifles on the ground, bayonets fixed towards the sky, and run the babies through in their bassinets until the river was flowing with their blood. (In Sivas)” 3. “We committed a genocide. Please forgive us.” 4. “As Turkish Christians we have faced some persecution, but nothing in comparison to what you as a people went through.” 5. “Because of what our forefathers did there is a curse upon our nation, our people, and our churches.” 6. “We believe that we as the church must lead in acknowledging our people’s sins. If the church cannot do this, how do we expect the government to do this?” 7. “Thank you for accepting us, thank you for inviting us, thank you for forgiving us.”
At one meeting, among the Armenian Christians that were present there were over 100 Turkish speaking Armenians! They still remembered the Turkish they had learned from their grand-parents! Our Turkish brothers were shocked. The Armenians shared their stories and offered forgiveness to them in their own tongue! Both sides believed they were building a bridge between their two communities, both groups have feet to build on their side of the bridge and that this meeting was the beginning.
A NOTE FROM A TURKISH PASTOR
"ATPI showed us that we are the ones to first reap incredible blessings in our lives, in our homes and families, in our churches and ministries when we take the step to reach out in reconciliation. When we even take further, bolder and deeper steps, we will reap greater blessings as we see the salvation of our peoples and even healing of our lands. Jesus came to make peace, He gave His life to do so, He commanded us to do so and we cannot simply be His followers if we are not makers of peace."
From An Armenian-American
Wow, I am truly speechless! There are no words to describe...... a taste of Heaven.....where all types of saints will be worshiping the Lord together. The call to "love your neighbor......." (Turks, Kurds and Armenians) came to life, all gathered under one roof from different parts of Turkey and the world, worshiping the Lord by singing, praying and sharing God's Word together, sometimes singing the same song simultaneously in three different languages. While we were singing one of the Kurdish believers prayed such a powerful prayer that I opened my eyes to see who he was, the words were so touching that they brought tears to my eye.
There were many touching testimonials from Turkish, Kurdish, and Armenian pastors and lay people telling us about their journeys in the reconciliation process, all were interesting and touching. Some were asking for forgiveness from Armenians for what their forefathers had done 100 years ago. One brother in particular told us the story about the diamond ring. He resembled the diamond to the Armenians who were deported from their homeland. The ring he said, was the land, and the ring became worthless because it lost its diamond, the diamond needs to be found and returned to the ring. He was happy that these reconciliation meetings were playing a role for the return of the diamond.
Another brother (Armenian) told us that he had come to the Lord because of a Turkish believer. An ex-mayor (Kurd) said that every time his grandmother became angry she said "God was taking his revenge from the Kurds because the blood they had shed 100 years ago was coming to haunt them, as Turks and Kurds were in constant fights with each other killing each other in Turkey. Some of our Turkish brothers said that Armenians need to pray and forgive the Turks and the Kurds, so that the curse that is upon the Turks and Turkey will be lifted up. Some of the Armenian pastors asked for forgiveness as well and asked God to heal both nations. 2 Cor.7:14 "If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, THEN I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land."
I almost had cancelled my visit due to terrorist attacks in Turkey, war in Armenia and State department advisory on travel to Turkey, but the Lord had another plan in mind. He gave me this precious opportunity to be present at this reconciliation conference, to be partaking of the blessings that He had for all of us. We did not want the gatherings to end, reminding me of the apostle Peter who didn't want to go down from the mountain of transfiguration, he wanted to stay there and pitch tents.
Please join us to touch the hearts and minds of many and be a spark that will start a forest fire spreading in this dark and lost world which is in great need of love and reconciliation, bringing healing to many and to our two nations. We give the honor and glory to our Lord, Jesus Christ through whom all things are possible. 2 Cor.5:18-19 " All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation."
From a Turkish Leader
As disciples of Jesus we are called to be peacemakers, to be healers, to walk in mercy, in justice, in repentance & forgiveness & in all this to be salt & light to all who have lost the taste of life & walk in the darkness of hopelessness. ATPI has & is putting all these aspects of our call into practice in the maze of a tragic relationship, helping a growing number to walk out of this dark maze into healing & light. Personally, I believe it will touch more than just the relationships of our peoples.