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The Rumelian Turk of Greece

[IMAGE] The Rumelian Turk are a remnant of the Ottoman Turks who migrated from their homeland in central Asia in the thirteenth century. The Rumelian Turk conquered Anatolia and eventually established the Ottoman Empire, which encompassed the Balkan Mountains, Arabia, and North Africa. The Rumelian Turk name is derived from the word rumelia, which means "land of the Romans" and refers to the Balkan Mountains.

During the rule of the Ottoman Empire, Turks often settled in towns in the Balkans and served as military personnel, administrators, and artisans. After Yugoslavia, Greece, Albania, Bulgaria, and Romania became independent countries in the nineteenth century, many urban Turks left the Balkans and the Rumelian Turk population was reduced by several million. Today, there are approximately 146,000 Rumelian Turk still living in Greece. They are largely untouched with the Gospel.

What Are Their Lives Like?
Because most of the Rumelian Turk live in other parts of the Balkans, little is known about the particular lifestyle of the Rumelian Turk in Greece. However, Turks everywhere have similar traits and their culture has deep roots that affect their daily lives.

Although the Ottoman Turks ruled for 500 years, the Turks were always an ethnic minority. They did not intermarry in large numbers with the rest of the population because of religious, linguistic, and social differences. Where they did intermarry, Turkish men usually married non-Turkish women, often of another Muslim ethnic group. Today, polygyny (having more than one wife) is prohibited by state law.

Architecture throughout the Balkans still bears evidence of long Turkish-Ottoman influence: Ottoman-style domed mosques with pencil-thin minarets are modeled after those in Istanbul. Other typical details are wooden houses with latticework windows, separate quarters for men and women, and marketplaces where specialty stores are grouped together.

Lamb is the favorite meat of Turks. The most common way of preparing it is pilaf, where small bits of meat are cooked with rice and oil. Musaka (roasted meat and eggplant) and kapama (mutton with spinach and green onions) are other popular dishes. Turks are very fond of sweets and eat large quantities, especially the kind known as Turkish delights (gummy confections usually cut in cubes and dusted with sugar). The Rumelian Turk are not supposed to drink alcohol because their Islamic belief forbids it. Instead, they drink much coffee and sour milk, or yogurt, which is said to keep people healthy.

What Are Their Beliefs?
The Rumelian Turk of Greece are 99.9% Hanafite Muslims. Islam is a religion of worksóbased on the five central teachings or "pillars": (1) A Muslim must affirm that there is no god but Allah and Mohammed is his prophet. (2) Five times a day he must pray while facing Mecca. (3) He must give alms generously. (4) He must fast during Ramadan, the ninth month of the Muslim year. (5) He must try to make at least one pilgrimage to Mecca in his lifetime.

Even after the establishment of Communist rule in the Balkans in the years that followed World War II, authorities tolerated Muslim religious observance and institutions. This toleration extended to Islamic schools, which were allowed to continue to operate, but only as a replacement for the compulsory state educational system.

What Are Their Needs?
With no missions agency presently working among the Rumelian Turk of Greece, effectively penetrating them with the Gospel will be difficult. The Bible and the Jesus film have already been translated into Turkce, and some Christian broadcasts are also available. However, only a small number of Greek Rumelian Turk are known to have become Christians. Prayer is the key to reaching them with the Good News of salvation.

Prayer Points

  • Ask the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers into Greece to work among the Rumelian Turk.
  • Pray for the effectiveness of the Jesus film among the Rumelian Turk.
  • Ask God to anoint the Gospel as it goes forth via radio in their area.
  • Take authority over the spiritual principalities and powers that are keeping the Rumelian Turk bound.
  • Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the spiritual soil of Greece through intercession.
  • Pray that the Rumelian Turk will hunger to know Jesus and that God will reveal Himself to them through dreams and visions.
  • Ask the Lord to bring forth a triumphant Rumelian Turk church for the glory of His name!
  • Ask the Lord to save key leaders among the Rumelian Turk who will boldly declare the Gospel.

See also the following Groups:
The Rumelian Turk of Romania; The Rumelian Turk of Bosnia; The Rumelian Turk of Yugoslavia;
The Rumelian Turk of Bulgaria; and The Diaspora Turks.

Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.


  • People name: Rumelian Turk
  • Country: Greece
  • Their language: Turkce (Osmanli)
  • Population: (1990) 143,400
    (1995) 146,400
    (2000) 148,100
  • Largest religion: Muslim (Hanafite) 99.9%
  • Christians: <1%
  • Church members: 146
  • Scriptures in their own language: Bible
  • Jesus Film in their own language: Available
  • Christian broadcasts in their own language: Available
  • Mission agencies working among this people: 0
  • Persons who have heard the Gospel: 47,000 (33%) Those evangelized by local Christians: 7,500 (6%)
    Those evangelized from the outside: 39,500 (27%)
  • Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 99,400 (67%)
  • Country: Greece
  • Population: (1990) 10,237,800
    (1995) 10,451,000
    (2000) 10,572,600
  • Major peoples in size order: Greek 90.1%
    Mecedonian 1.8%
    Arvanite 1.5%
    Rumelian Turk 1.4%
    Pontic 1%
  • Major religions: Christian (all types) 97.8%
  • Number of denominations: 36

© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center

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