After nine days travelling throughout Turkey we departed the Aegean port of Kusadasi via Izmir (ancient Smyrna) to Istanbul, the only city in the world spanning two continents. Here ancient and modern worlds coexist in cosmopolitan scenes of breathtaking beauty. Seventeen million people live in this city built on seven hills, dissected by the beautiful Bosphorus Strait which marks the border between Europe and Asia, connects the Black and Marmara Seas, flows into the Aegean and finally empties into the Mediterranean (the 'White Sea' in Turkish). A boat took us north from the Kabataş district to the entrance to the Black Sea. This busy sea lane is filled with local ferries and pleasure craft (a local family had rented one we sailed past to the sound of Turkish music and grandma dancing atop the deck), as well as oil tankers and container ships returning from Black Sea ports to regions south and west. Sailing up the strait gave me pause to think. If we continued north we would reach the Ukraine where conflict with Russia continues. Were we to travel south to Egypt and Lybia or south and west to Syria and Israel - we would find unrest unabated. The calm, summer blue of the Bosphorus was deceptive. Its currents could carry us beyond the warm welcome we have received in Turkey to NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) lands - to Balkan, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries - where the fight to destroy or disenfranchise people in order to have economic, racial or religious dominance is at the core of much conflict. The chance to settle old scores fuels many civil wars. Ancient wounds are easily opened. Some have never healed.
It was to Christians living in Turkey - in Ephesus and its environs - that the apostle Paul wrote about the only cure for conflict. The ancient hostility between Jew and Gentile, Paul says, ceases at the cross. There, the alienated are reconciled. Through Jesus the two are 'made….one'. Like the two bridges over the Bosphorus that connect Europe and Asia, Jesus, through his sacrificial death, breaks down walls of hostility, takes away barriers of tradition and transforms enemies into a family, the Church, making the healing harmony of his atoning blood available to the world. 'if, while we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!' (Romans 5:11) Turkey has taught us much.
Thank you, Cem Yalcinkaya! Thank you, Jesus.