For nearly a year now, I’ve been planning to lead another Pilgrimage to Turkey in May of 2016. This would have been the tenth anniversary of the first Early Christian World Pilgrimage to Turkey and Greece in 2006. Since then, I have led seven ECW Pilgrimages, with a total of about 125 Pilgrims, always in the spring when the flowers (especially the tulips) are in full bloom, and summer’s heat and the hordes of tourists have not yet arrived. Actually, I have been to Turkey a total of twelve times – and still look forward to more!
It saddens me, however, that, after much thought and prayer over the last few days, I have decided that it would not be feasible nor advisable to continue to plan and prepare for this “anniversary” Pilgrimage in 2016.
I want to emphasize that I personally do not believe that tourist travel in Turkey is or will be unsafe, given, of course, the inherent risks of any such travel anywhere. I still trust that the Turkish tour operators know what they are doing. Tom Brosnahan’s assessment of the safety of travel in Turkey remains credible in my opinion.
However, the terrorist bombing in Ankara last Saturday, other recent incidents in the border areas of Turkey, and escalating violence in the whole region have created an atmosphere in which it will be impossible to promote the Pilgrimage adequately in the coming months.
Secondly, having paid close attention to the principal English-language news media covering Turkey and the Middle East (Today’s Zaman, Hurriyet Daily News, and Al-Monitor), it is obvious that there will be increasing political instability in Turkey over the coming months and possibly years. This will inevitably result at least in increased government restriction and a negative atmosphere of uncertainty and dissatisfaction among the people with whom we will be interacting. While not dangerous per se, this will make make for an unpleasant experience, counterproductive to my purpose in leading this Pilgrimage. I hope that the government will be willing and able to restore the democratic process which have made much progress over the past decade or so. I am hopeful in the long term, but in the short term I see increasing instability.
On the plus side, I will now have the time to pull together all my pictures, videos and notes from the past ten years, and perhaps create a “virtual Pilgrimage” that can be either an online adventure or a presentation I can “take on the road.” Keep visiting my website for new posts, and sign up for my Newsletter, if you aren’t already receiving it.