The Challenge of Central Asia
The region of Central Asia does not loom large in our thinking today. But they certainly had their day in the sun. For five hundred years, the Turkic peoples were the most dominate force on the geo-political stage. Beginning with Tamerlane’s conquests in the 14th century and climaxing with the rise and fall of the Ottoman empire, the Turkish people brought terror and domination to well over half the world’s population. Tamerlane’s conversion to Islam was one of the most pivotal moments in human history, but especially so for the future of Asian Christianity. Where Genghis Khan forced cities to surrender and submit to his rule, Tamerlane just burned them to the ground. In the wake of their ruthless conquests, subsequent Turkish conquerors destroyed thousands of churches and killed millions of Christians, including 1.5 million Armenians just a century ago.
This history of aggression has not made Turks very popular in Asia. They are regarded with suspicion by both their Muslim and Christian neighbors. Ultimately the conquests and empires built by the Turks were put into check by the rise of the Christian West, especially the Russians and the British. The combined force of these two growing Christian empires eventually dismantled what remained of the Turkish empire in the early 20th century.
The effects of this continue to reverberate into the 21st century. The Ottomans were the self-appointed keepers of the Islamic Caliphate. When they fell, the Caliphate fell with them. For over century now Muslims have been trying to find their global center of gravity. One of the principal purposes of Al Qaeda and ISIS is to recover and rebuild the Islamic Caliphate. The civil war we see raging today within Islam is a product of this disequilibrium and perceived power vacuum.
Another legacy of the Ottoman’s collapse was the carving up of the Middle East in such a way that would divide the Arabs and keep them from creating a unified Arabian state. Countries were carved up in such a way that minority Arab tribes were part over majorities, such as in Syria and Iraq. All of this is coming unglued now, fifty years later.
For its part, Turkey is doing its best to recover the glory it once lost. They are emerging as a significant influence in Central Asia, and seeking to re-assert their influence in the Middle East. At the same time they are wondering if they should join the European Union. Caught between two worlds, they have yet to find their place. Insecurity abounds on all sides, and that does not bode well for the future peace in the region. There is but one answer: Jesus Christ! The so called brotherhood of Islam has failed, the UN has failed, and all the might of American diplomacy has only made matters worse. Maybe it’s time we give the prince of peace a seat at the table? How about at the head of the table?