Alawite in Turkey

Map Source:  People Group location: IMB. Map geography: ESRI / GMI. Map design: Joshua Project.
People Name: Alawite
Country: Turkey
10/40 Window: Yes
Population: 562,000
World Population: 2,117,100
Primary Language: Arabic, North Levantine Spoken
Primary Religion: Islam
Christian Adherents: 0.03 %
Evangelicals: 0.01 %
Scripture: Portions
Online Audio NT: No
Jesus Film: No
Audio Recordings: Yes
People Cluster: Arab, Levant
Affinity Bloc: Arab World
Progress Level:

Introduction / History

The origin of the Alawites is disputed, so no one knows for sure when they originated. They are an offshoot of Shi 'ite Islam, which explains why they are loosely allied with other Shi 'ite peoples in today's skirmishes.

During the Turkish-based Ottoman Empire, Turkish rulers tried to force Alawites to convert to Sunni Islam. This led to uprisings. The Alawites fled to the mountains where they maintained their freedom from the Ottomans. Their ability to defend themselves came in handy when they had to protect their sovereignty against colonial French forces that were taking over Syria after the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1920. The French eventually used them as a military counter-weight to the more hostile and numerous Sunni Muslims.

The Assad family is Alawite, and they have ruled Syria for decades. With various Sunni Muslim forces coming against them, about one-third of Alawite young men have been killed. Many Alawites have fled to neighboring Turkey for refuge.

Where Are they Located?

The Alawites who live in Turkey are mostly in refugee camps. Syrians and Turks both hope that the Alawites will someday return to Syria.

What Are Their Lives Like?

The Alawites are divided into four main tribes. They are a closed society and they see themselves as a persecuted and despised people, who actually are the chosen people of God, the only ones to have seen the light in a world of darkness. While maintaining their beliefs they pretend to adhere to the dominant religion present in order to escape persecution.

What Are Their Beliefs?

The Alawites believe that all people were stars in the world of light, but fell from there due to disobedience. They believe they must be reincarnated seven times before they once again return to the stars where Ali is prince. If they are sinful, they will be reborn as Christians until their atonement is complete. Infidels will be reborn as animals. The actual Alawi beliefs and practices are based on their book, the "Kitab al-Majmu".

A visitor will not encounter an Alawite who will discuss the particulars of his beliefs. In fact, an Alawite will tell the visitor he is a Muslim, since he sees himself as one. The common Alawite person does not even know his group's teachings, because they are so secret.

What Are Their Needs?

According to Christian workers assigned to the Fertile Crescent, very few of the Alawites knows Christ personally. There is a great need for more workers who will commit themselves to getting Bibles and other Christian literature into the Alawites' hands and to sharing the good news in other ways.

Prayer Points

Pray that the Alawites will understand that the only way to know God is through Jesus Christ.
Pray for a strong Holy Spirit revival among the Christians in Syria and Lebanon that will thrust forth hundreds of evangelists to the Alawites and Muslims in their midst.
Pray for a movement to Christ among Alawites in Turkey and Syria.

Text Source:   Keith Carey