The Magi and the Messiah

The Kurds are one of the largest people-groups in the world without a state of their own. They forcibly were converted to Islam a thousand years ago but have been persecuted by Muslim regimes ever since. Some 25 million Kurds live in Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria.

In the 1980s Sadam Hussein's Iraq destroyed 4,000 Kurdish settlements, displaced 500,000 Kurds and killed 200,000. In Turkey, home to 13 million Kurds, government forces have since the 1980s evacuated 3,000 Kurdish villages, razing many of them, and displaced 3 million Kurds, according to Turkish government figures. All Kurdish areas in Turkey are under military law.

Small wonder that the Kurds, under such circumstances, are less than zealous adherents of Islam and desperately in search of a future that offers them hope.

Hope is coming to them through what Kemal discovered in 1987 and what he now tells his people while traveling across Turkey. It is that the Magi of Matthew's Gospel were Medes, or spiritual heirs of the Medes--ancient Kurds who both anticipated and found the Messiah.

He tells modern Kurds that until their ancestors' forced conversion to Islam about A.D. 900, they practiced the Mede religion Zoroastrianism. It foretold the coming of a righteous man, born by a virgin, who was to usher in a "new day" on which the creator of good would defeat all forces of evil.

This Messianic anticipation had been the focus of the Mede New Year celebrations for centuries before the birth of Christ. These forebears of the Kurds became the first Gentiles to recognize and worship the Messiah. Medes even were among the 3,000 converts on the first day of Pentecost in Jerusalem (see Acts 2:9).

But God's involvement with the Medes goes back even further. In 539 B.C. they conquered Babylon and allowed the captive Jews to return to Jerusalem. The Bible states that the Medes were God's chosen instrument. The Scripture calls the Medo-Persian ruler Cyrus a "messiah"--one anointed by God--the only Gentile ever given that title.

Today's Kurds listen spellbound to this story. It reawakens for them a long-forgotten destiny. They sense it might be the key to re-establishing the national identity that has been denied these persecuted people for a thousand years--and still is today.

Kemal preaches about the Magi and the Messiah wherever he can. An ideal setting is a Kurdish wedding, which lasts for days. He preaches at political rallies too, but most of the time he meets with people in homes and cafés or on street corners. No formal church services are allowed.

The Kurdish church is young but actively involved with humanitarian aid and social development. Supported by the St. Paul, Minnesota-based Lutheran Orient Mission Society, it sponsors a carpet factory for Kurdish women. Scholarships are provided for high school girls who otherwise would be doomed to illiteracy, marriages arranged for money and a lifetime of meager chores.

The social involvement is an important way for Kurdish believers to show Christ's love. After the major earthquake in Turkey last summer that killed more than 17,000 people, Kemal became known as the Mesiji, Turkish for "Messiah's guy."

More than 60,000 copies of a booklet titled Who Are We?--which presents the story of the Magi and the possibility of the Medes-Kurds having a place in God's salvation plan--have been distributed. It was written by Matthew Hand, an American who is Kemal's mentor and co-worker in Kurdistan. Hand is the person who first told Kemal about the biblical heritage of the Kurds and Medes.

Literate Kurds run for the booklet, although mere possession of it can lead to charges of treason or torture and imprisonment. All things Kurdish--humanitarian, religious and political alike--are generally forbidden in Turkey.

When asked about the number of Kurdish believers, Kemal comments that under the current social conditions there is no way to satisfy the Western appetite for statistics. He estimates some 500 Kurds are "moving along the way of the Messiah" under his personal mentorship.

In addition, tens of thousands have accepted the booklet, he says, at high personal risk. A leading Kurdish politician, now a believer, said a few years ago that "a hundred thousand Kurds [would] come to faith in five years or less" if the church made a "genuine commitment of people, time and money."

Hand, who also is a director in the Lutheran Orient Mission Society and the Israeli-Kurdish Friendship League, confirms that "a majority of Kurds under [age] 40 are negative to Islam and actively seeking for a new religion." He adds that he is "very impressed" with the level of commitment to "exploring and trying out" the gospel truths among Kurds in Turkey today.

"I wonder how many American evangelicals would keep Christian books if they risked torture for it," says Hand, who lived in the Middle East between 1982 and 1999. "In Turkish Kurdistan we cannot print our booklet on the Magi fast enough to satisfy the demand."

Charisma recently accompanied Kemal, Hand, and president John Snider and directors Marvin and Eileen Palmquist of the Lutheran Orient Mission Society from one end of Turkish Kurdistan to the other. It was a journey steeped in biblical history. These are the lands of the Garden of Eden and the fall; the flood and Noah's ark; the captivity of God's people; and the cradle of man-made, or Babylonian, religion.

Draw closer to God. Experience the presence of the Holy Spirit every month as you read Charisma magazine. Sign up now to get Charisma for as low as $1 per issue.

Get to know the Holy Spirit and how to interact with Him on a daily basis. Learn to enter God's presence and hear His voice clearly for yourself! Go deeper in your faith with Life in the Spirit and change your life and destiny. Are you ready to start your journey?

Your Turn

Comment Guidelines
View/Add Comments
  • There are some ways the Holy Spirit will never lead you.

    4 Ways the Holy Spirit Does Not Lead You—and 1 Big Danger

    Wrong teaching, ignorance, laziness and a failure of the five-fold to equip the saints for the work ...

  • Chuck Pierce

    Prophetic Word: 'The Winds of Heaven Are Now Entering the Earth'

    Chuck Pierce says we need to brace ourselves.

  • What if You Could Save $500 This Week?

    What if You Could Save $500 This Week?

    Start saving for emergencies today with the $500 Savings Challenge by brightpeak financial. It's chock-full of inspiration, great savings tips and the motivation to make a dent in your savings—for real! Go to to sign up!

  • Lee's ministry photo

    10 Ways to Pray for a Troubled America

    God is always willing to rescue His people if they pray.

  • Hillary Clinton

    What if Hillary Clinton Wins the White House?

    Polls have Mrs. Clinton leading by 11 points. The church must be prepared.

  • Low-Rate Church Loans Available!

    Low-Rate Church Loans Available!

    Whether it's purchasing a property, remodeling or refinancing, Christian Community Credit Union has a loan package that's customized for your budget and situation.

  • Holy Spirit prophetic

    7 Ways to Cultivate Sensitivity to the Holy Spirit

    Too many of God's people are led by fear, doubt, man-pleasing, presumption, assumption, idols ...

  • God doesn't usually shout, so you should listen carefully.

    What Happens When You Actually Listen to God

    It will surprise—and most likely shock—you.

  • Is there any unconfessed sin in your life?

    Scripture Says Pain, Health and Sin Share This Unexpected Connection

    If you're experiencing chronic pain, this may offer you the answer you need.

  • Guarding the gates of your heart will keep the demonic and evil out of your life.

    Keep the Demonic Out of Your Life With This Oft-Overlooked Spiritual Warfare Strategy

    The enemy knows his limitations. Limit him.

  • Continue Your Journey with the Holy Spirit

    Continue Your Journey with the Holy Spirit

    Follow God on the most fulfilling journey of your life with Encounter the Holy Spirit! Break away from past hurts and press into the One who wants a personal encounter with you.

  • Dream the Unimaginable In His Presence

    Dream the Unimaginable In His Presence

    Reach your full potential and be led by His Spirit. In His Presence takes you to a deeper understanding of who God is and how he communicates with us.

  • Set Your Spirit on Fire

    Set Your Spirit on Fire

    Receive the power and gifts that come through the Holy Spirit Baptism. Don’t go empty-handed; accept all that He has for you! His power is available to those who ask.

  • Put on the Full Armor of God

    Put on the Full Armor of God

    Break every stronghold with the power of the Holy Spirit. Use the power of your tongue to declare and decree the Word of God. Witness heaven move on your behalf.

Use Desktop Layout
Charisma Magazine — Empowering believers for life in the Spirit