SALT LAKE CITY — All Mormon missionaries in Turkey are safe as a coup attempt plays out, but it is unknown if any church members are caught up in the chaos.
“At this point we know that all missionaries in Turkey are currently safe and accounted for," said Eric Hawkins, spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "We have no information that our members are involved in the conflict. We pray for their safety as these events unfold."
Supporters of Turkey's president Recep Tayyp Erdogan took to the streets to oppose the coup staged Friday by factions of the Turkish military.
The U.S. Embassy issued an emergency message to Americans to take shelter as Turkish security forces deployed to contain the coup.
The LDS Church won full recognition from the Turkish government in 2011, according to a Turkish Weekly article written by a University of Utah instructor and student. The faith has 12 congregations and 439 members in Turkey, according to the Mormon Newsroom website.
Among those congregations are branches in Istanbul, Izmir, Ankara, Gaziantep and the military base in İncirlik-Adana.
Turkey is part of the church's Central Eurasian Mission, created in July 2015. The mission's president is headquarted in Istanbul and oversees a mission that includes Turkey, Azerbaijan and the Turkic Republics of Central Asia — Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.
Erdogan survived through Friday night and flew to Istanbul on Saturday morning, the New York Times reported. He used his iPhone's FaceTime app to broadcast an urgent plea for his supporters to take to the streets to protest the coup.
"We urge U.S. citizens to contact family and friends to let them know you are safe," the U.S. embassy message said. "We have seen reports that social media is blocked, but you can contact friends and family by email, telephone, or SMS. We encourage U.S. citizens to shelter in place and do not go the U.S. embassy or consulates at this time. Monitor local press for updates, avoid areas of conflict and exercise caution if you are in the vicinity of any military or security forces."
Turkey is an important NATO member and American ally in an unstable region that is a flashpoint in the refugee crisis.
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