The verse on Necati Aydin's casket is from Phillipians 1:21 - "For me to live is Christ and to die is gain."
As severe and horrendous as their suffering and deaths were, so the response of the two wives is even more extraordinary and amazing. Both have publicly forgiven the perpetrators - those who deceived, then bound, tortured and finally slit the throats of their loved ones. Having read some of the accounts, I find that act of forgiveness incredible. Yes, it is right, and yes, it is what scripture declares. Yes, it is what we as believers are to do - but it takes a work of Grace to be able to forgive those who have done such appalling things. When they made their statements, they referred to our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross forgiving those who crucified Him - "Father forgive them for they know not what they do." Not just a statement of "forgiveness" but also a clear, public declaration of how and why they were forgiving.
Suzanna, the wife of the German worker who was killed, has declared her desire to remain in Malatya, the scene of her husband's death and his final resting place. It is there that she wishes to continue to raise their four wonderful children.
Through these terrible events there has been continuous media coverage. These events may have been overshadowed in the West between the terrible deaths in American and the daily carnage in Iraq, but here in Turkey everyone knows about the Christians who were butchered in Malatya. Many Christian Turkish leaders have had opportunity to make statements on TV - positive, powerful statements, witness and testimony, forgiveness and love. All the newspapers have been full of the story and the testimonies of those who gave their lives.
The older brother of Nejati, one of those who died leaving a widow and children, said he wanted to bury his brother (Nejati) in the Muslim way but was prevented. He declared on TV that in his youth, Nejati was devout, prayed five times a day and had memorised the whole Koran. What a positive statement! Nejati's older brother didn't know it, but he was declaring that it is not just the atheist, the secularist and the hedonist who become Christian, but indeed, those who know and practice the tenets of the faith and even those who have memorised the whole Koran can and do become Christian.
The Turkish Church has stood up and declared forgiveness, faith and love in the face of hatred, brutality, violence and barbarity. Some of the leaders have said that they know this is not the last and that their time may come - and they press on openly, publicly, boldly and courageously. They have families, wives and children they love. They count the cost, the cost of knowing Jesus and all that our Saviour has done for us, and they press on. It is an honour to be in the presence of these dear saints who, in this trial, have given and are giving the good testimony of Jesus.
And the line has been crossed.
The Turkish Christian leaders have stood up and openly declared their faith and proclaimed it audaciously - and this in the face of personal threats and beatings received. This is not hypothetical or speculative for them. Many have received a barrage of threats - several have been beaten... Indeed, in these days we have seen the mettle of the Turkish leaders.
We, that is you and us, have been praying for the Church to grow in Turkey. I dare say, in the events of this past week our prayers are being answered. The Good News has been proclaimed nationwide, in all the newspapers and on all the television channels, repeatedly and in an environment where people are listening.
Money could not buy this kind of exposure, nor this kind of interest;
money couldn't buy it, but blood did.
The difference between Christian faith and life, and that of Islam has been put in stark contrast. Those, who in the name of homeland and religion did these barbarous acts - and the widows freely forgiving them for their deeds. No one, neither Turk nor foreigner believes this is the end of the story. It is but the latest in a series of events, each getting more violent against Christians in this land.
Brethren, please pray for us. For the Church in Turkey, for the Turkish leaders who teach and care for the flock, for the Turkish believers, for the foreign worker community and for us.
Ric & Tülin Munro
written from Diyabakir, Turkey