Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | No. 427
On 18 April three Protestant Christians were brutally tortured and
slain by Muslim nationalist youths in the Zirve Publishing House in
Malatya, Turkey. The horrific hate-driven brutality of the killings
has left many Turks feeling shocked and ashamed. The Church
meanwhile has responded not with riots and revenge but with amazing
One of the Turkish martyrs, Necati Aydin, a Bible teacher and
pastor, was a student at Martin Bucer Seminary's Turkish study
centre in Ankara. Martin Bucer Seminary (MBS, Bonn, Germany) has
conducted an independent investigation and compiled a report on the
incident which is available on the WEA RLC website. The MBS report
notes that the two Turkish martyrs, Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel
are the first known Muslim converts to Christianity to be martyred
in Turkey. The other victim, Tilmann Geske, was a German citizen.
These murders follow the killing of expatriate Catholic priest
Father Santoro (60), shot in the back as he knelt praying before
the altar in his church in Trabzon on Sunday 5 February 2006, and
of Armenian Orthodox writer Hrant Dink (53) who had been charged
with 'insulting Turkishness' and was shot outside his office in
Istanbul on 19 January 2007.
Tens of thousands of Turks filled the streets for Hrant Dink's
funeral. The gracious and dignified eulogy given by his widow,
Rakel, left a deep impression on many Turks. This has been
reinforced by the gracious and dignified testimonies of the loved
ones left behind by the recent tragedy. The shock wave being sent
through Turkish society by this Christian grace and forgiveness has
been described by one person in Turkey as a 'spiritual earthquake'.
The MBS report comments: 'There has been an enormous media storm in
Turkey following these events. Many Turks have sent letters to the
newspapers expressing their deep disgust. The widow, Susanne Geske,
earned tremendous admiration for her words in a TV interview the
day after the massacre. She said she forgave the murderers of her
husband, the way Christ forgave his murderers, citing Jesus'
prayer, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are
doing." Many letters to the newspapers are saying that now they
really want to read the New Testament or even to describe
themselves as Christians, since they no longer want to have
anything to do with Islam.'
But tension is high and some voices are still blaming Christians,
perpetuating lies and fanning the dangerous flames of anti-
Christian hatred. The day after the murders, Ministry of Justice
director-general of laws, Niyazi Guney, claimed that 'missionaries
are more dangerous than terror organisations'. Two other Turkish
Christians, Hakan Tastan and Turan Topal, charged with 'insulting
Turkishness' and 'reviling Islam', are awaiting their next court
hearing which is scheduled for 18 July. Their 18 April hearing was
held under tight security.
Despite all this the Church has courageously opted not to retreat
underground. Christian leaders have boldly stepped out, been
interviewed and photographed attending the martyrs' funerals. Many
churches, while now under guard, are worshipping with their doors
open so people can come in, watch, listen and take Bibles. Compass
Direct reports that on Wednesday 25 April four Christians (an
American, a Korean and two Turks) were arrested for sharing their
faith in a park in Istanbul. They are being charged with
'missionary activity, disturbing the peace and insulting Islam'.
Turkey at the moment is like a restless sea with several dangerous
currents getting stronger and stronger, threatening to create a
serious storm. The Church - 100,000 Christians in a population of
74 million - is like a tiny boat being tossed about on the waves.
But Jesus is there with the believers, so let's pray.
PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR -
* Turkey: for wisdom, conviction and courage for her leaders and
that God will use them for his purposes (Isaiah 45:4-6); for the
Holy Spirit to awaken her 'masses' to the ugliness of hatred and
the splendour of the gospel. (2 Corinthians 4:6).
* the Church in Turkey: that God our heavenly Father will envelope
his Church and shield her flame of gospel light from the storm
that seeks to blow it out. '. . .a faintly burning wick he will
not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice.' (Isaiah
* Jesus Christ, who is supreme over all creation, to protect,
comfort and encourage his children and reveal his power and
authority by stilling the storm. (Matthew 8:23-27) 'Then he rose
and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.'
SUMMARY TO USE IN BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
HORROR AND HOPE IN TURKEY
On 18 April three Protestant Christians (two Turks and a German)
were brutally tortured and slain by Muslim nationalist youths in
Malatya, Turkey, and the barbarity of the killings has shocked many
Turks. In February 2006 an expatriate Catholic priest was murdered
and on 19 January 2007 Armenian Orthodox writer Hrant Dink was
murdered in Istanbul. In each instance the Church has responded not
with riots and revenge but with amazing grace and forgiveness,
which has triggered a 'spiritual earthquake'. While many
threatening voices are still spewing out anti-Christian hatred,
many others are now speaking out against uncivilised intolerance
and for religious liberty. Many are expressing respect for
Christianity and even seeking to learn more about it. So despite
the horror there is hope. Please pray!
CORRECTION: There was an error in the Gaza Update in last week's
RLP 426, April Update. We had 'on Saturday 12 April Muslim
extremists destroyed parts of Gaza's American International School.
. .' That should have read Saturday 21 April. Our apologies.
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The WEA Religious Liberty Commission sponsors this
RL Prayer List to help individuals and groups pray
specifically and regularly for religious liberty
issues, and in particular to uphold the Church
where it is suffering persecution.
RL Prayer is moderated by Ron Clough, a commissioner
of the WEA RLC and convenor of the Australian EA RLC.
Elizabeth Kendal researched and authored this message.