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Friday, 4 May 2007

The Blood of Martyrs

The White Man doesn't usually report international news, but one recent incident has been so misreported on every side that he feels compelled to pass on the firsthand accounts that he has received. Rather than editorializing on the many inaccuracies that emerged as the story developed, I've decided to give you what I received in the order I received it--all by email, by the way--and advise you to reserve judgment until you've read the entire post.
Thursday, April 19, 2007 Three Evangelicals Murdered in Turkey
Suspect: "May this be a Lesson to the Enemies of the Faith"
By Wolfgang Polzer Special to ASSIST News Service MALATYA (ANS) -- Three evangelical Christians were brutally murdered in Turkey, April 18. Necati Aydin (35), Ugur Yksel (32) - both Turks - and the German Tilmann Geske (46) were found tied up and their throats slit in the small Zirve Publishing House in Malatya, Central Turkey. A fourth person escaped by jumping out of a window and was seriously hurt. Turkish police have arrested five 19 and 20-year-old suspects. According to press reports the Muslims have admitted the crime. The paper Hurriyet quoted one of the suspects with the words: "May this be a lesson to the enemies of the faith." Zirve Publishing House specializes in Turkish Christian literature and distributes the Jesus Film. Geske, who was married and father of three children worked as an interpreter for Zirve. Aydin, married and father of two children, was one of the directors of the Publishing House and also in charge of a small evangelical church in Malatya. Recently Aydin held lectures in Germany and urged Christians to relate the Gospel to Muslims "in a loving way". As the German ministry Orientdienst told the evangelical news agency "idea", Aydin had frequently been threatened. The third victim, Yksel, planned to get married in the fall. The German public has reacted with sorrow and outrage to the news of the multiple murder. The leader of the main line Protestant Churches in Germany, Bishop Wolfgang Huber, referred to the efforts to spread the biblical message. "To offer other this Word of Life must never be regarded as a reason to threaten a person's life and limb," said Huber. He called for prayers on behalf of the bereaved. The Turkish Islamic Union in Germany has denounced the murders as an "abominable act". The Turkish agency expressed its condolences especially to the family of the German victim and called for a speedy investigation of the crime. German politicians have also denounced the murders. Some are questioning the efforts to integrate Turkey into the European Union, as long as religious freedom seems to be impaired. The EU Commission also denounced the assassination but said it was too early to speculate about possible repercussions for the negotiations with Turkey. Wolfgang Polzer (56), is senior news editor of the Evangelical News Agency idea, Wetzlar (Germany), which he joined in 1981. In all, he has spent 30 years in Christian media. Wolfgang can be contacted by e-mail at:
A letter to the Global Church from The Protestant Church of Smyrna
Dear friends,
This past week has been filled with much sorrow. Many of you have heard by now of our devastating loss here in an event that took place in Malatya, a Turkish province 300 miles northeast of Antioch, the city where believers were first called Christians (Acts 11:26).
On Wednesday morning, April 18, 2007, 46 year old German missionary and father of three Tilman Geske prepared to go to his office, kissing his wife goodbye taking a moment to hug his son and give him the priceless memory, “Goodbye, son. I love you.”

Tilman rented an office space from Zirve Publishing where he was preparing notes for the new Turkish Study Bible. Zirve was also the location of the Malatya Evangelist Church office. A ministry of the church, Zirve prints and distributes Christian literature to Malatya and nearby cities in Eastern Turkey. In another area of town, 35 year old Pastor Necati Aydin, father of two, said goodbye to his wife, leaving for the office as well. They had a morning Bible
Study and prayer meeting that some other believers in town would also be attending. Ugur Yuksel likewise made his way to the Bible study.

None of these three men knew that what awaited them at the Bible study was the ultimate testing and application of their faith, which would conclude with their entrance into glory to receive their crown of righteousness from Christ and honor from all the saints awaiting them in the Lord’s presence.

On the other side of town, ten young men all under 20 years old put into place final arrangements for their ultimate act of faith, living out their love for Allah and hatred of infidels who they felt undermined Islam.

On Resurrection Sunday, five of these men had been to a by-invitation-only evangelistic service that Pastor Necati and his men had arranged at a hotel conference room in the city. The men were known to the believers as “seekers.”

No one knows what happened in the hearts of those men as they listened to the gospel. Were they touched by the Holy Spirit? Were they convicted of sin? Did they hear the gospel in their heart of hearts? Today we only have the beginning of their story.

These young men, one of whom is the son of a mayor in the Province of Malatya, are part of a tarikat, or a group of “faithful believers” in Islam. Tarikat membership is highly respected here; it’s like a fraternity membership. In fact, it is said that no one can get into public office without membership in a tarikat. These young men all lived in the same dorm, all preparing for university entrance exams.

The young men got guns, breadknives, ropes and towels ready for their final act of service to Allah. They knew there would be a lot of blood. They arrived in time for the Bible Study, around 10 o’clock. They arrived, and apparently the Bible Study began. Reportedly, after Necati
read a chapter from the Bible the assault began. The boys tied Ugur, Necati, and Tilman’s hands and feet to chairs and as they videoed their work on their cellphones, they tortured our brothers for almost three hours*
[Details of the torture--
* Tilman was stabbed 156 times, Necati 99 times and Ugur’s stabs were too numerous to count. They were disemboweled, and their intestines sliced up in front of their eyes. They were emasculated and watched as those body parts were destroyed. Fingers were chopped
off, their noses and mouths and anuses were sliced open. Possibly the worst part was watching as their brothers were likewise tortured. Finally, their throats were sliced from ear to ear, heads practically decapitated.]

Neighbors in workplaces near the printhouse said later they had heard yelling, but assumed the owners were having a domestic argument so they did not respond.
Meanwhile, another believer Gokhan and his wife had a leisurely morning. He slept in till 10, ate a long breakfast and finally around 12:30 he and his wife arrived at the office. The door was locked from the inside, and his key would not work. He phoned and though it had connection on his end he did not hear the phone ringing inside. He called cell phones of his brothers and finally Ugur answered his phone. “We are not at the office. Go to the hotel meeting. We are there. We will come there,” he said cryptically. As Ugur spoke Gokhan heard in the telephone’s background weeping and a strange snarling sound.

He phoned the police, and the nearest officer arrived in about five minutes. He pounded on the door, “Police, open up!” Initially the officer thought it was a domestic disturbance. At that point they heard another snarl and a gurgling moan. The police understood that sound as human suffering, prepared the clip in his gun and tried over and over again to burst through the door.
One of the frightened assailants unlocked the door for the policeman, who entered to find a
grisly scene. Tilman and Necati had been slaughtered, practically decapitated with their
necks slit from ear to ear. Ugur’s throat was likewise slit and he was barely alive.
Three assailants in front of the policeman dropped their weapons. Meanwhile Gokhan heard a sound of yelling in the street. Someone had fallen from their third story office. Running down, he found a man on the ground, whom he later recognized, named Emre Gunaydin. He had massive head trauma and, strangely, was snarling. He had tried to climb down the drainpipe to escape, and losing his balance had plummeted to the ground. It seems that he was the main leader of the attackers. Another assailant was found hiding on a lower balcony.

To untangle the web we need to back up six years. In April 2001, the National Security Council of Turkey (Milli Guvenlik Kurulu) began to consider evangelical Christians as a threat to national security, on equal footing as Al Quaida and PKK terrorism. Statements made in the press by political leaders, columnists and commentators have fueled a hatred against missionaries who they claim bribe young people to change their religion.
After that decision in 2001, attacks and threats on churches, pastors and Christians began. Bombings, physical attacks, verbal and written abuse are only some of the ways Christians are being targetted. Most significant is the use of media propaganda.
From December 2005, after having a long meeting regarding the Christian threat, the wife of Former Prime Minister Ecevit, historian Ilber Ortayli, Professor Hasan Unsal, Politician Ahmet Tan and writer/propogandist Aytunc Altindal, each in their own profession began a campaign to bring the public’s attention to the looming threat of Christians who sought to “buy their children’s souls”. Hidden cameras in churches have taken church service footage and used it
sensationally to promote fear and antagonism toward Christianity.

In an official televised response from Ankara, the Interior Minister of Turkey smirked as he spoke of the attacks on our brothers. Amid public outrage and protests against the event and in favor of freedom of religion and freedom of thought, media and official comments ring with the same message, “We hope you have learned your lesson. We do not want Christians here.”
It appears that this was an organized attack initiated by an unknown adult tarikat leader. As in the Hrant Dink murder in January 2007, and a Catholic priest Andrea Santoro in February 2006, minors are being used to commit religious murders because public sympathy for youth is strong and they face lower penalties than an adult convicted of the same crime. Even the parents of these children are in favor of the acts. The mother of the 16 year old boy who
killed the Catholic priest Andrea Santoro looked at the cameras as her son was going to prison and said, “he will serve time for Allah.”

The young men involved in the killing are currently in custody. Today news reported that they would be tried as terrorists, so their age would not affect the strict penalty. Assailant Emre Gunaydin is still in intensive care. The investigation centers around him and his contacts and they say will fall apart if he does not recover.
The Church in Turkey responded in a way that honored God as hundreds of believers and dozens of pastors flew in as fast as they could to stand by the small church of Malatya and encourage the believers, take care of legal issues, and represent Christians to the media.
When Susanne Tilman expressed her wish to bury her husband in Malatya, the Governor tried to stop it, and when he realized he could not stop it, a rumor was spread that “it is a sin to dig a grave for a Christian.” In the end, in an undertaking that should be remembered in Christian history forever, the men from the church in Adana (near Tarsus), grabbed shovels and dug a grave for their slain brother in an un-tended hundred year old Armenian graveyard.
Ugur was buried by his family in an Alevi Muslim ceremony in his hometown of Elazig, his believing fiance watching from the shadows as his family and friends refused to accept in death the faith Ugur had so long professed and died for. Necati’s funeral took place in his hometown of Izmir, the city where he came to faith. The darkness does not understand the light. Though the churches expressed their forgiveness for the event, Christians were not to be trusted.
Before they would load the coffin onto the plane from Malatya, it went through two separate xray exams to make sure it was not loaded with explosives. This is not a usual procedure for Muslim coffins.

Necati’s funeral was a beautiful event. Like a glimpse of heaven, thousands of Turkish Christians and missionaries came to show their love for Christ, and their honor for this man chosen to die for Christ. Necati’s wife Shemsa told the world, “His death was full of meaning, because he died for Christ and he lived for Christ… Necati was a gift from God. I feel honored that he was in my life, I feel crowned with honor. I want to be worthy of that honor.”
Boldly the believers took their stand at Necati’s funeral, facing the risks of being seen publicly and likewise becoming targets. As expected, the anti-terror police attended and videotaped everyone attending the funeral for their future use.

The service took place outside at Buca Baptist church, and he was buried in a small Christian graveyard in the outskirts of Izmir. Two assistant Governors of Izmir were there solemnly watching the event from the front row. Dozens of news agencies were there documenting the events with live news and photographs. Who knows the impact the funeral had on those watching? This is the beginning of their story as well. Pray for them.

In an act that hit front pages in the largest newspapers in Turkey, Susanne Tilman in a television interview expressed her forgiveness. She did not want revenge, she told reporters. “Oh God, forgive them for they know not what they do,” she said, wholeheartedly agreeing with the words of Christ on Calvary (Luke 23:34).
In a country where blood-for-blood revenge is as normal as breathing, many many reports have come to the attention of the church of how this comment of Susanne Tilman has changed lives. One columnist wrote of her comment, “She said in one sentence what 1000 missionaries in 1000 years could never do.” The missionaries in Malatya will most likely move out, as their families and children have become publicly identified as targets to the hostile city. The
remaining 10 believers are in hiding. What will happen to this church, this light in the darkness? Most likely it will go underground. Pray for wisdom, that Turkish brothers from other cities will go to lead the leaderless church. Should we not be concerned for that great city of Malatya, a city that does not know what it is doing? (Jonah 4:11)
When our Pastor Fikret Bocek went with a brother to give a statement to the Security Directorate on Monday they were ushered into the Anti-Terror Department. On the wall was a huge chart covering the whole wall listing all the terrorist cells in Izmir, categorized. In one prominent column were listed all the evangelical churches in Izmir. The darkness does not understand the light. “These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also.” (Acts 17:6)
Please pray for the Church in Turkey. “Don’t pray against persecution, pray for perseverence,” urges Pastor Fikret Bocek.
The Church is better having lost our brothers; the fruit in our lives, the renewed faith, the burning desire to spread the gospel to quench more darkness in Malatya …all these are not to be regretted. Pray that we stand strong against external opposition and especially pray that we stand strong against internal struggles with sin, our true debilitating weakness.

This we know. Christ Jesus was there when our brothers were giving their lives for Him. He was there, like He was when Stephen was being stoned in the sight of Saul of Tarsus.
Someday the video of the deaths of our brothers may reveal more to us about the strength that we know Christ gave them to endure their last cross, about the peace the Spirit of God endowed them with to suffer for their beloved Savior. But we know He did not leave their side. We know their minds were full of Scripture strengthening them to endure, as darkness tried to subdue the unsubduable Light of the Gospel. We know, in whatever way they were able, with a look or a word, they encouraged one another to stand strong. We know they knew they would soon be with Christ.
We don’t know the details. We don’t know the kind of justice that will or will not be served on this earth. But we pray-- and urge you to pray-- that someday at least one of those five
boys will come to faith because of the testimony in death of Tilman Geske, who gave his life as a missionary to his beloved Turks, and the testimonies in death of Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel, the first martyrs for Christ out of the Turkish Church.
Reported by Darlene N. Bocek (24 April 2007)
Please please please pass this on to as many praying Christians as you can, in as many countries as you can. Please always keep the heading as “From the Protestant Church of Smyrna” with this contact information:
From: Ahmet Guvener, pastor of Diyarbakir Church
30 April 2007 Diyarbakir, Turkey
Dear brothers and sisters,
I greet you in the peace and love of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. May the Lord abundantly bless you, your families, your churches, and your work.
We know and appreciate very much your heart for us.
Brothers and sisters, in the last ten days we have experienced very painful moments, which words cannot begin to express. Our painful experience has shown us that our lives are as the Lord describes: “What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” For this reason we have understood one more time how holy and close to the Lord we should live our lives.
We have also understood that our society is easily given to emotion and that in such painful moments some people, whether intentionally or not, report certain events inaccurately and we have not prevented this or have not been able to do so.
When the Malatya massacre happened we, the brothers from Diyarbakir, besides those already on the scene at the time of the crime, were the first to get there. When we got to Malatya our brother Ugur was still alive, but his condition was critical. Around 5:30 PM Ugur entrusted his spirit to the Lord.
Dear brothers and sisters, that painful moment has slowly come into perspective for us so that now we have begun to see some things as we should. For example, it appears that those who murdered or arranged for the murder of these brothers are getting what they hoped for. By means of our reactions we may unwittingly help them. If we do not bring the facts into the light, these people will end up getting what they desired.
Brothers Tilmann, Necati, and Ugur were murdered in a bloodthirsty way. This is a fact. But there are also some inaccurate claims about this massacre and one of these is the extent of the torture. According to rumors brother Tilmann was stabbed with a knife 156 times. Brother Ugur had countless knife wounds, it has been said. These rumors, however, are unfounded. At the morgue we wanted to put brother Tilmann’s body, which was in a plastic bag, into the coffin, but the officials and police did not like this. “It is sinful to do it this way, we should wrap the corpse in a shroud,” they said. I accepted this idea and did what was right in their eyes. I asked them for a shroud (white cloth) and the officials moved Tilmann’s body out of the plastic bag, which they placed to the side. I took advantage of this opportunity to examine brother Tilmann’s body as far down as his stomach. I did not see any knife wounds. Only Tilmann’s throat had been slit 8-10 centimeters and there was the stitched autopsy incision down the middle of Tilmann’s chest. Unfortunately there are very different rumors circulating about brothers Tilmann and Necati. It has been said that their noses, lips, and ears were cut. These rumors do not reflect the truth. I telephoned our brother Ed Grudier in Adana because I knew he had seen brother Tilmann’s body. I asked him about the knife wounds on brother Tilmann’s body. Ed said to me, “Brother, I came across three or four knife blows in the chest area. I didn’t see his back. On his face I can’t say there were knife wounds, but scratches, maybe from hitting his face when he fell down.” I knew that Ihsan Ozbek from Ankara had seen bodies. I asked him which bodies he had seen and he said, “I saw the chest area of both Tilmann and Necati. I saw purple [from bruising] on Necati’s lips and chin, but I did not see knife wounds. I looked at brother Tilmann’s chest, but I did not see knife wounds.” These are the statments of those you saw the bodies of these two brothers.
It is true that our brothers were knifed and tortured. But it was not to the extent of statements such as “too many wounds to count, beyond description.” Apparently Ed Grudier looked more carefully than brother Ihsan and I did. Ed saw three or four knife wounds in the chest.
No one saw brother Ugur’s body because on the night of the same day the murder happened, around midnight, his family took his body for burial.
I believe that brother Ugur had knife wounds similar to those of our other two brothers. It has been said that Ugur was stabbed all over his body, including his genitals. I do not believe this. You may ask why I don’t beleive this. I think someone stabbed this much would die on the spot. Ugur would not have been able to remain alive until 5:30 PM if he had been stabbed so much. That nothing abnormal happened to Ugur can be understood [from the fact that] exaggerated statements have been about our other two brothers, too.
Therefore we reach the following conclusion: yes, these brothers were tortured, but not to the extent that has been explained.
We are sons and daughters of the truth. Unfortunately unfounded news reports and media exaggerations have now gone out all over the world. Our brothers and sisters and people sensitive [to such news] have been misinformed. We do not intend to offend anyone. But whether the true facts are, let us report them without exaggeration. Let people everywhere think about the plain facts.
Who started these exaggerated facts [about the Malatya massacre]? We purpose two possibilities:
Those who perpetrated the crime planned this [the spreading of exaggerated facts] from the beginning and the murderers were simply tools for these people [who had planned to blow the murder into exaggerated proportions]. The goal of those who planned this murder and the exaggerated claims was both to frighten the Christians living in Turkey, causing them to shrink back and be timid, and to humiliate Turkey as a country that invites and causes such bloodthirty massacre, thereby damaging Turkey’s chances of entering the European Union and making matters worse in the country. Furthermore, [the planners of this massacre] wanted to give the government and our people the impression that Christians distort and exaggerate everything.
In every situation we see that the media either totally disregards something we say or totally exploits it. We investigated the bloody clothing that was submitted to the public as the underclothing of our brothers. None of this clothing belonged to our brothers. That clothing had been taken off the bodies of people shot to death weeks earlier. But what did the media do? They took this clothing and presented it as freshly removed from the bodies of our brothers. Is there anyone who does not yet know about the exaggerations and sometimes boldfaced lies of the media?
Therefore, brothers and sisters, if we do not explain the true facts to you our hearts will not find peace. I have written this report because I have read exaggerated or unfounded facts in news both home and abroad. The true facts are those in this report. Before sending these facts to you, as you will see below, I have requested statements from our brothers Ihsan Ozbek and Ed Grudier. I have had these statments translated from English in order to pass them on to you. [affirmations not included in this excerpt as none of them were from firsthand witnesses]
May the Lord bless you abundantly.
Ahmet Guvener, pastor of Diyarbakir Church

Last Saturday, approximately 500 believers (national and foreign) gathered in a demonstration of solidarity, to honor the lives of these colleagues. Despite the heavy police and media coverage in a country that is 99.9% Muslim, each of us had determined that is was worth the risk and exposure, to stand together for our Lord. After all, it seemed a small sacrifice, compared to the loss experienced by the wives, children and fiancé of the deceased.

What we witnessed has changed our lives! As the body was carried into the courtyard, high upon the shoulders of our Turkish brothers, spontaneous applause burst forth! I leaned over to my national friend and queried, “Is this normal for funerals, in your culture?” “No,” he asserted, “it’s because he’s a martyr!” As the casket continued its journey toward the front, beautiful worship music erupted—somewhat reminiscent of a Gregorian chant. Then everyone joined together in the singing of praise songs in the native tongue. However, what followed nearly took our breath away! Approximately ten National leaders proclaimed openly the Gospel in front of television cameras, newspaper reporters, police officials and several other important officials. Fearlessly, yet with gentle strength each shared his faith in Christ, and His forgiveness of those who had committed the heinous murders! Additionally, they shared that Christ had won the Victory, and at this very hour the martyrs were standing before the very throne of God! Several mentioned that the lives of these men were perhaps the seeds that must be planted in order for a harvest to come forth. One pastor passionately exclaimed, “We will spread this message, God’s Word, because we are children of the Word! You may kill us all, but we will spread this message, because we love you and because Jesus loves you! We forgive the attackers, because we too, have been forgiven.” Powerful applause, “Amens” and “Hallelujahs” erupted from among the scores of nationalities represented there! It was awesome!

However, what happened next.....can only be explained by the supernatural love and strength that God alone can give. Spontaneously, in an unplanned moment-- Necati’s wife asked if she could speak. “Amid her tears she spoke of her forgiveness of the very men who had tortured and killed her husband, and the father of her children! In an emotion filled voice, she asserted: “I know my Necati was praying for them, even while he was being tortured.” She also spoke of the wonderful love they shared as a family and their joy in serving the Lord together. Lastly, she stated “I loved my husband very, very much---but, I love my Jesus even more. And that is how I can face tomorrow.” Again thunderous applause burst forth! We were spell bound!
In the closing moments of this incredible service, one of the pastors shouted “Afferin Necati!!! Afferin Tilman!!! Afferin Ugur!!!---Which translated means--- “Well done Necati!! Well done Tilman!! Well done Ugur!! As we looked up, we noticed that the media stood utterly dumbfounded! We were quite certain they had never witnessed anything like this before. Yet, as believers we knew we had been in the very presence of the Lord.

1 comment:

  1. Terribly sad.
    Each has met their reward though.
    I enjoy your blog which I happened upon today.


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