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Milking Martyrdom

Turkish Mission accused of sending false report.

Appeals for prayer and aid circulated widely among Christians following the April murder of three Christians in Turkey. Now leaders of the country's evangelical community are denouncing one such appeal as dishonest.

Sent under the name of Naim Aksam and his ministry, Turkish Mission, a Bible bookstore in Adana, Turkey, this e-mail included graphic descriptions of the supposed torture and dismemberment of the Malatya martyrs' bodies—descriptions discredited by widows' testimonies and autopsy reports. It also urged readers to send funds to the ministry's U.S. Post Office box to relocate the victims' families and other endangered believers.

Aksam has denied sending the appeal, claiming that someone accessed his ministry's e-mail account and distribution list without permission.

But the Alliance of Protestant Churches of Turkey (TEK) still believes that he sent it, and said that it was rife with "lies and fabrications." In a July 30 statement, the evangelical umbrella organization wrote, "We are shocked and appalled that such a tragic event has been turned into an act of self-promotion and money grabbing." The organization's executive board is urging believers to stop supporting Aksam's ministry, stating that past warnings about his fundraising methods have been ignored.

Kenneth Behr, president of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, said appeals that use free e-mail services, lack Web sites, and list P.O. boxes for contributions ought to raise red flags for donors.

Still, said Todd Nettleton, director of media development for Voice of the Martyrs, "The worst-case scenario here is if people stop giving. For this bad apple to plant the seed of doubt in anybody's mind, that would be a tragedy."

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