Turkey has become more and more hostile to its tiny Christian minority. Though the nation is 99 percent Muslim, the government and media look at any activities of Christians with great suspicion. Last year, according to Compass Direct News, an Italian Catholic priest was shot to death while kneeling in his church in the Black Sea port of Trabzon. And in January, an ethnic Armenian Christian journalist was murdered in Istanbul.
Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.
On Wednesday morning, April 18, German missionary Tilmann Geske, a 46-year-old father of three, kissed his wife goodbye and headed to work. He was renting office space at the small Zirve Publishing House, where he was editing a new Turkish study Bible. Zirve shares space with a tiny Protestant church in Malatya, a small town in eastern Turkey. Meanwhile, church pastor Necati Aydin, 35, a father of two who was a convert from Islam, went to that same building for a Bible study.
Also headed to Zirve were two Muslims who had befriended these Christians and expressed an interest in Christ. Upon arrival, the men began discussing the faith. In a little while, however, three more young Muslims arrived, armed with pistols and knives.
For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake.
The two Christians were bound hand and foot to chairs, and the Muslims began stabbing them, slowly and deliberately. Soon, another former Muslim, Ugur Yuksel, 32, showed up, and they tied him up, too. Nearby residents heard moans and shouting but did nothing, believing it was a domestic disturbance. Finally, three hours after the torture began, police were called. The captors then slit the Christians' throats, killing all three.
If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
Quickly apprehended, the suspects were carrying a letter that read in part: "We did it for our country. They are trying to take our country away, take our religion away."
If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.
Yuksel was buried the night of his martyrdom by his Muslim family; Geske two days later in the Armenian cemetery in Malatya; and Aydin on April 21 in his hometown of Izmir. About 500 people attended Aydin's emotional funeral, which received national coverage.
In a television interview, Susanne Geske, wife of the German missionary, said she did not want revenge. "O God, forgive them," she said, "for they know not what they do."
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Copyright © 2007 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.
Other Christianity Today articles on persecution are available on our site.
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.