Last spring, when Denise McGill and Tony Carnes were invited to an international conference in Istanbul for Christians in journalism, we saw an important reporting opportunity crop up. But in April, the story about Christianity in Turkey took a sharp turn for the worse when ultranationalists brutally murdered three Christians in Malatya.

Tony, a senior writer for CT, and Denise, professor of visual journalism at Palm Beach Atlantic University, arrived in Istanbul six weeks after the killings. They found the Christian community still in shock. International tensions were high as Turkish troops were deployed along the southern border to repel Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq.

"The martyrs—that permeated every conversation," Denise says, describing her discussions with the Christians closest to the surviving family members. "People were guarded on the telephone. They were looking over their shoulders."

Denise spent three days with Semse, widow of slain pastor Necati Aydin, and their two young children. "It was clear she needed someone to listen to her," says Denise. "My role as a journalist is to get the word out to other people. But being on the scene was a real blessing to the people who were there. This is a story important to the kingdom."

Daily life for Turkish Christians is significantly more difficult if they speak openly about their faith convictions. One Christian leader told Denise, "Christianity is not illegal, but neither is it legitimate."

Christians are keenly aware of their low social status. "They are a minority, so you see humility," says Denise. "The joy that they have in Christ comes from an inner strength, not material wealth. In the States, we associate Christianity with 'Be all you can be.' We expect God to give us very rich, fulfilling lives. That's really not the expectation in Turkey. The greatness is in heaven."

Straddling two continents, Istanbul is renowned as both a marketplace and the crossroads of Europe, the Middle East, and central Asia. Tony Carnes told me he was walking along the waterfront one day when a persistent drug pusher offered to sell him "anything you wanted." After repeatedly turning him down, Tony finally exclaimed, "My editor won't approve that expense!" Thankfully, that kept Tony (and CT editors) out of hot water with our auditors.

As Tony and Denise drew closer to Turkish Christians, their role became more than journalistic—almost getting goose bumps as they found themselves witnessing the rebirth of an ancient faith.

Article continues below

Turkish churches have lived with Islamic rule for more than five centuries. The genocide that occurred during World War I nearly wiped out the Turkish

Armenian Orthodox church. Today the church is growing again, now under the charismatic leadership of people like Mesrob Mutafyan. Unexpectedly, Turkish Kurds are increasingly attracted to independent churches, even though these churches do not explicitly evangelize Kurds. Instead, these churches build trust through building relationships. This first-century evangelistic method in a twenty-first-century context is making a difference.

•  •  •

Next Issue: Like many of their Turkish counterparts, ancient-future evangelicals increasingly think the church's future lies in the past; Democratic strategists try to woo the faithful; and Hollywood produces a series of pro-life plots.

Related Elsewhere:

Our January 2008 articles on Turkey also include a slideshow and:

A Victorious Family | A murdered pastor's family rebuilds its life. (January 4, 2008)
Justice Delayed | Security worries stall recognition of Armenian Genocide. (January 4, 2008)
Jesus in Turkey | After 550 years of decline, a bloodied church is being reborn. (January 3, 2008)
Accidental Outreach | Christian leaders avoid targeting Kurds, but reach them anyway. (January 3, 2008)

Articles on the Malatya killings last April include:

Milking Martyrdom | Turkish Mission accused of sending false report. (September 14, 2007)
Faith Perfected | Recent martyrdoms sadden us but cannot make us despair. A Christianity Today editorial (July 12, 2007)
Young Muslims in Turkey Murder Three Christians | Deaths mark first known martyrdom of Turkish converts since founding of republic. (April 20, 2007)
From CT Liveblog: On Trial in Turkey | Malatya murder trial defense finds footing by playing to anti- missionary sentiments. Also: the roots of anti-Christian violence in Turkey. (November 30, 2007)

How you can help:

Open Doors USA has a campaign to send letters of encouragement to the martyrs' families.
Funds for the families are being collected by the Alliance of Protestant Churches of Turkey. (Please be warned that there are scams being circulated by other entities.) Inquiries can be sent to or, or to Turkish World Outreach, 508 Fruitvale Court, Grand Junction, CO 81504, United States. Donors should designate "Survivors Fund" on their checks.

The BBC and the New York Times have sections with recent news and information about Turkey.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.