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 martyrsthat 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 ...1