Slain missionaries mourned in Turkey

By January 1, 2008

Turkey (MNN) – The Turkish Interior Ministry has opened a judicial
investigation into accusations against state prosecutors in Malatya for
mishandling the case involving the torture and murder of three Christians in
the southeastern city last April.  

Five men are expected to return to court January 14, accused of murdering
three Christian workers in central Turkey. The defendants face life
sentences for tying up, torturing and slitting the throats of Necati Aydin, 35,
Ugur Yuksel, 32, and German national Tilmann Geske, 46, on April 18 at the
Malatya-based Christian publishing house they ran.

At stake is Turkey's willingness to tackle persecution. Voice of
the Martyrs Canada's
Glenn Penner explains: "If the killers are
allowed to simply get away with lesser charges, or it's seen that these murders
were somehow justified on the basis that these Christians were involved in
missionary activity, then Turkish Christians are certainly going to feel that
they're not equal members of society, and that their religious activities are
going to continue to be under threat." 

Despite the government reforms to facilitate joining the European Union,
there is no indication of increasing religious freedom.

While the Turkish constitution includes freedom of religion, worship
services are only permitted in "buildings created for this purpose,"
and officials have restricted the construction of buildings for minority
religions. In other cases, those who dare to profess Christ face harassment,
threats and prison. Evangelism is difficult.

However, Penner says, "The church is continuing to move forward, and
Christians are continuing to witness. But of course, it does cause some
anxiety. There have been a number of attacks on evangelicals in the last two
years, and they're wanting to know, 'Will our government stand up for us? Will
they defend us? Or will they allow us to be shot, killed and attacked with
impunity?'"

Yet, even in the face of these
horrible events, Christians are recognizing opportunities to talk about their
faith in ways they haven't been able to previously, says Johan Candelin who
heads the Religious Liberty Commission of the World Evangelical Alliance.

Candelin says there's a deep
national sense of confusion in Turkey today. What's added to their confusion,
says Candelin, is the television interviews of the widows. "The widows
came out on national television and said, 'We will stay in Turkey. We love
Turkey.' And, 'I have forgiven the killers because Jesus has forgiven me.' That
has been a strong, strong testimony to the nation of 70 million Muslims."

Many Muslims have come out in
support of the Christians who were killed. However, Candelin says, not all.
"There are also strong nationalistic groups in Turkey that see the
Christians, especially the missionary work they do, as something that will
split the Turkish nation."

The World Evangelical Alliance has a
three-pronged approach to this crisis. They're trying to get all sides talking
and put rumors to rest. Candelin also says a letter has been sent to the Prime
Minister. "We have asked him to come out with a statement that missionary
activity done by Protestants is not bad for the nation, but good."

The WEA is also doing something for
the families. "We have also started a love gift collection for the five
children of two of the martyrs who were killed. We're trying to get love gifts
together so these children can go to school."

Pray for opportunities for Christians in Turkey to share
the truth of Christ.

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