Published: 00:00 GMT Daylight Time - Monday 23 April 2007
Bible Printers in Turkey Savagely Murdered
Three Christian men in Malatya, eastern Turkey were killed on Wednesday 18th April.
Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel worked at Zirve Publishing House, which prints Bibles and other Christian literature, while the third victim, German national Tilman Ekkehart Geske, worked for a translation company based in Malatya.
The three men were found in the publishing house, bound to chairs by their hands and feet; each of them had been brutally stabbed and had their throats cut. Ugur was still alive when they were found, but died later in hospital from his many wounds.
Tilman's widow, Suzanne Geske, was interviewed on Turkish television, where she explained that she intended to remain in Malatya with her four children. As Jesus prayed forgiveness for those who crucified him, she said "so I am going to forgive the people who took the life of my husband because, truly, they do not know what they were doing. They were fed many lies about what and who Christians are, and I am going to stay here to show them that I forgive them." Necati's widow has also publicly forgiven the killers.
In Turkey it is not illegal for Christians to share their faith; however, Christians who are active in evangelism, or are linked to evangelism such as through the publication of Christian literature, are constantly harassed, including by the police. In addition, Turkish media has for many years portrayed Christians as "enemies of Turkey", or as agents of foreign governments trying to weaken Turkish society. There is fervent nationalism within Turkey, which includes Turkish ethnicity and the Islamic faith, and Malatya is a town with a reputation for strong nationalist feeling. The Christian community in Turkey, who make up less than 1% of the population, have recently seen a rising level of harassment and pressure, stemming from this increased nationalism and Islamic fervour within the country. In the climate of fear and uncertainty, Christian leaders have spoken out about the constant lies and misinformation about Christians in Turkish media, which continues to whip up anti-Christian hatred in the name of Turkish nationalism and its close links with Islam.
Many politicians have publicly condemned the killings. As Turkey continues to try to gain entry to the EU, this violent incident does nothing for Turkey's image in the rest of the world. However the governor of Malatya, Ibrahim Dasoz, has played down the religious aspect of the incident, claiming that it was the result of "internal clashes" within the publishing house.
Five young men, aged between 19 and 20, have been arrested. Each of them carried a note which read "The five of us are brothers, we are going to death, we may not return. Give up any legitimate claim against us."
The Word of God Attacked
The Word of God is powerful, and certainly Christians and organisations working with the printing and distribution of Bibles and Christian literature are often targeted for violence in attempts to prevent the spread of the Gospel. In the early hours of the morning of 15th April a bomb exploded at the doors of the Bible Society book shop in Gaza. The explosions destroyed most of the shop's contents. Thankfully no-one was hurt in the explosions, though the man employed to stand guard at the shop was kidnapped and badly beaten. Two Internet cafes were also damaged by bombs in the attack. In recent months several Internet cafes and music stores have been attacked, and Palestinian officials have said they suspect an Islamic "vice squad" to be responsible.
The Bible shop is the only Christian bookshop in Gaza. It had previously come under attack in February 2006, when two small pipe bombs were exploded at the entrance to the shop. The attack was followed by written warnings for the Christians to close down and leave or the whole shop would be blown up. While the Bible Society shop was closed temporarily the decision was taken to stay, to retain a Christian presence in Gaza. After this new attack the staff are again determined to continue their work of Bible distribution among the 1.5 million non-Christians.
1. Pray for the grieving families of Necati, Ugur and Tilman. Pray that they will know the comfort and closeness of Lord Jesus Christ who understands our pain. Pray especially for Ugur's family who denied him a Christian burial, burying him as a Muslim despite his official registration as a Christian in 2005.
2. Pray for the staff of Zirve publishing house, especially for the manager as he faces an uncertain future for the company. Employees at Zirve have previously received threats, and had recently changed its name to prevent harassment after a shipment of Bibles had been blocked. Pray for protection for all the staff, and for wisdom for the manager.
3. Pray for protection for Christians in Turkey from further attacks. Pray especially that police will act to protect Christians and to effectively halt anti-Christian propaganda which leads to violence. Pray also that the police will actively pursue the case to ensure that those responsible will be brought to justice.
4. Pray that the high media coverage of the killings will allow Turkish Christians to show the true nature of Christ to their Turkish neighbours. Pray that the forgiving reaction of the widows and Christian leaders will lead to many people reassessing their opinion of Christianity. Pray that Turkish Christians will be recognised as loyal members of their nation, rather than being seen as foreigners or enemies.
5. Pray for protection and guidance for those working in the Christian bookshop in Gaza. Give thanks for their courage to remain in order to continue the work God has set before them.