Last week we reported on the murder on Wednesday, April 18 of three Christian evangelists in the east Turkey city of Malatya (46 year old German missionary and father of three, Tilman Geske; 35 year old ex-Muslim, pastor of the local church, and father of two Necati Aydin; and Ugur Yudsel, a younger, ex-Muslim, already engaged to be married).
The young Muslims who performed the murder were university students, all 19 years old (this was planned on purpose, as Turkish criminal law prevents harsh punishment for minors under 20).
The boys tied Ugur, Necati, and Tilman’s hands and feet to chairs and as they videoed their work on cellphones, they tortured them for almost three hours.
Tilman was stabbed 156 times, Necati 99 times, and Ugur’s stabs were too numerous to count. They were disemboweled, and their intestines sliced up in front of their eyes. They were emasculated and watched as those body parts were destroyed. Fingers were chopped off, and their noses and mouths and anuses were sliced open.
When the police finally broke in, they found that Tilman and Necati had been slaughtered, practically decapitated with their necks slit from ear to ear. Ugur’s throat was likewise slit and he was barely alive (dying shortly thereafter).
Over 500 hundred Christians showed up from all over Turkey to attend Necati's funeral in Izmir (including our friend and coworker MN, who carried with him donations for Necati's widow Semse, from Messianic believers in Israel). There are only a few thousand evangelical Christians in Turkey, a Muslim country numbering over 70 million people.
The front pages of all the largest newspapers in Turkey carried an interview with Susanne (Tilman's widow), saying "God forgive them for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). In a nation where blood revenge is a normal part of the culture, Suzanne's statement of forgiveness came as a shock to many. One newspaper columnist wrote: “She said in one sentence what 1000 missionaries in 1000 years could never do.”
The funeral was covered by all five of the major Turkish television news networks (as well as being filmed by the Turkish secret police). In a powerful message, Ishan Ozturk, head of the Protestant Churches in Turkey proclaimed, "For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain" (Philippians 1:23).
At the price of the blood of these martyrs and by the risking of the lives of the local Turkish Christians, the gospel has touched an entire Muslim nation in an unprecedented way. At the very time this speech was being given, the Holy Spirit fell upon our fellowship in Jerusalem, with Jewish believers falling to the ground, weeping in prayer, crying out for the salvation of the Turkish people.
Let us continue in faith and prayer at this turning point in the history of the Turkish nation. As it is said, "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the gospel."