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April 28, 2007

Praying for the Persecuted Church

A letter to the Global Church from The Protestant Church of Smyrna

Dear friends,

This past week has been filled with much sorrow. Many of you have
heard by now of our devastating loss here in an event that took place
in Malatya, a Turkish province 300 miles northeast of Antioch, the
city where believers were first called Christians (Acts 11:26).

On Wednesday morning, April 18, 2007, 46 year old German missionary
and father of three Tilman Geske prepared to go to his office, kissing
his wife goodbye taking a moment to hug his son and give him the
priceless memory, "Goodbye, son. I love you."

Tilman rented an office space from Zirve Publishing where he was
preparing notes for the new Turkish Study Bible. Zirve was also the
location of the Malatya Evangelist Church office. A ministry of the
church, Zirve prints and distributes Christian literature to Malatya
and nearby cities in Eastern Turkey. In another area of town, 35 year
old Pastor Necati Aydin, father of two, said goodbye to his wife,
leaving for the office as well. They had a morning Bible Study and
prayer meeting that some other believers in town would also be
attending. Ugur Yuksel likewise made his way to the Bible study.

None of these three men knew that what awaited them at the Bible study
was the ultimate testing and application of their faith, which would
conclude with their entrance into glory to receive their crown of
righteousness from Christ and honor from all the saints awaiting them
in the Lord's presence.

On the other side of town, ten young men all under 20 years old put
into place final arrangements for their ultimate act of faith, living
out their love for Allah and hatred of infidels who they felt
undermined Islam.

On Resurrection Sunday, five of these men had been to a
by-invitation-only evangelistic service that Pastor Necati and his men
had arranged at a hotel conference room in the city. The men were
known to the believers as "seekers."

No one knows what happened in the hearts of those men as they listened to the
gospel. Were they touched by the Holy Spirit? Were they convicted of sin? Did
they hear the gospel in their heart of hearts? Today we only have the beginning
of their story.

These young men, one of whom is the son of a mayor in the Province of
Malatya, are part of a tarikat, or a group of "faithful believers" in
Islam. Tarikat membership is highly respected here; it's like a
fraternity membership. In fact, it is said that no one can get into
public office without membership in a tarikat.

These young men all lived in the same dorm, all preparing for university
entrance exams. The young men got guns, breadknives, ropes and towels
ready for their final act of service to Allah. They knew there would
be a lot of blood. They arrived in time for the Bible Study, around 10

The rest of the letter is below the fold. Be aware it include sensitive, graphic information.

They arrived, and apparently the Bible Study began. Reportedly, after
Necati read a chapter from the Bible the assault began. The boys tied
Ugur, Necati, and Tilman's hands and feet to chairs and as they
videoed their work on their cellphones, they tortured our brothers for
almost three hours*

[Details of the torture deleted.]

Neighbors in workplaces near the printhouse said later they had heard
yelling, but assumed the owners were having a domestic argument so
they did not respond. Meanwhile, another believer Gokhan and his wife
had a leisurely morning. He slept in till 10, ate a long breakfast and
finally around 12:30 he and his wife arrived at the office. The door
was locked from the inside, and his key would not work. He phoned and
though it had connection on his end he did not hear the phone ringing
inside. He called cell phones of his brothers and finally Ugur
answered his phone. "We are not at the office. Go to the hotel
meeting. We are there. We will come there," he said cryptically. As
Ugur spoke Gokhan heard in the telephone's background weeping and a
strange snarling sound.

He phoned the police, and the nearest officer arrived in about five
minutes. He pounded on the door, "Police, open up!" Initially the
officer thought it was a domestic disturbance. At that point they
heard another snarl and a gurgling moan. The police understood that
sound as human suffering, prepared the clip in his gun and tried over
and over again to burst through the door. One of the frightened
assailants unlocked the door for the policeman, who entered to find a
grisly scene.

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.

Three assailants in front of the policeman dropped their weapons.
Meanwhile Gokhan heard a sound of yelling in the street. Someone had
fallen from their third story office. Running down, he found a man on
the ground, whom he later recognized, named Emre Gunaydin. He had
massive head trauma and, strangely, was snarling. He had tried to
climb down the drainpipe to escape, and losing his balance had
plummeted to the ground. It seems that he was the main leader of the
attackers. Another assailant was found hiding on
a lower balcony.

To untangle the web we need to back up six years. In April 2001, the
National Security Council of Turkey (Milli Guvenlik Kurulu) began to
consider evangelical Christians as a threat to national security, on
equal footing as Al Quaida and PKK terrorism. Statements made in the
press by political leaders, columnists and commentators have fueled a
hatred against missionaries who they claim bribe young people to
change their religion.

After that decision in 2001, attacks and threats on churches, pastors
and Christians began. Bombings, physical attacks, verbal and written
abuse are only some of the ways Christians are being targetted. Most
significant is the use of media propaganda.

From December 2005, after having a long meeting regarding the
Christian threat, the wife of Former Prime Minister Ecevit, historian
Ilber Ortayli, Professor Hasan Unsal, Politician Ahmet Tan and
writer/propogandist Aytunc Altindal, each in their own profession
began a campaign to bring the public's attention to the looming threat
of Christians who sought to "buy their children's souls". Hidden
cameras in churches have taken church service footage and used it
sensationally to promote fear and antagonism toward Christianity.

In an official televised response from Ankara, the Interior Minister
of Turkey smirked as he spoke of the attacks on our brothers. Amid
public outrage and protests against the event and in favor of freedom
of religion and freedom of thought, media and official comments ring
with the same message, "We hope you have learned your lesson. We do
not want Christians here."

It appears that this was an organized attack initiated by an unknown
adult tarikat leader. As in the Hrant Dink murder in January 2007, and
a Catholic priest Andrea Santoro in

February 2006, minors are being used to commit religious murders
because public sympathy for youth is strong and they face lower
penalties than an adult convicted of the same crime. Even the parents
of these children are in favor of the acts. The mother of the 16 year
old boy who killed the Catholic priest Andrea Santoro looked at the
cameras as her son was going to prison and said, "he will serve time
for Allah."

The young men involved in the killing are currently in custody. Today
news reported that they would be tried as terrorists, so their age
would not affect the strict penalty. Assailant Emre Gunaydin is still
in intensive care. The investigation centers around him and his
contacts and they say will fall apart if he does not recover.

The Church in Turkey responded in a way that honored God as hundreds
of believers and dozens of pastors flew in as fast as they could to
stand by the small church of Malatya and encourage the believers, take
care of legal issues, and represent Christians to the media.

When Susanne Tilman expressed her wish to bury her husband in Malatya,
the Governor tried to stop it, and when he realized he could not stop
it, a rumor was spread that "it is a sin to dig a grave for a
Christian." In the end, in an undertaking that should be remembered in
Christian history forever, the men from the church in Adana (near
Tarsus), grabbed shovels and dug a grave for their slain brother in an
un-tended hundred year old Armenian graveyard.

Ugur was buried by his family in an Alevi Muslim ceremony in his
hometown of Elazig, his believing fiance watching from the shadows as
his family and friends refused to accept in death the faith Ugur had
so long professed and died for.

Necati's funeral took place in his hometown of Izmir, the city where
he came to faith. The darkness does not understand the light. Though
the churches expressed their forgiveness for the event, Christians
were not to be trusted.

Before they would load the coffin onto the plane from Malatya, it went
through two separate xray exams to make sure it was not loaded with
explosives. This is not a usual procedure for Muslim coffins.

Necati's funeral was a beautiful event. Like a glimpse of heaven,
thousands of Turkish Christians and missionaries came to show their
love for Christ, and their honor for this man chosen to die for
Christ. Necati's wife Shemsa told the world, "His death was full of
meaning, because he died for Christ and he lived for Christ… Necati
was a gift from God. I feel honored that he was in my life, Ifeel
crowned with honor. I want to be worthy of that honor."

Boldly the believers took their stand at Necati's funeral, facing the
risks of being seen publicly and likewise becoming targets. As
expected, the anti-terror police attended and videotaped everyone
attending the funeral for their future use.

The service took place outside at Buca Baptist church, and he was
buried in a small Christian graveyard in the outskirts of Izmir.

Two assistant Governors of Izmir were there solemnly watching the
event from the front row. Dozens of news agencies were there
documenting the events with live news and photographs. Who knows the
impact the funeral had on those watching? This is the beginning of
their story as well. Pray for them.

In an act that hit front pages in the largest newspapers in Turkey,
Susanne Tilman in a television interview expressed her forgiveness.
She did not want revenge, she told reporters. "Oh God, forgive them
for they know not what they do," she said, wholeheartedly agreeing
with the words of Christ on Calvary (Luke 23:34).

In a country where blood-for-blood revenge is as normal as breathing,
many many reports have come to the attention of the church of how this
comment of Susanne Tilman has changed lives. One columnist wrote of
her comment, "She said in one sentence what 1000 missionaries in 1000
years could never do."
The missionaries in Malatya will most likely
move out, as their families and children have become publicly
identified as targets to the hostile city. The remaining 10 believers
are in hiding. What will happen to this church, this light in the
darkness? Most likely it will go underground. Pray for wisdom, that
Turkish brothers from other cities will go to lead the leaderless
church. Should we not be concerned for that great city of Malatya, a
city that does not know what it is doing? (Jonah 4:11)

When our Pastor Fikret Bocek went with a brother to give a statement
to the Security Directorate on Monday they were ushered into the
Anti-Terror Department. On the wall was a huge chart covering the
whole wall listing all the terrorist cells in Izmir, categorized. In
one prominent column were listed all the evangelical churches in
Izmir. The darkness does not understand the light.

"These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also." (Acts17:6)

Please pray for the Church in Turkey. "Don't pray against persecution,
pray for perseverence," urges Pastor Fikret Bocek.

The Church is better having lost our brothers; the fruit in our lives,
the renewed faith, the burning desire to spread the gospel to quench
more darkness in Malatya …all these are not to be regretted. Pray that
we stand strong against external opposition and especially pray that
we stand strong against internal struggles with sin, our true
debilitating weakness.

This we know. Christ Jesus was there when our brothers were giving
their lives for Him. He was there, like He was when Stephen was being
stoned in the sight of Saul of Tarsus. Someday the video of the deaths
of our brothers may reveal more to us about the strength that we know
Christ gave them to endure their last cross, about the peace the
Spirit of God endowed them with to suffer for their beloved Savior.
But we know He did not leave their side.

We know their minds were full of Scripture strengthening them to
endure, as darkness tried to subdue the unsubduable Light of the
Gospel. We know, in whatever way they were able, with a look or a
word, they encouraged one another to stand strong. We know
they knew they would soon be with Christ. We don't know the details.
We don't know the kind of justice that will or will not be served on
this earth.

But we pray-- and urge you to pray-- that someday at least one of
those five boys will come to faith because of the testimony in death
of Tilman Geske, who gave his life as a missionary to his beloved
Turks, and the testimonies in death of Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel,
the first martyrs for Christ out of the Turkish Church.

Reported by Darlene N. Bocek (24 April 2007)

Please please please pass this on to as many praying Christians as you can,
in as many countries as you can. Please always keep the heading as "From
the Protestant Church of Smyrna" with this contact information:

izmirprotestan@gmail.com // http://www.izmirprotestan.org

(Via Emeth)


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Oh my....sharing with my husband, family and friends....thanks for sharing. These things are hard to read, but necessary to know. Praying.

Posted by: Shanna Wright at April 28, 2007 04:30 PM


Posted by: a suburban housewife at April 28, 2007 06:14 PM

Hi Tulip Girl - Could you send me an email? I've received some new updates and corrections to this initial email that I could forward to you. The contact page didn't seem to be working. So glad you inspired prayer through your blog for His Church in Turkey.

Posted by: Lisa at May 2, 2007 04:09 PM

Thank you for posting this. It is so easy to go about our days forgetting the reality for our fellow Christians in other parts of the world.

Posted by: Martha at May 7, 2007 01:13 PM

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