Martyrdom in Turkey
The Seed of the Church
Just a few weeks ago, Christians gathered in the Holy Land to remember the Armenian victims of genocide. Between 1915 and 1919, 1.5 million Armenians living in Turkey were slaughtered. Shockingly, few today have even heard about the brutal persecution that nearly annihilated this ancient people—who, by the way, chose Christianity as their national religion in 301 A.D.
Ironically, one day after last month's commemoration, Islamic extremists slit the throats of three Christians working at a Bible publishing house in Turkey—the very country where Armenian Christians were nearly exterminated. The world's silence on this latest attack on Christians is deafening. As writer Daniel Pulliam wondered aloud at Getreligion.org, "What would the news coverage look like if three Muslims were found with their throats slit in an Islamic publishing house . . . ?" One can only imagine.
Necati Aydin was one of the three martyrs. Born into an Islamic family, he converted to Christianity in 1994. Necati openly and actively proclaimed his faith, even distributing Bibles on the street. In 2000 he spent four weeks in jail for doing so, even though such distribution is legal in Turkey. Because they could find no grounds for keeping him, authorities released Necati. Soon after, he relocated to Malatya, where he was a pastor of a local Protestant church. He also worked at the Zirve Publishing House, a Christian publishing house that has made some 10,000 Bibles available to interested Turks.
At the funeral in Izmir, Turkey, applause erupted when Necati's coffin was carried into the church yard. Spontaneously, more than five hundred brave mourners broke out in a chorus based on Lamentations, singing "The compassion of the Lord never fails; His mercy never ceases." And Necati's wife spoke about the meaning of her husband's death, saying simply, "He died for Jesus, because he loved Jesus."
Sadly, this brutal attack against Christians in Turkey is not an isolated incident. In 2006, a Catholic priest was shot in Trabzon while praying. And a few months ago, Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink was brutally murdered. Dink had served time in prison for "insulting Turkishness" for an article he wrote about the Armenian genocide. Simply speaking the truth about the genocide had left Dink with many enemies.
You see, in Turkey, the potent mix of radical nationalism and religious extremism can breed this type of violence against the perceived threat posed by the Christian West. Dr. Christine Schirrmacher, an Islamic studies scholar in Germany, puts it this way: For these extremists "the mere existence of Christians on Turkish soil [is] an immediate assault which threatens to undermine the unity and character of the Turkish nation."
You may be wondering what you can do. First, pray for God's protection of Christians in Turkey and for the Turkish government to reign in the violence against Christians. Next, you can give of your resources. The seminary where Necati studied has established a fund for the families of the victims and for the churches in Turkey. Visit our website, www.breakpoint.org, for more information. Perhaps through our prayers and gifts, as the early apologist Tertullian once wrote, the death of these martyrs will indeed be the seed of the Church in Turkey.
From BreakPoint®, May 9, 2007, Copyright 2007, Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with the permission of Prison Fellowship Ministries. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or distributed without the express written permission of Prison Fellowship Ministries. "BreakPoint®" and "Prison Fellowship Ministries®" are registered trademarks of Prison Fellowship Ministries