Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Slain missionaries mourned in Turkey

Turkey-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.

As in the days of Noah....

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