Today is the five-year anniversary of the martyrdom of three very special men. On April 18, 2007, Necati Aydin, Ugur Yuksel and Tilmann Geske were brutally murdered at a Christian publishing house in Malatya, a city in southeastern Turkey. Five young Islamists bound and tortured the two Turkish Christians and one German Christian before killing them at the Zirve Publishing House.
Five suspects, Emre Gunaydin, Salih Guler, Cuma Ozdemir, Hamit Ceker and Abuzer Yildirim, were arrested while trying to leave the crime scene. Their trial, which began on Nov. 22, 2007, has yet to be completed. Prosecutors have tried to show that the murders were related to a sweeping plot to destabilize the Turkish government.
A commonly held belief among Christians is that persecution helps grow God’s kingdom. While it sometimes does, this hasn’t been the case in Turkey since the Malatya murders. Persecution has, however, refined and purified the remaining church. Many nominal Christians and those attending church in hope of financial benefit stopped attending after the murders. After the brutal events of 2007, most churches shrank in membership. But the believers who remain are fully committed to Christ. After the death of their brothers, these believers realized that they, too, could be called to sacrifice their lives.
Within Turkish culture, Christians remain vilified and are treated as second-class citizens. The news media often portray Christianity in a negative light, and some church leaders rely on bodyguards and police protection. In 2011, a Protestant group documented 12 attacks against Christians, and the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom added Turkey to its list of 16 “Countries of Particular Concern” this year.
Yet the faithful few remain, following Christ in a difficult environment and continuing to share the name of Jesus as the solution to an otherwise meaningless life. Two of the murdered men’s widows have publicly forgiven their husbands’ killers, and both families remain in ministry in Turkey. Five years later, we have yet to see the spiritual fruit of this event, but we know it will come. God works all things together for good to those who love him (Rom. 8:28).
Read the story of Necati Aydin and learn more about the Church in Turkey in Faithful Until Death, a new book written by Necati’s brother-in-law, who is a Christian worker in Turkey. This account of the life of one of the Malatya martyrs will deepen your faith in the one whom Necati followed, even unto death. You can order a copy of Faithful Until Death at VOMBooks.com.