Editor’s Note: This report contains a graphic description of the martyrdom of three Christian men.
In an act that hit the front pages of the largest newspapers in Turkey, the widow of a martyred Christian told reporters she did not want revenge against the Muslims who killed her husband and two others, according to a new report from Voice of the Martyrs.
“Oh God, forgive them for they know not what they do,” she said, agreeing with the words of Christ on Calvary (Luke 23.34), according to a letter Christians in Turkey have written to the worldwide church, a letter released through Voice of the Martyrs.
“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 [Geske] has changed lives,” the letter said. “One columnist wrote of her comment, ‘She said in one sentence what 1,000 missionaries in 1,000 years could never do.’”
Necati Aydin, Tilman Geske and Ugur Yuksel, (L to R) who were martyred by Muslims in Turkey
She is the widow of Tilman Geske, a German citizen who along with two Turkish Christians were martyred recently – allegedly by five Muslims who met the three victims at a Christian publishing company for a Bible study.
Authorities have taken several suspects into custody, and their cases remain pending.
The letter titled “A letter to the Global Church from The Protestant Church of Smyrna” was received by VOM shortly after the slayings, and the ministry organization that works with the Persecuted Church worldwide is publicizing it.
“The Voice of the Martyrs has already been actively involved in assisting the families of these courageous Christians. We encourage you to pray for them as they grieve, and to pray that this will be a significant turning point for the gospel in Turkey,” the organization said.
VOM noted that 2,000 years earlier, this location of Christians was addressed in Rev. 2:8-11: “And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write… ‘Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation 10 days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.’”
The letter describes the work Geske, 46, was doing on a new Turkish Study Bible. That morning, he went to the offices of Zirve Publishing, which produces and distributes Christian literature to Malatya and other parts of eastern Turkey, for a Bible study. Pastor Necati Aydin, the father of two, also left for the same office, as did Ugur Yuksel.
“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,” the letter said.
Also heading to the Bible study were five men thought to be “seekers” who had been guests of Pastor Necati at an invitation-only evangelistic service earlier.
“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,” the letter said.
“The young men got guns, bread knives, 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 o’clock,” the letter said. “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.”
The letter included the following graphic details of the torture:
“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, their noses and mouths and anuses were sliced open. Possibly the worst part was watching as their brothers were likewise tortured. Finally, their throats were sliced from ear to ear, heads practically decapitated.”
The letter released by Voice of the Martyrs said neighbors thought the noise was a domestic argument so they did not respond.
Another believer, Gokhan, arrived about 12:30, but couldn’t get in, so he called.
“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,” the letter said. He called police.
When officers entered, they found, “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,” the letter said.
Several assailants were caught in the room, and two nearby, including one who apparently tried to jump out a window to flee and was seriously hurt.
The letter said persecution of Christians – bombings, physical attacks, verbal and written abuse as well as media propaganda — moved into the intense range following a decision in 2001 by the National Security Council of Turkey to consider Christians a threat to national security on the same level as al-Qaida.
The letter described cameras in churches to promote fear and antagonism towards Christians.
What Turkey witnessed from its Christians was something else. “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,” the letter said.
When Susanne Geske desired to bury her husband in Malatya, the local officials spread rumors it was a sin to dig a grave for a Christian, so volunteers from the church in Adana dug the grave in an untended 100-year-old Armenian graveyard, the letter said.
Ugur was buried with “his believing fianc?e watching from the shadows as his family and friends refused to accept in death the faith Ugur had so long professed and died for,” the letter said.
“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 X-ray exams to make sure it was not loaded with explosives,” the letter said. “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, I feel crowned with honor. I want to be worthy of that honor.’”
Then Susanne Geske expressed her forgiveness in a television interview that was reported on front pages across Turkey.
The letter said the Malatya missionaries most likely will move, as they’ve been identified as targets in that hostile city, and the remaining 10 believers have gone into 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 leadership church,” the letter said.
“Please pray for the Church in Turkey,” wrote Pastor Fikret Bocek. “Don’t pray against persecution, pray for perseverance.”
“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,” the letter said. “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 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,” the letter said.
Susanne said she planned to remain in Turkey with her children, Michal Janina, 13, Lukas, 10, and Miriam, 8.
Voice of the Martyrs
is a non-profit, interdenominational ministry working worldwide to help Christians who are persecuted for their faith, and to educate the world about that persecution. Its headquarters are in Bartlesville, Okla., and it has 30 affiliated international offices.
It was launched by the late Richard and Sabina Wurmbrand, who started smuggling Russian Gospels into Russia in 1947, just months before Richard was abducted and imprisoned in Romania where he was tortured for his refusal to recant Christianity.
He eventually was released in 1964 and the next year he testified about the persecution of Christians before the U.S. Senate’s Internal Security Subcommittee, stripping to the waist to show the deep torture wound scars on his body.
The group that later was renamed The Voice of the Martyrs was organized in 1967, when his book, “Tortured for Christ,” was released.