Necati Aydin, Tilman Geske and Ugur Yuksel, (L to R) who were martyred by Muslims in Turkey
A memorial service has been scheduled in Istanbul tomorrow for three Christian martyrs who were slain in a vicious attack by Muslims who had agreed to meet them at a Bible publishing house in Turkey one year ago.
Compass Direct is reporting the service will be held at St. Esprit Cathedral in honor of the lives of Tilman Geske of Germany and Turkish nationals Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel.
According to Forum 18 News, a Turkish Protestant commentator described 2007 as a "dark year" for their community.
Some Christians are hiring private security companies and locking their doors during worship because of fears about the violence threatened against Christians, the report said.
The three were martyred on April 18, 2007 by several Muslims who now are on trial for the deaths.
The most recent court hearing included statements from defendants Cuma Ozdemir, Abuzer Yildirim and Salih Gurler, who like Hamit Ceker, the first suspect to testify in January, said that a fifth man, Emre Gunaydin, actually was the ringleader and responsible for the deaths of the three Christians.
According to Compass Direct, testimony from the latest three to take the stand alleged Gunaydin deceived them, and they believed they were going to infiltrate and intimidate the Christians.
He convinced the others the Christians were trying to destroy Islam and divide Turkey, Compass said.
Gurler said Gunaydin said the night before the attack, "We will go to their office and gather information."
The knives and rope they purchased to take along were to "frighten" the Christians, he alleged. Ozdemir said Gunaydin told them he would explain the need for the guns they were taking "later."
Compass reported the three have admitted they followed Gunaydin's orders to tie the Christians' hands and feet and stuff their mouths with towels.
Ceker testified previously the murders came about because Gundayin decided he wouldn't leave the Christians alive because they could identify him.
Prosecutors are seeking lifetime-plus jail sentences for all five defendants.
Ceker earlier testified he and other Islamists carried newly purchased knives, plastic gloves and Islamic prayer inscriptions, but their goal was information.
Christians, who make up less than 1 percent of the population in Turkey, have been subjected to numerous attacks in recent years. In 2006, a Turkish teen shot to death a Roman Catholic priest as he prayed in his church. Two other priests were attacked the same year. Early last year came the death of Armenian Christian editor Hrant Dink.
The three victims of the publishing house attack were found with their hands and legs bound and their throats slit. Authorities said police were dispatched after getting calls about a fight.
When the attack became known, Geske's widow, Susanne, responded in a way that hit the front pages of the nation's largest newspapers.
"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, 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.'"
Titled "A letter to the Global Church from The Protestant Church of Smyrna," it was received by VOM shortly after the slayings, and the ministry organization that works with the Persecuted Church worldwide publicized it.
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 told of a Bible study that was planned that morning involving the three Christians and apparently five Muslims who had been invited.
"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."
Court proceedings are scheduled to continue in May.