Once a predominately Christian nation, today Turkey is a Muslim majority country with an estimated Christian population of less than half of a percent. Turkish Christians are accused of being western collaborators and not real Turks. Churches are often targets of extremist with very little government protection. In spite of extreme opposition the numbers of Christians from Muslim backgrounds continue to grow.
Converts from Islam face extreme persecution — rejection from families, loss of jobs, pressure from local authorities and more. Converting to Christianity is considered a great shame. In a culture where honor and shame are the fabric of society — conversion comes at a high price.
Some pay with their lives — or the lives of those they love. Not unlike, Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel and Tilmann Geske, who were murdered in their office at Zirve Publising in Malatya, Turkey on April 18, 2007. Those who were responsible for the murders of Necati, Ugur, and Tilman weren’t all strangers to these men or their families. To the contrary, one of the murderers had sought Necati out earlier pretending to be interested in his Christian faith. Necati was suspicious of this young man from the beginning. He and his wife Semse discussed this, and concluded that in spite of the young man’s motives, a meeting would still offer an opportunity to share the message of Jesus with him. Later Semse would refer to those who were responsible for the murders of her husband, Ugur, and Tilman as “their Judas.”
The day following the brutal murder of her husband, Semse went on national TV and offered forgiveness to her husband’s killers, along with the widow of one of the other martyrs.
“It was not easy for me to say that I forgive the killers.” Semse said later at the memorial service. “To be honest, my heart is broken and my life feels shattered. I really loved Necati. He was the love of my life, my closest friend. But there is no one I love more than Jesus. Only because of this, I can bear it.” – Semse Aydin
Today, Jesus continues to meet modern day Sauls of Tarsus on their “Damascus Roads.” Ananias House is there, on the ground, assisting with resources to enable the church to be the place for restoration, healing and hope. Pray for the church in Turkey and their new believers.