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This is a thrilling and yet sobering true story written by a missionary to Turkey. In the preface Todd Jamison (International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Church) says:
On April 18, 2007, three men gave their lives for Jesus Christ. Two Turkish Christians and one German . . . began their day simply wanting to spend time with local men they thought genuinely wanted to study the Bible. Instead, five hostile young men met their kindness and hospitality with betrayal and treachery.
Very few followers of Christ in the rest of the world heard the story. Lost in the flood of news in our information age, it appeared to be just another senseless murder. But the deaths
of Necati Aydin, Ug
Martyrs of Malatya: Martyred for the Messiah in Turkey is the sober account of the murder of three Christians for being witnesses to the Gospel in Turkey written by James Wright (a pseudonym). Wright tells the story of how two Turkish men, Necati and Ugur, became Christians –– separately, by question their beliefs and meeting Christians as young men. He also tells of the German, Tilmann, who would move to Turkey to spread the Gospel. The three men ended up working in a publishing house and spreading the Gospel through what I would call, “friendship evangelism.” They got to know people and raised questions of faith with them and shared the Gospel. Wright also tells the story of the five Turkish men who, as followers of Islam, had come to believe that Christianity was insidious and a mechanism of political and cultural oppression, and how they came to decide to befriend these men and finally, brutally slaughter them at their work. Wright explains the outcome of the trial of the five, who did not deny what they had done, and the witness of the deaths of the three Christians –– not callously showing “the blood of the martyrs to be the seed of the church,” but lovingly portraying the aftermath of their deaths and the witness to Christ that endures. The book has an appendix of pictures of the Christians. This is a work that encourages prayer and thought for those who are suffering for Christ. This is a book that encourages us to understand the Church universal as being all Christian brothers and sisters throughout time and space –– realizing that having our political candidate lose (which is often then greatest suffering of a Christian in the United States) is not such a hardship as many are suffering and now wear the white robes of martyrs, waiting for the return of Christ.
We live in dangerous times in the West. The attacks of ISIS and radical Islamists around the world are real. These attacks are born out of a misguided understanding of Christianity and the Word of God. These misunderstandings are brought to light in this excellent biographical work on the martyrdom of three men in eastern Turkey city of Malatya. This is the story of Necati, UÄŸur, and Tilmann, three men who gave their lives to Christ and for Christ in the land they loved. James Wright (pen name) gives to us a valuable tool for evangelism to Muslims through the testimonies of these men. First, he reveals the key tenets of Islam against Christianity. Many in the West think the Islamic animosity is founded solely on the Crusades centuries ago where ruthless men took the lives of thousands of Muslims “in the name of Christ.” However, the Crusades are only mentioned once in this book, and then indirectly. The major disagreements of Islam over against the Christian comes from what they are taught – a teaching that is incorrect and if compared to the Scriptures are found to be so. They are taught that the Scriptures have been changed from the original writings, that Christians worship three gods, and that the Christians real agenda in missions is to “undermine the political and social unity of the state by setting religious sects against one another and partnering with the PKK and Israel” (p. 184 – part of one of the murderers “defense”). These are things that children are taught in their textbooks (at least the first two) at an early age. Radical Islam would take these things to an extreme and embrace the falsehood of evil intentions of missionaries from the West, as illustrated by the “onion” (p. 96 – you will need to see for yourself!). Wright also offers a good historical background for how these beliefs came to be. As part of that history, however, Wright shows how the seeds of faith were planted along the way in the very region where this tragic event took place. Wright also shows how these men came to faith in Christ. Tilmann, being a German, had what we might consider a more typical testimony whose heart for the Muslims was formed while in Indonesia and further by his future wife. Necati, a Turk, came to faith in Christ as a young woman patiently listened to his questions about Christianity and led him to Christ. She also became his wife! And UÄŸur, a Turk, who followed Christ after a self–study about Christ and the Word of God where he determined that what he had been taught as a child about both were incorrect. In all three men, we find the power of God at work. Their martyrdom ranks with all the great saints whose lives were taken because of their testimony in Christ. Faithfulness, Jesus said, will come with suffering and persecution in this world – to test our faith, the faith of others, and to provide and example to others of the love of Christ. While the lives of these three men might fade from the pages of history, they will never fade from the book of life and the pages of eternity. And the mark they left in Turkey needs today, 8 years after this tragedy, to be remembered not just in Turkey, but around the world. May we learn to love our enemies as they loved theirs…
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