Christianity Today, IL
January 2008, Vol. 52, No. 1
Jan 4 2008

Inside CT: Greatness Is in Heaven

Timothy C. Morgan | posted 1/04/2008 09:22AM

Last spring, when Denise McGill and Tony Carnes were invited to an
international conference in Istanbul for Christians in journalism, we
saw an important reporting opportunity crop up. But in April, the
story about Christianity in Turkey took a sharp turn for the worse
when ultranationalists brutally murdered three Christians in Malatya.

Tony, a senior writer for CT, and Denise, professor of visual
journalism at Palm Beach Atlantic University, arrived in Istanbul six
weeks after the killings. They found the Christian community still in
shock. International tensions were high as Turkish troops were
deployed along the southern border to repel Kurdish rebels in
northern Iraq.

"The martyrs - that permeated every conversation," Denise says,
describing her discussions with the Christians closest to the
surviving family members. "People were guarded on the telephone. They
were looking over their shoulders."

Denise spent three days with Semse, widow of slain pastor Necati
Aydin, and their two young children. "It was clear she needed someone
to listen to her," says Denise. "My role as a journalist is to get
the word out to other people. But being on the scene was a real
blessing to the people who were there. This is a story important to
the kingdom."

Daily life for Turkish Christians is significantly more difficult if
they speak openly about their faith convictions. One Christian leader
told Denise, "Christianity is not illegal, but neither is it

Christians are keenly aware of their low social status. "They are a
minority, so you see humility," says Denise. "The joy that they have
in Christ comes from an inner strength, not material wealth. In the
States, we associate Christianity with 'Be all you can be.' We expect
God to give us very rich, fulfilling lives. That's really not the
expectation in Turkey. The greatness is in heaven."

Straddling two continents, Istanbul is renowned as both a marketplace
and the crossroads of Europe, the Middle East, and central Asia. Tony
Carnes told me he was walking along the waterfront one day when a
persistent drug pusher offered to sell him "anything you wanted."
After repeatedly turning him down, Tony finally exclaimed, "My editor
won't approve that expense!" Thankfully, that kept Tony (and CT
editors) out of hot water with our auditors.

As Tony and Denise drew closer to Turkish Christians, their role
became more than journalistic - almost getting goose bumps as they
found themselves witnessing the rebirth of an ancient faith.

Turkish churches have lived with Islamic rule for more than five
centuries. The genocide that occurred during World War I nearly wiped
out the Turkish

Armenian Orthodox church. Today the church is growing again, now
under the charismatic leadership of people like Mesrob Mutafyan.
Unexpectedly, Turkish Kurds are increasingly attracted to independent
churches, even though these churches do not explicitly evangelize
Kurds. Instead, these churches build trust through building
relationships. This first-century evangelistic method in a
twenty-first-century context is making a difference.

- - -

Next Issue: Like many of their Turkish counterparts, ancient-future
evangelicals increasingly think the church's future lies in the past;
Democratic strategists try to woo the faithful; and Hollywood
produces a series of pro-life plots.

A Victorious Family | A murdered pastor's family rebuilds its life.
(January 4, 2008)
Justice Delayed | Security worries stall recognition of Armenian
Genocide. (January 4, 2008)
Jesus in Turkey | After 550 years of decline, a bloodied church is
being reborn. (January 3, 2008)
Accidental Outreach | Christian leaders avoid targeting Kurds, but
reach them anyway. (January 3, 2008)
Articles on the Malatya killings last April include:

Milking Martyrdom | Turkish Mission accused of sending false report.
(September 14, 2007)
Faith Perfected | Recent martyrdoms sadden us but cannot make us
despair. A Christianity Today editorial (July 12, 2007)
Young Muslims in Turkey Murder Three Christians | Deaths mark first
known martyrdom of Turkish converts since founding of republic.
(April 20, 2007)
>From CT Liveblog: On Trial in Turkey | Malatya murder trial defense
finds footing by playing to anti- missionary sentiments. Also: the
roots of anti-Christian violence in Turkey. (November 30, 2007)
How you can help:

Open Doors USA has a campaign to send letters of encouragement to the
martyrs' families.
Funds for the families are being collected by the Alliance of
Protestant Churches of Turkey. (Please be warned that there are scams
being circulated by other entities.) Inquiries can be sent to
[email protected] or [email protected], or to Turkish World Outreach,
508 Fruitvale Court, Grand Junction, CO 81504, United States. Donors
should designate "Survivors Fund" on their checks.
The BBC and the New York Times have sections with recent news and
information about Turkey. january/17.9.html