Martyrs' Legacy: Hope for Christians in Turkey
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MALATYA, Turkey - April 18 marks the second anniversary of one of the most brutal attacks against Christians in Turkey. Five men are on trial for the stabbing death of two Turkish Christians and a German. The outcome of the case could have an impact on the future of the country's tiny Christian community.
Everyday Is April 18
For Susanne Geske and her three young children it is sadly just another day of remembrance.
Click the player to watch the report from CBN News Senior Reporter George Thomas.
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"You see everyday is April 18," Susanne Geske told CBN News during a recent visit to her home in Malatya. "Everyday I have to live without him.
On April 18, 2007, Susanne's husband, German citizen Tilman Geske, and two Turkish Christians Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel, were tied to their chairs, tortured and stabbed at a Bible printing office in Malatya, southeast Turkey. In a final act of violence, the men's throats were slit.
Five men stand accused of the murders.
Malatya Church Struggles
Tilman, Necati and Ugur were leaders of a small house church in Malatya. Two years later, the church is struggling to survive.
"Yes, the church has really suffered," said Geske. "It really has because it shrunk, lots of people were fearful, got more fearful. We still have no leaders actually. Necati was the pastor and Ugur was someone who looked after the youth, all the youth has gone and Tilman was the one who was always preaching."
Praying For the Killers
In between raising kids and trying to rebuild her life and the church, Susanne has been attending her husband's murder trial.
A few days after Tilman's death, Susanne publicly forgave her husband's killers. It was an act that stunned the community and drew national attention.
"I normally try to pray for them, not to forget them in my prayers," said Geske. "I pray that they may know Jesus."
Hunting the Masterminds
And while she has compassion for these five suspects, what Susanne really wants is that those who are truly behind her husband's murder be brought to justice.
"This was not a crime just committed by five youngsters," said Orhan Kemal Cengiz, a human rights lawyer from his office in the capital city Ankara.
Cengiz is also the lead lawyer representing Susanna and the families of the two other victims.
Cengiz has uncovered evidence linking the Malatya killings to members of Ergenegon, a clandestine ultra-nationalist group that wants to overthrow Turkey's Islamist-rooted government.
Threat to Turkish Christians
While freedom of religion is guaranteed under the constitution, Cengiz says groups like Ergenegon view Christians, as well as Muslims, as a threat to Turkey's secular tradition.
"They were trying to send a message to Protestants and non-Muslims that they are not wanted in Turkey, they should go, they should leave this country," Cengiz said.
Christians make up less than one percent of Turkey's 70 million people. The rest are Muslims. Evangelicals are an even smaller minority numbering less than 3,500. Most of them are converts from Islam.
In the meantime, Cengiz hopes that the Malatya case becomes part of a larger investigation into Ergenegon's activities.
"This case is very important for the future of democracy and for the future of this country and for the future of Protestants, for their existence in this country."
Letters of Hope
And when Susanne's not in the courtroom, you'll find her at the kitchen table sorting and reading through hundreds of letters that she still gets each month from people around the world.
CBN News asked Geske if reading these letters brought her comfort.
"Yes, it makes me really happy to see how many people are praying," she said.
Be Strong and Courageous
Geske believes that those prayers keep her focused on the hope that one day, from this city.
"There will be a big, big church in Malatya and lots of people will go out from Malatya to send the Good News everywhere," Geske said.
But in the meantime, she clings to a Biblical promise found in Joshua 1:9, "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."