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Get out the vote

"Get out the vote" Continued...

Issue: "Goodbye again," June 9, 2007

2006: Catholic priest Andrea Santoro is murdered in Trabzon by a Muslim youth.

2007:

Jan. 19: Turkish-Armenian editor Hrant Dink, who was convicted in 2005 of insulting Turkish identity, is murdered in Istanbul.

April 18: Three Christian men are brutally tortured and murdered in Malatya.

April 27: Turkey's parliament nominates Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul for the presidency.

April 29: About 700,000 people demonstrate in Istanbul against Gul.

April 30: In a televised speech, Erdogan warns, "We must be careful not to harm the climate of stability we have reached."

May 1: Police clash with leftist demonstrators in Istanbul; 700 people are arrested.

May 2: Erdogan's call to move parliamentary elections to July 22 is approved.

May 6: Gul withdraws his candidacy for presidency.

May 25: President Ahmet Necdet Sezer vetoes constitutional reforms to allow for the head of state to be elected by the people rather than the legislature.

May 29: Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew says Turkey's Christians should enjoy the same rights as Muslims: "We do not only want the freedom to celebrate our faith within our churches, but also the recognition of all civil rights, just as our fellow Muslims in Turkey."

-compiled by Kristin Chapman

Fog of martyrdom

Details of pastor murders in Turkey are disputed, but the horror and significance for the church is not

In the aftermath of the horrific murders of three Christians in Malatya, Turkey, several pastors began publicly questioning the accounts of extensive torture being circulated across the web and in Turkish media outlets ("No turning back," May 5, 2007). The men were not tortured to the extent some claim, they said, and initial media accounts were likely crafted to scare Christians across the nation. Email campaigns concerning the murders quickly spread both true and false accounts.

"In the beginning, many people really wanted to get the news out to the world quickly, but unfortunately, they grabbed the sensationalized stories from the media and just passed it along. Later the media itself actually changed a lot of those stories," Jeremiah Mattix said.

Mattix is a missionary serving with a church in Diyarbakir and frequently fellowshipped with Tilmann Geske, Necati Aydin, and Ugur Uksel (left, from top). The three men were in close contact with their accused murderers and were led to believe the young Muslims were interested in the Christian faith.

Mattix claims that the body he saw did not show signs of extensive torture and that fellow pastors who examined the bodies of Geske and Aydin saw only a few knife wounds, not the hundreds reported in the press: "Did they do it on purpose? It's hard to tell. Did the doctor exaggerate that first report on purpose or was the government behind it? Was it a personal thing or was it the media that misunderstood the facts and then passed them on?"

Details surrounding the murders are still sketchy since official autopsy and police reports have not yet been released to the public. And where misinformation and not enough details have been part of the underlying problem, too much information has been the latest source of frustration for local believers. According to Compass Direct, Turkish newspapers recently leaked portions of secret police interrogations and the name and location of a Christian who was supposedly next in line on the killers' hit list. The newspapers also listed several wild claims about the three slain men, presenting them as facts and furthering fears of a vast Christian conspiracy in Turkey.

The pastors of Izmir Protestant Church recently retracted the detailed and widely circulated account of the men's torture from the church website, explaining that not all of the men "were tortured to the extent initially reported." But they have kept the descriptive testimony of Dr. Murat Ugras, whose assessment of Uksel's wounds attests to the likelihood of more torture rather than less: "He had more stab wounds than we could count. That torture had been intended was very apparent. His buttocks, his testicles, his rectum, and his lower and middle back were chopped with dozens of knife stabs. His fingers were repeatedly sliced to the bone lengthwise." The church leaders WORLD communicated with did not see Uksel's body and could not verify or refute the report because his body was immediately taken by relatives for burial.

Mattix has endeavored to publicize what he believes is a more accurate version of events but says he doesn't want believers in Turkey to lose sight of the sacrifice of these men and the potential for the church to be emboldened by their martyrdom.

"The whole incident is being pulled in the wrong direction. People are arguing about the details and exaggerations and missing the big point: We have three brothers who were killed for their faith and were willing to die for it."

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