Susanne Geske, widow of the massacred Christian worker Tilmann Geske, has forgiven the murderers of her husband.
In an interview with the Turkish television channel ATV the German mother of three quoted Christ’s words on the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Three evangelical Christians were brutally murdered, April 18, in Malatya in South East Turkey, where 45-year old Tilmann Geske worked as an interpreter in the Christian Publishing House Zirve.
Two other Turkish Christians - Necati Aydin (35) and Ugur Yuksel (32) - were also found tied up and their throats slit. According to Turkish press reports the victims were brutally tortured. Geske’s body showed 156 knife wounds. Yuksel’s genitals and fingers were slashed.
Police have arrested ten suspects. Four young Muslims have admitted the crime. They said they killed the Christians for religious and nationalistic reasons.
Susanne Geske said she did not harbor any thoughts of revenge. She has been living in Malatya for ten years and intends to stay there.
She is hopeful that the aftermath of the murders will signal a new beginning for the relations between Christians and Muslims in Turkey. Many Muslims had shown their outrage about the murders and expressed their condolences to the bereaved.
The bloodbath has not come as a total surprise to the Christian minority in Turkey. “It was only a matter of time,” commented a pastor of a small Protestant church in the North of the country. He was speaking on conditions of anonymity to the evangelical news agency “idea”.
According to the pastor Christian often receive threats. Windows of their homes and churches had been smashed. At the same time the pastor perceives a new openness for the Gospel. He had been able to talk openly about his faith with several Muslim clerics.
The authorities are taking threats against Christians more seriously. Some Christians have been offered bodyguards. Police are watching the Adventist church in Istanbul round the clock. There are approximately 120,000 Christians in Turkey, among them about 4,000 evangelicals.
Christian leaders have criticized Turkish authorities. Political parties and the media were sowing hatred against the minority. “Christians are being portrayed as potential criminals, separatists and traitors,” said Bedri Peker, President of the Union of Protestant Churches in Turkey.
The chairman of the Association of Evangelical Churches, Ihsan Ozbek, talked of a “witch hunt” of medieval proportions. The seeds of intolerance, racism and hostility towards Christians had been sowed for years.
Rev John Candelin, representative of the Religious Liberty Commission of the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA), has flown from Finland to Turkey to provide spiritual support to the families of the three deceased.
“Something very dangerous is happening in Turkey at this time,” said Candelin. He asks all Christians to pray for the families of the victims and for the protection of the Christian minority.
Geoff Tunnicliffe, WEA’s International Director, also expressed his grief over the tragic event. “We condemn this act of violence against Turkish Christians. We must find a way of resolving conflict without resorting to these kinds of brutal acts.”
Islamic institutions in Germany have also condemned the multiple murder. The Central Islam Institute in Soest called it “an abominable and unforgivable crime”. All Muslims should stand up against such acts of violence and express their solidarity with the Christian minority in Turkey.
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