Saturday, May 05, 2007

And now retractions concerning the murders in Turkey?

I have received a number of emails and communications that confuse the news I conveyed concerning the murders in Turkey.

Prefacing a new letter signed by the same person who wrote the original "letter to the Global Church from the Protestant Church of Smyrna," a staff member of Turkish World Outreach wrote:
We received a few emails saying some elements in "A letter to the Global Church from the Protestant Church of Smyrna" were exaggerated. However, since none of the messages stated what was thought to be exaggerated, we did not send a retraction. Instead, we contacted the pastor and his wife who prepared the message and shared the negative email messages we had received.

The spouses of the men who were slain reportedly say they want people around the world to know what took place, and the real objections appear to be from foreign workers who understandably feel threatened by unwanted exposure to their work. In addition, some people felt the graphic details of the torture the men experienced (though apparently factual) should be omitted.

The following corrections were sent by Pastor D_____ and his wife, and we have made these corrections in the attached text. Thank you for your prayers. - S
Here is the text of the "correcting" letter:
Dear Friends,

We are amazed at how quickly the Global Church communicated the message of our friends' deaths. Thank you for your continued prayers for Semsa, Susanne and the Church in Turkey.

We need to make a couple of corrections on the letter we sent out.

First, if you forward the letter again, due to sensitivity issues please take all the details of the torture off, replacing it with "They were brutally tortured for 3 hours" and ask your friends who you have forwarded the previous email to do the same. Also, later in the article where it says their throats were slit "from ear to ear, practically decapitated" we are not sure of the actual size of the cuts, so please delete those words from the letter as well. We won't know actual details until autopsy reports are made public; news reports and articles we were basing our information on were possibly exaggerated.

Second, my faulty estimating mistake put the word "thousands" when in fact there were only about 800 people at Necati's funeral.

Third, I made mistakes in names. Susanne Geske (not Susanne Tilman), and Tilmann not Tilman.

If you can make those changes, and pass on the information I'd appreciate it.

As a wonderful follow-up, we know for a fact that three people in the last week have committed their hearts to Christ in response to the sufferings our friends went through: John 12:24-25:
I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies it produces many seeds. The man who loves His life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

S_____ D_____
for The Protestant Church of Smyrna
[NOTE: In order to protect the innocent, I (John Holzmann) have replaced the full names of most persons identified in the correspondence quoted in this post with false initials and underscores.]

And then, from another correspondent:
I have been forwarded a correction of the . . . "letter from the church in Smyrna" . . . written by eye-witnesses of the bodies of the three men. They say [the victims] were not tortured and stabbed multiple times . . . , but merely had their throats slit and some bruises. They are asking that we do not pass on the former letter, which they fear will only create more problems.
I will quote this subsequent letter in a moment. Before I do, however, I would like to note the final sentence in what my correspondent wrote: "They are asking that we do not pass on the former letter, which they fear will only create more problems."

My question: Are they backtracking due to concern about potential fallout . . . or as a result of a real concern for truth and justice?

Not living in a country where I fear for my life every time I say something that may offend a certain portion (and in the case of Turkey, potentially the vast majority) of the population, I have to confess my inability to discern the truth. I cannot imagine living under the kind of pressures to which the Christians in that part of the world are subjected.

But for the sake of full disclosure, I will quote the letter, purportedly from a pastor in Diyarbakir--a city, as I mentioned in my first post, a little over 100 miles northwest of the place in which the murders took place.
From: G_____ Z_____, pastor of Diyarbakir Church
30 April 2007 Diyarbakir, Turkey

Dear brothers and sisters,

I greet you in the peace and love of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. May the Lord abundantly bless you, your families, your churches, and your work.

We know and appreciate very much your heart for us.

Brothers and sisters, in the last ten days we have experienced very painful moments, which words cannot begin to express. Our painful experience has shown us that our lives are as the Lord describes: “What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” For this reason we have understood one more time how holy and close to the Lord we should live our lives.

We have also understood that our society is easily given to emotion and that in such painful moments some people, whether intentionally or not, report certain events inaccurately and we have not prevented this or have not been able to do so.

When the Malatya massacre happened, we, the brothers from Diyarbakir, besides those already on the scene at the time of the crime, were the first to get there. When we got to Malatya, our brother Ugur was still alive, but his condition was critical. Around 5:30 PM Ugur entrusted his spirit to the Lord.

Dear brothers and sisters, that painful moment has slowly come into perspective for us so that now we have begun to see some things as we should. For example, it appears that those who murdered or arranged for the murder of these brothers are getting what they hoped for. By means of our reactions we may unwittingly help them. If we do not bring the facts into the light, these people will end up getting what they desired.

Brothers Tilmann, Necati, and Ugur were murdered in a bloodthirsty way. This is a fact. But there are also some inaccurate claims about this massacre and one of these is the extent of the torture. According to rumors, brother Tilmann was stabbed with a knife 156 times. Brother Ugur had countless knife wounds, it has been said. These rumors, however, are unfounded. At the morgue we wanted to put brother Tilmann’s body, which was in a plastic bag, into the coffin, but the officials and police did not like this. “It is sinful to do it this way, we should wrap the corpse in a shroud,” they said. I accepted this idea and did what was right in their eyes. I asked them for a shroud (white cloth) and the officials moved Tilmann’s body out of the plastic bag, which they placed to the side. I took advantage of this opportunity to examine brother Tilmann’s body as far down as his stomach. I did not see any knife wounds. Only Tilmann’s throat had been slit 8-10 centimeters and there was the stitched autopsy incision down the middle of Tilmann’s chest. Unfortunately there are very different rumors circulating about brothers Tilmann and Necati. It has been said that their noses, lips, and ears were cut. These rumors do not reflect the truth.

I telephoned our brother D_____ M_____ in Adana because I knew he had seen brother Tilmann’s body. I asked him about the knife wounds on brother Tilmann’s body. D_____ said to me, “Brother, I came across three or four knife blows in the chest area. I didn’t see his back. On his face I can’t say there were knife wounds, but scratches, maybe from hitting his face when he fell down.”

I knew that A_____ P_____ from Ankara had seen bodies. I asked him which bodies he had seen and he said, “I saw the chest area of both Tilmann and Necati. I saw purple [from bruising] on Necati’s lips and chin, but I did not see knife wounds. I looked at brother Tilmann’s chest, but I did not see knife wounds.”

These are the statments of those [who] saw the bodies of these two brothers.

It is true that our brothers were knifed and tortured. But it was not to the extent of statements such as “too many wounds to count, beyond description.”

Apparently, D_____ M_____ looked more carefully than brother A_____ and I did. D_____ saw three or four knife wounds in the chest.

No one saw brother Ugur’s body because on the night of the same day the murder happened, around midnight, his family took his body for burial.

I believe that brother Ugur had knife wounds similar to those of our other two brothers.

It has been said that Ugur was stabbed all over his body, including his genitals. I do not believe this. You may ask why I don’t believe this.

I think someone stabbed this much would die on the spot. Ugur would not have been able to remain alive until 5:30 PM if he had been stabbed so much. That nothing abnormal happened to Ugur can be understood [from the fact that] exaggerated statements have been about our other two brothers, too.

Therefore, we reach the following conclusion: yes, these brothers were tortured, but not to the extent that has been explained.

We are sons and daughters of the truth. Unfortunately unfounded news reports and media exaggerations have now gone out all over the world. Our brothers and sisters and people sensitive [to such news] have been misinformed. We do not intend to offend anyone. But wh[atev]er the true facts are, let us report them without exaggeration. Let people everywhere think about the plain facts.
Who started these exaggerated facts [about the Malatya massacre]? We purpose two possibilities:
  1. Those who perpetrated the crime planned this [the spreading of exaggerated facts] from the beginning and the murderers were simply tools for these people [who had planned to blow the murder into exaggerated proportions]. The goal of those who planned this murder and the exaggerated claims was both to frighten the Christians living in Turkey, causing them to shrink back and be timid, and to humiliate Turkey as a country that invites and causes such bloodthirty massacre, thereby damaging Turkey’s chances of entering the European Union and making matters worse in the country. Furthermore, [the planners of this massacre] wanted to give the government and our people the impression that Christians distort and exaggerate everything.
  2. In every situation we see that the media either totally disregards something we say or totally exploits it. We investigated the bloody clothing that was submitted to the public as the underclothing of our brothers. None of this clothing belonged to our brothers. That clothing had been taken off the bodies of people shot to death weeks earlier. But what did the media do? They took this clothing and presented it as freshly removed from the bodies of our brothers. Is there anyone who does not yet know about the exaggerations and sometimes boldfaced lies of the media?
Therefore, brothers and sisters, if we do not explain the true facts to you our hearts will not find peace. I have written this report because I have read exaggerated or unfounded facts in news both home and abroad. The true facts are those in this report. Before sending these facts to you, as you will see below, I have requested statements from our brothers A_____ P_____ and D_____ M_____. I have had these statements translated from English in order to pass them on to you.

May the Lord bless you abundantly.

G_____ Z_____, pastor of Diyarbakir Church

Brother A_____ P_____’s remarks:
Brother G_____,

Your report of my testimony is entirely accurate.

I have no problem with anything else you have written in this report.

Thank you for writing this report. It would be good for everybody to read what you have written.


A_____ P_____
Brother D_____ M_____’s remarks:
“Brother G_____,

Thank you for writing this report. It is necessary for wrong information to be corrected.

Everything you have written is correct.

May the peace of the Lord be with you,

M_____ L_____’s remarks:
“Dear G_____,

I cannot make any firsthand comments on the subject. But I have spoken in person with Necati and Tilmann’s wives, Semsa and Susanne. Their impressions link up best with yours.

Unfounded exaggerations about the wounds and torture are circulating and apparently some brothers and sisters, still affected by the shock of the massacre, are repeating these exaggerations to others everywhere. This is unfortunate.

The report that you have prepared in order to correct wrong information has been done well and at the first opportunity should be sent to all interested people at home and abroad.


There you have the full story as best I can communicate it.

But/and having communicated the story as completely and accurately as I can, I would like to reiterate what all those who sent these reports requested. Quoting the specific words of the last correspondent:
Pray well. Pray in wisdom. Pray without ceasing for the true Jesus to be known and loved in Turkey.
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