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Editor's Note: Father Jonathan just returned to New York after a trip to Turkey, and can now publish portions of his diary written during that trip. In light of the recent torturing and killing of three Christians in Turkey, he went to investigate the real status of religious liberty there and how the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections (July 22) could affect the struggle between two distinct visions for Turkey’s political future: Islamist or secular. He will also be reporting on these topics on FOX News Channel.
The home where we were to interview Necati’s widow, Shemza, was about an hour and a half drive from our base in Istanbul. The appointment was at 8:30 a.m. — not nice at all, given the fact that some of us were on our first day of jetlag. But how could we complain? This woman was willing to go on camera to tell the world her story, just three weeks after her husband had been brutally tortured and murdered. I woke up at 5 a.m. and was ready to go.
When I arrived at Shemza's home, I walked through the door of her little apartment and tried to make out who was who. The man who answered the door greeted me with a sober smile — a relative? Yes. He was warm, but cautious, and a bit protective — and I don’t blame him. Then, I saw Shemza. She was dressed in black and stayed at a distance. When she saw me, she managed a sincere smile, approached me, and offered a traditional Turkish greeting. She wiped a tear from her eye, and attended to her two rambunctious children, a boy and a girl, three and seven respectively.
The producer and cameraman prepared the improvised set. I introduced myself, made friends with the kids, and tried to ease the obvious tension. Cameras create tension. They change people. They make some giddy and others shy, and in traumatic situations like this, they bring back strong emotions. When the camera started rolling I gave Shemza the floor.
• “Thanks for letting us in your home under such circumstances. What would you like to say to America and to the world about your husband or anything else that’s on your mind?”
“I want to thank you because I don’t want the world to forget what happened. Because they killed my husband and his friends, and they left my children without a father. Their only wrongdoing was their belief in Jesus Christ, so I don’t want the world to forget what happened.”
How do you follow that with more questioning? She held her two children by her side. They didn’t understand my English, but they understood their mom’s responses. At first I was hesitant to get into too many details with the kids present, but as the interview continued, it was clear Shemza wasn’t hiding anything from them. Here are a few of the questions I asked:
• "Can you tell me what your last moments with your husband were like?”
“My husband had been in Germany for a conference a week before and he had just returned on Sunday so we only had two days together before he died. Wednesday morning I sent the kids to school early, so my husband didn’t see his children that day. At around 10:00 a.m. we had breakfast together. During breakfast, we were speaking about the Bible … the story of David and Gideon. Then we said goodbye and I never saw him again.”
• And, why did they kill him?”
“Just because of his faith. He was just killed because he was a believer, because he was someone who came from a Muslim family and became a Christian. And for some Muslims, they thought this person deserves to die.”
• I assume you must be dealing with a lot of anger?
“I’m not angry and I don’t hate them. But of course I want justice to be done and I want that we can live our faith in freedom in Turkey. I’m a bit worried that the court case won’t be properly done. That’s why I want a lawyer from Europe to observe it.”
• You seem peaceful and you have amazing strength.
“I forgive them, but I know I can only do this with the spirit of God.”
• What do you most remember about your husband?
“What I most remember is that he was full of love and he was a holy person. He loved us so much and made us happy. He was a close friend of my spirit, body, and soul. It’s torture for me to live without him. There are times that I miss him most. For example, yesterday my son Elisha fell down and hit his head. He began to cry. In that moment, I pictured what Necati must have suffered. Because I saw his body twice after he died, I know they beat him badly on his head. When Elisha cried I imagined Necati’s pain too.”
• And the kids, how are they doing?
“We teach the children to look to God, and they know Necati is in heaven with Jesus so they can get comforted. But they miss their father very much. For them, it is like half of who they are is gone.”
• Do you plan to stay in Turkey with your two children?
“Until Jesus calls me anywhere else, I want to stay here. My country, my home, my security is only in Jesus.”
Throughout our whole conversation, seven-year-old Elisha listened attentively. When he saw we were coming to a close, he asked if he could speak too. I looked to his mother to see if this was what she wanted, and she nodded. I handed him the mic, but he said he wanted to use the same one lapel mic his mother had been using. It seemed more professional to him, I think. We pinned it on his T-shirt, and he began to speak. He was calm, direct, and very mature. These were his exact words …
“My father was a very good man. He loved me, and I love him very much. My father was very good. I played with him many games and he loved me very much. Usually we went to school early when my father was still sleeping, but when we got back from school we embraced each other and he said, ‘welcome, how are you?’ My mother loved my father very much. My father was a very good man and he always loved me and I loved him. My sister loves my father, and my mother loves my father, and I love my father too. And he read the Bible for us. He could read the Bible very well. He played with me and did everything with me. I miss him and I love him. Because I miss him, he is missing me too. He loved me and was like Jesus.
I hope this gives you a feel for the interview. Sometime over the next few days we will run the story on the FOX News Channel. For those of you who don’t get a chance to see it, I’ll be sure to post the video here on the blog space.
Before closing today’s post, I want to reiterate that Muslims from all sectors of Turkish society condemned the violence carried out against Necati and his two Christian colleagues. There is certainly a lot of anti-Christian sentiment in Turkey, as I explained in Wednesday’s article, but all of the Turks I met on my trip expressed their disdain for this brutal act. The Turks were also very gracious hosts to me and to my crew.
On Monday, I will post a summary of what I learned about the social, political, and religious situation of Turkey and why I believe it plays a crucial role for Middle East peace, including the eventual resolution or escalation of the problems we now see in Iraq, Iran, and Syria.
God bless, Father Jonathan
• E-mail: FatherJonathan@foxnews.com