Book Review: Carswell, Jonathan & Wright, Joanna 2008. Susanne Geske: Ich will keine Rache – Das Drama von Malatya

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Persecution of Christians is an upcoming topic in the public. Quite a few institutions are now propagating it by very different means (most famous: Open Doors). Politicians are also discovering it more and more, as an argument for or against certain issues that need to be decided (e.g., refugee and citizenship[s] debate). It should not be too much to say that the “drama” described in this book, which took place in 2007 and also still in the political partner country Turkey, one of the countries of origin of Christianity, was probably an initial trigger to this development. Obviously, there is great interest in the developing evangelical church in Turkey. The research that accompanies it inspires international politics to publicly perceive the political pressure weighing on this church. German and European policymakers have picked up the signal as evidenced by constant round tables and the temporary deferral of Turkey’s application for full EU membership.

Carswell and Wright interviewed the widow, of the German-born victim of this religious-political assassination. Three men fell victim to the 5 perpetrators. In a death struggle lasting about three hours, the two men of Turkish origin and the spouse of the interviewee, who lived in Turkey, were slowly and agonizingly executed (detailed pp. 96-103). These clear words must be used for this meticulously planned contract killing of 5 Turkish religiously motivated nationalists in eastern Turkey (Malatya).

This book wants to show the context in which the drama took place and tells extensively about the long way of the German family of five, first to Turkey and then to the east there. It is a very personally told entertaining life and experience report. In view of the many guest workers of Turkish origin, refugees and latecomers, a change of perspective comes to the fore here, which makes it easy for the German and Turkish reader to learn from each other across cultures. Of course, not everyone will like the fact that the Christian concern is in the foreground, but it spices up the field of tension in which both cultures move on foreign soil. Mutual expectations are revealed and come to light in the encounters and finally in the conflict between religious interests.

In the first fifty pages, the widow describes the path and the price paid by church employees who want to work abroad. Anyone who wants to make their mark in the context of church development aid, in a foreign country, will be familiar with these experiences and will appreciate the openness of the narrative. This includes, first, the question of the geographical and local place where one wants to share one’s experience, second, the question of financial provision and security in foreign lands, and finally, the organization or institutions that publicly back the project.

In the following section, the next thirty pages (pp. 53-83) describe the journey in Turkey, leading up to the assassination. In addition to learning the language(s) and culture(s), this section offers insight into the experience of immersion in foreign cultures.

The next block (pp. 84-115) is taken up by the assassination and the ten days leading up to the funeral in Turkey. Impressive is the uncompromisingness with which in this report to the country of choice is held. This is also evident in the last twenty pages (pp. 115-136), where the widow and children invoke forgiveness from a higher power without reservation. The loss of the father and husband is not glossed over, but neither is it emphasized as a martyr’s achievement. Such is done by the outsiders who, among others, also stand for this book, which was written within a year, still completely under the impression of the assassination.

This book is a good and helpful testimony about Christian witness in the world. It offers deep insights into the challenges of church development aid in foreign countries. However, and this should be critically noted, it anticipates the postulate of a theology of suffering in this very field of church work. This assumption, however, cannot be taken unilaterally from the New Testament evidence, as is at the moment readily heard in the Western world. Increasing religious conflicts and the worldwide tensions contribute to this not insignificantly. However, it is detrimental to Christian thought and action to live “love of neighbor and enemy” solely from an attitude of suffering and oppression; rather, looking forward and upward drives discipleship. Martyrdom is then recorded as a process of church history, through subsequent generations, to strengthen in crisis situations and to consolidate the global church, in mutual advocacy (prayer and political intervention).

Christian development aid ; persecution ; martyr, martyrdom ; Islam ; Turkey , Germany ; faith ; missiology ; theology of suffering