May 17, 2012 – Andre Viljoen - Gateway News South African Christian Portal
Christian mourners at the funeral of three missionaries who were brutally murdered by Muslims in the Turkish town of Malatya. Kamil Kiroglu, now a missionary in South Africa, says that despite the tragic circumstances the day was memorable for the way that God showed his might and glory.
A young Christian church leader from Turkey who has tasted much vicious physical and emotional religious persecution in his home country, is in South Africa to “wake up the sleeping Church”.
Kamil Kiroglu said he was barely aware of South Africa when he had an open vision and heard God speaking audibly to him in an experience that laid the foundation for his ministry in South Africa where he has linked up with a Dutch Reformed Church.
He said that in 2003 while on his regular evening worship walk, he suddenly had a vision in which the sky seemed to open, revealing a giant painting of a large medieval army in a great forest.
“Then I heard the Lord speaking audibly. He said: ‘This is my army in the West.” He said he immediately felt great pain and disbelief, and he asked: “Lord, how can this miserable army be your army?”
Although the army in his vision was equipped with everything they needed they were the most miserable soldiers he had ever seen. Very few of them were on their horses, and swords, javelins, helmets and shields lay on the ground. Some soldiers were leaning against trees while others were lying on the ground drinking from bottles.“Then the Lord said: ‘I want someone to go and wake them up.’
On hearing these words he remembered Isaiah Chapter 6 and tearfully responded, saying: “Lord, if you think I am qualified, I will go wherever you send me and do whatever you ask.
Two years later he visited South Africa for the first time, with a church group. But he did not connect this visit with his vision because he always believed God was going to send him to the United States or Europe where he knew there was much work to be done.
Calling to South Africa
But in 2009, God made it clear to him and to his fellow church leaders that his calling was to South Africa. His church sent him to South Africa that year as a missionary and he was received by a Dutch Reformed Church with whom he was still closely connected. “But my ministry is to the entire South African Church. ‘That it is time to wake up.’ “
Before he came to South Africa, Kamil discovered the high cost of following Jesus in his country where 99% of people are Muslim. After converting to Christianity in 2001 his family disowned him. In 2006, by which time he was a church leader in the city of Adana, he was severely beaten by five young men who threatened they would kill him unless he returned to Islam. He refused to deny Jesus and was beaten unconscious twice on the street after a church service, and was left for dead.
“I am praising God not because he saved me from death,” Kiroglu told Compass Direct News at the time, “but because he helped me not to deny Him in the shadow of death.”
More vicious Muslim attacks on church leaders followed in a campaign that Kiroglu suspected was orchestrated by elements of the State even though Turkey officially allowed freedom of religion. The hardest of these persecutions for Kiroglu was the murder in 2007 of a close friend and mentor, German missionary Tilman Geske, who had baptised him in 2002. Geske and two fellow leaders of the young church they had established in the hardcore Muslim town of Malatya, were tied to chairs by five young Muslim assailants. The attackers who were armed with knives told their victims that unless they renounced Jesus and converted to Islam they would chop them up alive. The men held to their faith in Christ and were tortured and killed in a bloody massacre.
Susanne, widow of the slain German missionary said to Kiroglu: “God sent me and my husband to this country to tell these people about the love of Jesus. But they killed the love of my life. I am determined I am going to bury my husband in this land.”
Susanne asked Kiroglu to arrange the funeral. Her wish seemed impossible after the mayor of Malatya issued an edict that was broadcast on radio and published in newspapers to the effect that the three murdered Christians may not be buried there because they would defile the Muslim land. But after Kiroglu persevered prayerfully against seemingly insurmountable obstacles the breakthrough came when the Turkish Government bowed to pressure from the European Union and the Maltatya local authority was ordered to give the victims’ families whatever they wanted.
Kiroglu accordingly relayed a series of demands to the local authorities who grudgingly complied. The Mayor, who hated Christians, had to transport the gravediggers to the graveyard and personally supervised the digging of the graves. The Mayor’s office provided two buses to ferry Christian mourners to the graveyard. And accompanied by a police escort with sirens blaring loudly, the buses traveled to the cemetery without stopping at a single traffic light or intersection. Police guards surrounded the cemetery making sure that only people approved by the victims’ families attended the funeral. And Kiroglu was one of the speakers at the funeral of his dear friend who had baptised him five years previously.
Most glorious funeral
“What amazes me today is that they brutally killed Tillman but God turned everything upside down in such a way that Tilman’s funeral was probably the most glorious funeral that city had ever seen, and in my life I have not seen any other funeral as glorious as that,” says Kiroglu.
“Even when I talk about it today I stand in awe of the might and the power of God,” he said.
The year after the murder of Geske and two fellow missionaries, Kiroglu arrived in South Africa with an assignment to wake up the church. He said that it was a step of pure faith. Coming from a small, poor church in a country where only 0,004 per cent of the people were Christians, and with no experience of the type of ministry he was called to, he asked the Lord: “How am I going to wake up a church that is far in advance of where I have come from?”
For his first few years in South Africa he struggled with the Lord’s purpose in sending him to a country that had the best theologians, many theological seminaries, great church buildings, Bible shops everywhere and a population that was more than 75 per cent Christian.
“They don’t need me!” he protested.
But as the days went by, he said God began to show him that much of the Christianity in South Africa was superficial, and that there were many people who were culturally Christians but who did not have a relationship with Jesus. He saw that many Christians read devotional books by popular authors but they rarely read the Bible. There were also many who read the New Testament but completely neglected the Old Testament. He said that as God showed him the weak state of much of South African Christianity it caused him much pain.
He also became deeply troubled as he learned that while less than 2% of South Africa’s population were Muslim, this group had a disproportionately strong influence in Parliament, and had succeeded in imposing halaal certification on virtually all foodstuffs. Christians were happily eating food offered to idols and were paying a surcharge for the certification, thus helping to finance another religion. He said as far as he was aware, halaal stamps were unique to South Africa — he had never seen them in Muslim countries. The people behind the halaal certifications in South Africa were simply taking advantage of the sleeping Christians, he said.
He said God has opened many doors for him to teach in churches and at Christian gatherings in South Africa on biblical Christianity and on a biblical perspective of the problem of Islam. He taught people to love and respect Muslims who were made in the image of God, but not to mix or merge the religion of Islam with Christianity because it did not recognize Jesus as God and did not worship the God of the Bible.
He said while he was encouraged at the growing teaching opportunities he sometimes felt frustrated by “a culture of entertainment” he quite often encountered in which congregations listened to his story but simply saw him as another entertainer.
Post modernist influence
He said he had identified several key problems facing the South African Church, and tried to address them in his ministry. One big problem was the post modernist influence in the church: all religions are good, all Gods are the same, it is enough to be good. He said in certain churches when he taught that the God of Islam and the God of the Bible were not the same God he was told by the leadership that his was not a Christ-like attitude because Jesus would be inclusive. But the truth was that Jesus was not inclusive towards things that were an abomination to the Name of God. Another gross problem facing the church was that many Christians developed their concept of God and Christianity from the words or writings of others and not from what the Bible said. He also said that while South African churches had a good record of sending missionaries to other countries they failed to evangelise the many Muslims and Buddhists who arrived from other countries and lived and raised families in South Africa.
“Many times when I have spoken to pastors here I have been told that it is not marketable to send missionaries to non-Christians in South Africa. So who is going to evangelise those foreigners in this country?”
He noted that some para-church organisations were taking up the challenge of reaching foreigners in South Africa. But he said the Bible taught that mission was the mandate of the Church.
“The church has to get up; wake up from their sleep and show the love of Jesus Christ to their neighbours whether they be Muslim, whether they be Somalian, Indonesian, Pakistani or Chinese.”
Kiroglu is married and has a baby daughter.