A native Turk, Fikret Bocek never imagined being anything other than a Muslim, however nominal. One day in Istanbul, a European couple gave him a Bible and he couldn’t stop reading. After graduating from Westminster Seminary California, he returned and planted a Reformed church that now has planted a number of sister churches in the country. He also started a publishing company, is an author himself, and reflects a profound humility combined with courageous conviction. You may have heard on the White Horse Inn his story of coming to faith in Christ.
Like many pastors in Islamic countries, the Rev. Fikret Bocek is constantly under the watchful eye of the state. Our producer, Shane Rosenthal, recently forwarded a provocative piece in the Washington Post. The article contrasts the consequences of conversion from Christianity to Islam and vice versa. Shane wrote me, “Would love to see you comment on this. If not, perhaps we could ask Fikret to write something up….” Then, just an hour later, I received this message (below) from Fikret.
Please remember our brother and his family in your prayers at this challenging time.
“You see these dictators on their pedestals, surrounded by the bayonets of their soldiers and the truncheons of their police … yet in their hearts there is unspoken fear. They are afraid of words and thoughts: words spoken abroad, thoughts stirring at home — all the more powerful because forbidden — terrify them. A little mouse of thought appears in the room, and even the mightiest potentates are thrown into panic.”
–Winston Churchill, Blood, Sweat & Tears
Last night we watched the movie called “The Pianist,” which is based on the life of famous Jewish pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman. Szpilman was the most famous of the Warsaw Ghetto “Robinsons,” who lived in hiding in German-occupied Warsaw.
Watching that movie brings home the hatred and wickedness inherent in man, especially toward anything that is “other.” The Germans did not like the Jews, and sought to destroy them. The above quote by Winston Churchill, poignently portrays the desire of powerful leaders to quelch independent thought.
It brings to mind futuristic totalitarian societies such as the one in 1984, where standardized thought was mandated by law. But in fact, places like that exist.
In Turkey, thoughts can be a criminal offense. In particular, thoughts against the government (or a government employee) or thoughts against the religion (or its Prophet Muhammed) are forbidden by law.
The pianist above, named Fasil Say, actually was a bunkmate of Fikret’s during their military service several years ago. Perhaps because Fasil Say is famous his case has hit the news and his thoughts are more liable to be criticized by the government. But in any event, he posted on Twitter an 11th century poem criticizing Islam, and he was charged and convicted of a crime against the State.
“This is not Justice” Fikret’s Case:
As you may remember, a couple years ago Fikret posted a critical comment on an online newspaper regarding the results of a court case against a handicapped young man. He had said, “This is not justice.” The judge he criticized opened a case against all who commented critically about him below that article. Fikret was charged with criticizing the State (through his criticism of the judge), and was convicted of the crime (a pending 3 year prison term).
We appealed the case, and we just heard back from the higher court that the case was sent back to the lower courts. It has to be re-tried with certain “new laws” in mind.
What those new laws are, we are still discovering. Are they in his favor, or against him? Are they stricter judgments (ie: 10 year terms) or are they looser judgments (ie: freedom of speech is suddenly on the books?). We do not know.
All this to say, please pray.
MONDAY, June 3 (ie: Sunday night, June 2 PST) Fikret will appear in court here in Foca Izmir to give a statement regarding this new “thought crime” case.
While people in Turkey are free to have religious beliefs other than Islam, people are not free to think anything critical of the State or Islam. It’s a typical double-think conundrum.
In fact, as I write this I am being careful of how I word things, because it is quite probable that this email will end up in the hands of the Turkish authorities, and I will have to give account.
It’s no fun to know the First Amendment laws of the United States, and to be subject to a different scheme of laws.
And yet “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” True freedom is something that cannot be taken away. For this we thank God.
**That the Spirit guides Fikret’s thoughts and words as he prepares and gives his statement to the courts.
**Pray that truth and reason will trump doublethink.
**We want the best for this country, and we hope that the judges will do what is right and good for the people.
**Pray for just judges and upright law-makers in Turkey.
**Pray that the light of Christ reaches even into the heart of Turkish judges, that they will be called from darkness to light.
Thank you for your faithful prayers.
Praise the LORD! We are grateful that God has provided transportation for us for our furlough. If you are currently in a position wondering if your needs will be met, and are waiting on an answer to prayer, remember this verse: “And my God shall supply all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Phil 4:19