Sometimes the world news is brought home to you in personal ways. Today I read that a 32 year old British film-maker has been killed while working alongside Kurdish forces fighting Islamic State in Syria. He had been working as a press officer. His name was Mehmet Askoy.
In 2012 a group of Kurdish protesters came storming into our church at St Martin’s saying they were on hunger strike and were not going to leave. Their spokesman was young Mehmet Askoy. He was passionate about the Kurdish cause and not at all ready to be persuaded to leave. During the course of a long afternoon I encouraged him and his hunger strikers to demonstrate not inside but out on the steps where we promised to come and join them. Ally Hargreaves brought us all cups of tea from the café and Rod Beadles my brother Daniel and I sat down with them and during the night heard Mehmet’s story and his longing for justice for the Kurdish people that filled every part of his being. At the end of their hunger strike we held a service for them in St Martin’s and we broke their fast together in the Café in the Crypt. Those who had seemed a threat had become our friends. Later Rod and I were welcomed with great hospitality in the Kurdish Centre in North London and Mehmet and other Kurds came to our International Committee to share a meal and their story. Mehmet wrote to me: “I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your kindness and generosity. Every time I am in your environment at St Martin’s I feel very overwhelmed; spiritually and humanly. No group of people have ever made me feel so welcome knowing my background and struggle. I hope we are able to continue this relationship.”
In the Guardian today one of his friends has written “Mehmet was the most beautiful of souls who was utterly dedicated to telling the story of the Kurdish people’s profound struggle for justice and freedom”. He did just that and Rod, Daniel and I and those who were fortunate to sit with him will not forget his story, nor the way greater understanding can be born.
Revd Richard Carter