A Christian Pastor in Turkey’s Prison
(By Sohrab Ahmadi published in the Wall Street Journal, Jan. 3, 2017)
Andrew Brunson was elated when Turkey’s Interior Ministry summoned him on Oct. 7 in the coastal city of Izmir. The ministry, the American pastor imagined, was granting him and his wife, Norine, permanent-resident status after they’d spent more than two decades preaching the gospel in Turkey. Instead they were arrested and detained for unspecified reasons.
Yet overnight on Dec. 8 the pastor was transferred to a counterterror center, brought before a judge the next day and charged with “membership in an armed terrorist organization.” To this day the limited case documentation provided to the family doesn’t specify which “terror” organization the pastor supposedly joined. Court proceedings revealed, however, that the Turks may have pegged Pastor Brunson as a Gulenist.
Fethullah Gulen is a Pennsylvania-based imam whom President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accuses of masterminding July’s failed coup. For years Mr. Gulen’s followers worked hand-in-hand with Mr. Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party to purge the country’s secular establishment. The relationship soured in 2013, however, and a power struggle ensued between the rival Islamist camps.
Most observers in Turkey, including members of the opposition, believe Gulenists were behind the attempted putsch this summer. But “Gulen” plays the role of Goldstein in Mr. Erdogan’s personal “1984” — the devious traitor who lurks behind every doner-kebob stand and behind every tragedy. Under the pretext of rooting out Gulenists, the government has jailed or fired tens of thousands of police officers, prosecutors, judges, journalists, educators and members of the armed forces.
Now even evangelical pastors are secret Gulenists.
Then there are cases like Pastor Brunson’s. A court on Thursday denied his appeal against imprisonment. So far his is the most serious, but authorities have also expelled a number of evangelical missionaries in recent months and shuttered a Protestant church in Antakya for offering “unauthorized” Bible courses.
The ACLJ, which is representing the Brunson family, is calling for his immediate release and said in a statement that “we are continuing our diplomatic efforts to engage the incoming U.S. administration, and moving forward with an appeal of his case.”
(Above is an excerpt of the article. For the full article, click here.)
- Andrew is being held in a small room with 18 other devout muslims. He has been granted a Bible and several Turkish books, he only has received mail from his wife (Norine) but even that is monitored. Norine has been allowed a few visits, granted special permission, but those are restricted and monitored. Andrew, from his wife’s posts, is discouraged and needs to know that we are standing with him. She is grateful for our prayers and support throughout this journey since October. Pray for the body of Messiah to continue to pray and advocate for Andrew’s release.
- Pray that Andrew would understand that God is sovereign even in the most difficult situation. Pray that angels would minister to him (Hebrews 1:14). That Andrew will have revelation and an understanding that in all of this he is standing for the Turkish and Kurdish churches (Ezekial 22:30) as well as a breakthrough for the Muslim world.
- Pray for Norine (Andrew’s wife), their children, the church there in Izmir and the church in Turkey. Pray that they would remain strong, committed and protected while they fight for Andrew’s release. Pray that they would not bow to the spirit of intimidation but continue to fight the good fight of faith (1 Tim 6:12) declaring the mystery of the Gospel, clearly and without fear (Col. 4:2).
- Turkey Refuses to Release Jailed American Pastor by CBN (Jan 4, 2017, Christian Broadcasting Network)
- Appeal Denied for American Pastor Andrew Burnson Imprisoned in Turkey by Jordan Sekulow (Jan 2017, American Centre for Law and Justice)
- Why America’s NATO Ally is Persecuting Christian by Jennifer Wishon (Feb. 1, 2017)
If you would like to do more, you can do the following as recommended by Andrew’s family:
1. White House petition. There is a focused social media campaign this week directed toward President Trump. Capitol Hill leadership and religious freedom advocates have agreed that Trump is the one person who can effect Andrew’s release. He alone could call Erdoğan and tell him, “If you want to have a conversation about a better relationship with the United States, you will first release Andrew Brunson.” This is the message we have tried to get to the President since mid-December. To date, we have failed.It is time for another approach, so we have launched a “Forgotten American in Turkey” petition at https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/forgotten-american-turkey. In order to get the attention of the White House, we need to get 100,000 signatures by March 6. While a high bar, it is reachable if we all take a minute to sign and get the word out to our congregations. In addition, you can contact the White House directly at http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact#page. We will post links to this petition on EPConnection as well as the EPC Facebook page and Twitter feeds this week.
2. Twitter. We have registered the hashtag #ForgottenAmericanInTurkey so please use it as you share our article with your social networks. Also, please like, share, repost, and retweet any other articles about Andrew that cross your radar (and add #ForgottenAmericanInTurkey). We also can capture the attention of the White House and President Trump by adding the Twitter handles @WhiteHouse and @realDonaldTrump to any article you share. By adding these Twitter handles, your post will appear in both Trump’s and the White House’s feed.
3. Finally, please consider setting your calendar for noon each day in your local time zone and posting #ForgottenAmericanInTurkey with @WhiteHouse and @realDonaldTrump in your post. If you do this, President Trump—and everyone who follows him—will hear us.
Photo credit: “Free Andrew Brunson” from ACLJ website