“Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
In October 2016, American Pastor and missionary Andrew Brunson was detained by local police in Izmir, Turkey. Brunson did not understand why he was being taken to the police station along with his wife, Norine, but he assumed that once they had a chance to speak with the right authorities the matter would be cleared up. However, Brunson was immediately taken into custody and accused of spying on Turkish officials for the U.S. He is still in prison awaiting trial, having recently been formally charged as being a member of a terrorist organization. It should be noted that no evidence has been produced to substantiate these accusations.
A long-time missionary
Andrew and his wife are originally from South Carolina, but they have lived and worked in the country of Turkey for over two decades. Family members had hoped that a judge would choose to deport Brunson back to the United States rather than hold him for trial, but authorities decided that he should stay in prison and face trial in a Turkish court of law.
One can imagine that conditions in a Turkish prison are not held to the same set of standards that would be normal in most Western detention facilities, particularly for a Christian being held on bogus charges.
The political landscape
It appears that Brunson is caught it a political power play whereby Turkey is using him as leverage against the U.S., with whom relationships have been tense as of late. In a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President Trump made a case for the release of Andrew Brunson, but to no avail. Still, American diplomats continue to seek ways to reach an agreement with Turkey that includes Brunson’s release.
Meanwhile, the Turkish Government continues to press the United States to deport Gulen back to Turkey. Gulen, a cleric who now lives in the U.S.,
has been accused of organizing a failed attempt to overthrow President Erdogan last July. The U.S. will not send Gulen to what would almost certainly be a death sentence, nor will our leaders play into the hands of a brutal government such as Turkey’s. As a result, Pastor Brunson remains behind bars as Turkey tries to force America’s hand.
The Church is persecuted
The persecution of Christians around the world is very real, and Brunson’s story is an example of the challenge that people who preach the name of Jesus face in predominantly Muslim countries. We must be thankful for the Brunsons’ willingness to serve the Lord in Turkey, and for their stand for the Gospel even at such a great cost.
The American Center for Law and Justice has started a campaign to free Andrew Brunson. Their petition already has 300,000 signatures. You can sign it here: https://aclj.org/persecuted-church/free-american-pastor-andrew-brunson
Pray: Please be in prayer for Andrew Brunson and his family as he awaits trial in Turkey. Pray also that American authorities may be able to intervene in this delicate situation and find a way to bring Brunson home.