Turkey may push up imprisoned American pastor’s trial

Turkey (MNN) — Turkey has broken its silence on the Andrew Brunson case. Andrew Brunson, an American pastor, has been imprisoned in Turkey since October 7th on charges of terrorist connections. But, so far, no evidence has been presented except for an anonymous witness. The Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim stated earlier this month that the country may be willing to speed up Brunson’s trial.

(Map courtesy of International Needs)

The Voice of the Martyrs USA’s Todd Nettleton explains the Prime Minister made this recent comment about Brunson’s case in an interview with an American journalist. “Then interestingly, [Prime Minister Yildirim] switched immediately to the case of Fethullah Gulen, who is a Turkish cleric currently sort of living in exile in the United States. Turkey has asked for his deportation, that he be sent back to Turkey to face trial for, in their estimation, leading or facilitating the coup attempt last summer. The American government has said no, we’re not going to do this. So the Prime Minister of Turkey, talking about Andrew Brunson, immediately switched to Fethullah Gulen, then of course said, ‘Well, I’m not trying to say those two cases are connected.’”

Although the Turkish Prime Minister alleges no connection between Brunson’s and Gulen’s cases, there is speculation that Turkey may be sticking to their guns on Brunson’s imprisonment until the U.S. turns over Gulen to the Turkish authorities.

Andrew and Norine Brunson (Photo courtesy of World Watch Monitor)

Unfortunately, says Nettleton, “That makes Andrew Brunson simply a pawn in a big, political game of cat-and-mouse.”

As for the charges Brunson faces, “I have not seen a good explanation of why Andrew Brunson — an American citizen, a Christian, a pastor — is in prison. He seems to have been sort of swept up in the crackdown that happened after the coup attempt last summer, but I haven’t seen anything that links him to the coup attempt or that he was in any way sympathetic or involved or spoke publicly or anything related to the coup. But it seems like, in the thousands of arrests that have happened in Turkey since the coup attempt, one of them just so happened to be an American who lived there.“

What does this mean for the Church in Turkey? “I think we’re also concerned because Turkey is an ally of the U.S., and Turkey is a country where other Christians live as well. If Turkey is going to start sort of randomly charging Christian workers with terrorism, that is obviously a big concern for the other Christians who are in that country as well.”

The U.S. is putting pressure on Turkey to release Brunson, but you can help by adding your voice.

“The first thing obviously we want to do is pray, and I think we also want to make our government officials aware that we’re praying, aware that we’re interested. There has been a letter sent to the Turkish government signed by numerous senators and congressmen. I saw a report earlier this week that Andrew Brunson’s family is trying to get a meeting with President Trump to put this on his radar and have him as a spokesperson.”

Meanwhile, please pray ceaselessly for Andrew Brunson. Nettleton offers three key things you can pray for.

Protection — “I have seen reports that [Brunson] does have a Bible, that’s good news. But he’s also in with other prisoners, and in a country like Turkey, many of those prisoners will be Muslim — some of them perhaps radical Muslims who would see it as a service to Allah to attack a Christian or to make a Christian’s life miserable. So we want to pray for God’s protection over him in prison.”
Witness — “I think we can pray for witnessing opportunities. When you have lots of time to pass, there’s lots of opportunity for conversation, and perhaps there will be a Muslim there who will ask some questions about Andrew Brunson’s faith and he’ll have opportunities to share about Christ. That’s something we can pray for.”
Family — “I think we can pray for his family as well. Obviously, wondering and worrying about him constantly takes a toll on a family, so we can pray that God will encourage them and lift them up through this time.”

Click here to learn more about Voice of the Martyrs’ advocacy for persecuted Christians at their website.