By Randy Berle
Christian Action League
July 6, 2018
A Turkish newspaper is saying that Pastor Andrew Brunson from Black Mountain, North Carolina, might be released at his next court date, July 18th.
The motive, according to the article in the Hurriyet Daily News, says, “the Turkish government seems to be committed to developing ties with U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration through increasing cooperation in the Syrian theater and resolving scores of bilateral problems.”
Brunson, 50, has served in Turkey as a Christian missionary for 23 years. He is pastor of the Izmir Resurrection Church, a congregation of about 50 people.
Brunson was unjustly imprisoned in October of 2016 and accused of having ties to Muslim cleric, Fetullah Gulen, whom the Turkish government alleges was responsible for a coup attempt. On the basis of testimony from anonymous witnesses, Turkish authorities erroneously claim that Brunson is associated with Kurdistan, is a spy, and that his Christian missions work is a front for overthrowing the government.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom strongly condemns the unsubstantiated charges against Brunson and urged the Turkish government to reverse course immediately.
North Carolina’s U.S. Senator, Thom Tillis, attended Brunson’s trial and referred to it as a “kangaroo court.” Even President Trump tweeted that he was more of a spy than Brunson.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has suggested arrangements might be made to release Brunson if the United States extradites Fetullah Gulen back to Turkey. The Muslim cleric is currently exiled in Pennsylvania.
The Washington Post has rightly argued that “Erdogan’s reckless hostage diplomacy is hurting not only Turkey’s image but also its relations with the United States and other NATO allies.”
Ramping up the pressure on Turkey to release Brunson, the U.S. Senate recently moved to stop the delivery of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft previously promised to Turkey.
On June 29th, U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham and Jeanne Shaheen traveled to Turkey and discussed with President Erdogan the plight of the pastor, as well as other matters of state.
The article in the Hurriyet Daily News claims the detention of Pastor Brunson is among a number of issues that the U.S. Department of State has diligently engaged. It further states:
“On all these issues, being an evangelic pastor, Brunson’s case has been attracting enormous attention in the U.S., both politically and religiously. It has caused a number of serious congressional interventions against Turkey, which would cause political consequences.
“Brunson, who has been in jail since late 2016, seems to be much too costly for Turkey, and his continued detention would further complicate the situation. That is why many diplomats in Ankara expect his potential release followed by his deportation pending trial on the July 18 hearing.
“Of course, it is impossible to foresee what the court’s decision will be, but his release would sure help the ongoing reconciliation process between Turkey and the U.S.”
Last month the North Carolina House unanimously passed a resolution calling for Brunson’s release. The North Carolina Senate followed the resolution with a Senatorial Statement signed by 48 out of 50 Senate members urging the same.
Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, who spearheaded and lobbied the North Carolina General Assembly for both of these legislative initiatives said:
“Let me share something E.M. Bounds once wrote about prayer. He penned, ‘To pray is the greatest thing that we can do, and to do it well, there must be calmness, time, and deliberation.’
“We all deeply appreciate the vast array of people like Senators Thom Tillis, Graham, Shaheen, officials from the State Department, religious liberty organizations, North Carolina lawmakers, and many others that have done much for Brunson’s release. But there is absolutely nothing more powerful that can be done than for God’s people to fervently pray. I urge every supporter of the Christian Action League, as well as other followers of Christ, to calmly and deliberately set aside time to pray for Brunson’s immediate freedom.
“Moreover, may the injustice he suffers spur us to pray for the 215 million other Christians around the world who are experiencing serious bouts with persecution for their faith in Christ.”
Brunson has a wife, Norine, and three children. His home church is Christ Community Church, in Montreat, North Carolina.