Turkey (MNN) – Last week, American Pastor Andrew Brunson was given a new indictment in Turkish court. This time he was charged with “leadership in a terrorist organization.” Prosecutors are seeking a possible life sentence. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) condemns the indictment and calls on the US government to deal with the issue.
According to USCIRF, Brunson’s charges have been brought based on so-called secret evidence and a secret witness. However, the charges seem baseless.
David Curry of Open Doors USA reminds us that Brunson served as a pastor in Turkey for more than two decades before his arrest. He’s been in prison since October of 2016.
Curry says, “Essentially this is a hostage negotiation. This is hostage diplomacy where Turkey, which has slid so far in its international positioning since Erdogan, their president, has tried to position himself as a dictator.”
As we’ve discussed previously, the government is trying to get the United States to extradite Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, someone Erdogan believes is at least partially responsible for the failed coup in 2016.
“There’s an axe to grind. They’ve imprisoned Andrew Brunson, this pastor, and they’re not going to give him back unless they get their demands met. So, it’s really a diplomatic stalemate,” Curry says.
It’s unlikely that the United States will concede to this request. And so, these baseless charges against Brunson continue to grow.
“They’re ratcheting up the pressure and suggesting that this pastor is going to have a very long term in prison. And I think it’s their way of keeping the pressure on the United States government to release this person who they see as a key player in the attempted coup.”
Prayer, our greatest tool
In this situation, Curry says that prayer is really the very best (and perhaps only) action we can take.
“There’s not a lot that can be diplomatically done by Christian churches here because we’re talking about a dictator who’s not going to respond to our pleas. And in some cases, in some ways, it may be counterproductive. So we’re going to have to be prayerful about this.”
And as you pray for Brunson—for his release, courage, and perseverance—Curry says to remember others who are also facing persecution for their faith:
“The thing to remember is when we hear about an American pastor who is held prisoner somewhere, whether it’s in North Korea or in Turkey, there are many, many, many other pastors who are in prison or Christians who are in prison for their faith around the world. This is just one, it’s public knowledge here in America because he is an American citizen. But we don’t pray for him because he is an American citizen, we pray for him because he’s a follower of Jesus, in my mind. He’s a citizen first of the Kingdom, and so we support our brother or sister in the Lord.”
He also encourages you to stay up to date on stories like this, and to share these stories so that you’ll continue to be in prayer and keep a good focus. You can catch up on news of the Persecuted Church, here.
“Even in the midst of these difficult times, amazing things are happening in the Kingdom, and we need to stay focused on keeping a balanced point of view.”
(Header Photo courtesy of Spyros Papaspyropoulos via Flickr)