Turkey (MNN) — Today, American Pastor Andrew Brunson will have his second hearing in Turkey for charges of terrorism and espionage. He was jailed a year and a half ago as part of Turkey’s mass arrest campaign following the failed 2016 coup.
Since then, Brunson has become a political pawn. The Turkish government is pressuring the United States to extradite Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim cleric that Ankara believes orchestrated the coup. After Brunson’s first hearing on April 16th, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reaffirmed this call for a prisoner swap which the US. Washington staunchly refused, finding no connection between Gulen and the 2016 coup.
Last week, a bipartisan group of 66 senators proposed renewed sanctions on Turkish government officials if Turkey does not release Pastor Brunson.
Additionally, Sens. James Lankford (R-Okla.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) presented a bill to block the transfer of F-35 Lightning II fighters to Turkey.
Lankford stated, “Turkey’s strategic decisions regrettably fall more and more out of line with, and at times in contrast to, US interests.
“Furthermore, the Turkish government continues to move closer and closer to Russia, as they hold an innocent American pastor in prison to use him as a pawn in political negotiations. The United States does not reward hostage-taking of American citizens; such action instead will be met with the kind of punitive measures this bill would enact.”
Will these sanctions and import blocks prove effective? Miles Windsor with Middle East Concern reflects, “It’s very difficult to know how Turkey will respond to any given situation at the moment. It’s hard to see where the way forward is on this at present. But we know we have a powerful God and He ultimately is sovereign and can overrule in this situation.”
The tit-for-tat political moves between the US and Turkey are slowly raising the stakes in Brunson’s case.
“Trials of this sort can take a long time, and when I say a long time, it might be years. It’s our hope that that isn’t the case. It’s our hope that there will be a resolution to this soon and that there will be justice in this case,” says Windsor.
“It is a very frustrating situation. Obviously, most of all, frustrating isn’t strong enough a term for what Andrew and Norine Brunson will be going through. It’s a very painful situation for them and the sense that there doesn’t seem to be any sense of leeway on the part of Turkey on the situation just compounds that.”
The supposed evidence against Brunson is based on anonymous witnesses. Beyond that, nothing else has been presented to Brunson’s lawyer to justify his imprisonment.
In Brunson’s last trial, he said before the court, “I did not engage in any illegal activity. I had no relations with anyone engaged in such activity,” he said. “I am a Christian pastor. I did not join an Islamic movement. Their aims and mine are different.”
Before Brunson was arrested, he pastored a church in Turkey for over two decades. Windsor says with things so tenuous for the Turkish Church, believers are trying not to attract negative attention.
“We can’t speak into what the church is saying specifically, what members of the congregation are saying. I would imagine they would be seeking to keep a fairly low profile at the moment for fear of further action against them themselves. We know that the leaders of the Protestant Church in Turkey have expressed deep concern at the injustice against Pastor Brunson and continue to be as supportive as possible in this situation.”
As Brunson faces his second hearing today, please lift his case before the Lord in prayer.
Windsor shares, “Certainly, Andrew and Norine Brunson would value continued prayer for justice to be done, for wisdom on the part of his lawyer, and on the part of the chief judge in this case who has the power to release Andrew Brunson. But also for Andrew and Norine’s psychological well-being, this has been a long, traumatic process for them. [Pray] that they would have a sense of God’s presence with them and His peace.”
Please also pray for the Church in Turkey to remain strong in faith and represent Christ well before their neighbors. Ask God to stir spiritual revival in Turkey for the sake of His Gospel.
(Header photo courtesy of World Witness)