Turkey/USA (MNN) — President Donald Trump raised the issue of a U.S. pastor imprisoned in Turkey not once, not twice, but three times during a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Washington, their first face-to-face meeting since Trump took office in January.
The White House confirmed Trump had raised the subject of Pastor Andrew Brunson in this readout of the meeting:
President Donald J. Trump met today [May 16th] with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey to discuss how to further strengthen the deep and diverse relationship between our two countries. President Trump reiterated the commitment of the United States to the security of our NATO ally Turkey and the need to work together to confront terrorism in all its forms. President Trump raised the incarceration of Pastor Andrew Brunson and asked that the Turkish Government expeditiously return him to the United States. President Trump told President Erdogan that he looks forward to seeing him next week during his upcoming international travel.
Brunson and his wife had lived for over two decades in Turkey, where he was the pastor of the Izmir Resurrection Church. The couple had applied for permanent residency, and when they were contacted by authorities, they thought that was the reason. Instead, says Voice of the Martyrs USA spokesman Todd Nettleton, “Last October, he and his wife, Norine, were arrested. They were taken into custody; subsequently, Norine was released. Pastor Andrew was charged with being linked to terrorist organizations.”
The Brunsons’ false arrest came during yet another crackdown after a failed military coup in Turkey last July. Christian minorities have been swept up along with others perceived to be Erdogan’s opposition. The American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ) submitted a formal written statement to the United Nations (U.N.) Human Rights Council on behalf of American Pastor Andrew Brunson.
Even Turkey has admitted the case is thin. Nettleton explains, “The evidence against him is apparently some anonymous witness or anonymous source. That’s never been produced in court; it’s never been named in court, so nobody’s very clear on what this so-called evidence is.” Aside from petitions, one thing we can do as the Body of Christ is pray.
“We’re waiting to hear what will happen. Will there be a trial? We know that his case was reportedly raised by President Trump, also by Vice President Pence. So, there is hope that perhaps there will be some movement in this case because of those conversations that happened in Washington.”
Given the hostility against Christians in Turkey, when asked how the hope of Christ goes forward, Nettleton says it comes through building friendships and relationships. Conversations built in trust eventually open doors to talk about bigger questions.
“Those conversations that grow out of relationship and friendship can lead Muslims into the Scripture. They can lead them, ultimately, to understand the offer that Jesus gives us of eternity with Him, eternity in Heaven.”
In the end, regardless of what the government does, he says, God is able to work through those relationships. “Ultimately, if we’re willing, He will use us to accomplish His purposes, even if it’s not a place we would choose or a hardship we would choose.”