In Ankara, Tillerson Talks Turkey

In Ankara, Tillerson Talks Turkey

April 03, 2017

Just because the administration has changed doesn’t mean the plight of overseas Christians has. Slowly but surely, President Trump’s new administration is acting to give new hope to the persecuted -- including U.S. citizens like Andrew Brunson, an American pastor behind bars in Turkey. Last October, he and his wife, Norine, who served more than 20 years in the country, were arrested and charged with “membership in an armed terrorist organization.” Although his wife was released, Pastor Brunson has been jailed for months without a scrap of evidence. “Will the Turkish government face no consequence for stubbornly continuing to hold an American citizen as a political prisoner?” Pastor Brunson said in a statement.

Back on American soil, Norine has been desperately working for her husband’s freedom -- a goal that seems much more realistic under this White House. On Thursday, the Brunsons had a major breakthrough in their case when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson agreed to meet with Norine in Ankara. “On Monday, Andrew told me he felt the Lord had said I would meet with Secretary of State Tillerson,” she wrote. “On Tuesday I was told by the embassy and another senator that the meeting would NOT happen. I decided to come to Ankara anyway and arrived last night. I met with another significant person in the State Department early afternoon, then late afternoon was told the Secretary would meet with me.”

Although no one is quite sure when or even if Pastor Brunson will be released, they are certain the Trump administration is taking the issue seriously -- which is a welcome relief after eight years of Obama’s indifference. Hopefully, Secretary Tillerson is starting to gain a better appreciation of religious liberty in crises like these. America is still bruised after the devastating policies of the last administration -- which refused for years to call Christian genocide by its name. But there’s a definite sea change underway, as the State Department starts to take these cases seriously. Just think: Pastor Saeed Abedini’s family had to wait two years to meet with the Obama administration. The Brunsons waited just over two months. That’s progress!

Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

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