July 13, 2018
It was just supposed to be a routine trip to renew his visa. But for Pastor Andrew Brunson, it was the start of his worst nightmare. After more than 20 years in Turkey, the country he and his U.S. family considered home put him behind bars -- the start of the darkest chapter of his life.
A year and a half later, government officials still insist that he was conspiring against Turkey -- bogus charges that Brunson has flatly denied. "I've never done anything against Turkey," the emotional pastor said in his first trial. "I love Turkey. I've been praying for Turkey for 25 years. I want the truth to come out." American leaders have been doing their best to make sure it does, fighting fiercely for Pastor Andrew's release. Sixty-six members of the Senate, 154 members of the U.S. House and his state legislature in North Carolina have called on Turkey to let the husband and father go. Republicans and Democrats alike have raised their voices, even going so far as to block Turkey from buying our fighter jets until the pastor is on his own plane back to the U.S.
"Any time an American is wrongfully detained anywhere by a foreign government, it is our country's duty to do everything we can to bring him or her home," insisted Democrat Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), who, along with Senators Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) have championed the cause with the Trump administration. The White House has pressured Turkey publicly and behind closed doors to use Pastor Andrew's next hearing, July 18, as an international show of goodwill. Otherwise, if convicted, Brunson faces 35 years in prison -- a sentence that his family worries could destroy him. Emotionally and physically fragile, Pastor Andrew spends 24 hours a day in his cell, leaving, Open Doors USA reports, for one hour of visits each week.
In statements, Pastor Brunson has said, "Let it be clear, I am in prison, not for anything that I have done wrong, but because of who I am -- a Christian pastor. I desperately miss my wife and children. Yet, I believe this to be true -- it is an honor to suffer for Jesus Christ as many have before me. My deepest thanks to all those around the world who are standing with me and praying for me."
As fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, we need to continue lifting up Andrew and the entire Brunson family in prayer. As I Corinthians 12:26 says, "If one part suffers, every part suffers with it." Pastors, I encourage you to lead your churches in a special time of prayer this weekend before Wednesday's trial. Pray for peace for Andrew, wisdom for U.S. leaders, and compassion from Turkish officials. One local newspaper is predicting the "imminent" release of Pastor Brunson -- let's pray they're right!
Pastor Brunson has asked that we stand with him in prayer, so let him know that you're standing with him. Sign our prayer pledge, and one my fellow Commissioners on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, Kristiana Arriaga, who is traveling to Turkey to be with Pastor Brunson, will deliver your message.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.