January 22, 2018
Wilberforce A!ert: You are not forgotten, Andrew Brunson
On January 2, 2018, the Middle East Concern released a note from Pastor Andrew Brunson highlighting some of his experiences of life behind bars in Turkey. Pastor Brunson’s wife, Norine, shared the following from Brunson:
“I am deeply grateful to all who have prayed for me. This trial – time in prison – has stretched me far more than I ever would have imagined. I have been very weak, had many doubts, felt very alone. I know that God’s grace is sustaining me, even when I do not feel that grace, and I know that the prayers of God’s people are surrounding me and giving me strength.”
For more than two decades, Brunson, a U.S. Citizen and resident from North Carolina, has lived with his wife and three children in Turkey. He was pastoring the Izmir Resurrection Presbyterian Church along the Aegean coast when he was arbitrarily arrested in October 2016. According to the Wall Street Journal, among the charges the government brought against him are alleged membership in an armed terroristic organization, espionage, and actions to overthrow the Turkish Parliament.
The details surrounding Pastor Brunson’s case remain complicated. Since an attempted coup in July 2016, the Turkish government has detained or suspended more than 75,000 government officials for alleged links to the Gulen Movement and its founder, Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who currently lives in the U.S. The Turkish government refuses to release Pastor Brunson from prison unless the U.S. Government extradites Fethullah Gulen.
Despite international attention, Pastor Brunson remains locked behind bars. The U.S. Government has shown encouragement to Brunson’s family. Early in 2017 after Secretary Tillerson met with Mrs. Brunson, ACLJ reports that Vice President Pence sent a letter to her stating that his release is important to the White House and the State Department. Six months later, in October 2017, delegates from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) traveled to Izmir, Turkey to meet with Pastor Brunson in prison. In their meeting with Pastor Brunson, they noted that he had been denied basic rights of due process. In addition, the Turkish government had given him almost no information on the charges brought against him and no court date had been issued. In prison, where no one speaks his language, Pastor Brunson faces continued physical isolation. Due to the stress of imprisonment, he has lost more than 50 pounds this past year.
A high-level U.S. delegation arrived in Turkey on Tuesday for bilateral talks in Ankara, and World Watch Monitor reports that Pastor Brunson’s case will be part of the discussions. Pastor Brunson has not given up hope. In his note to Middle East Concern, he also said:
“One of my big fears has been that I will be forgotten in prison. Thank you for not forgetting! It is a great encouragement to know there are people praying for me – it reminds me that I am not alone, and that I need to stand firm, with my face pointed in God’s direction always. Thank you for standing with me in this most difficult time.”
We must stand for Pastor Andrew Brunson and call for his immediate release.
1. Contact your Members of Congress and urge for increased government pressure for the release of Pastor Andrew Brunson.
2. Pray for Andrew Brunson’s immediate release and continued safety and health.