Christians in Turkey

 

“Their nation views them as traitors. They are Turks who love their country and their families. But that love is constantly questioned by a government which perpetuates the myth that Turks can only be Muslim.”

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Over the last millennia, extremist Islamic influence has eroded Turkey’s relationship with its Christian population, leading to increased acts of terrorism, discrimination, and hatred towards Christianity. Once a shining reminder of the early Christian church, modern-day Turkey has become a convoluted mixture of ethnoreligious persecution. The Turkish government perpetuates the antiChristian narrative by stirring up ethnic and religious hatred towards Christianity through hate speech. Persecution of Christians in Turkey will last as long as its own charged rhetoric allows. Turkey’s admission of large numbers of refugees in the past decade further complicates the situation, bringing new Christian communities into the fold of persecution. The Erosion Begins Turkey is a product of different civilizations and centuries of warfare and conquest. Many pivotal moments in church history occurred on Turkish soil, including
the first seven Ecumenical Councils and the Council of Nicea. It is even known as the birthplace of the early church. Notable followers of Christ, such as Paul of Tarsus, Timothy, Nicholas of Myra, and Polycarp of Smyrna, hailed from Turkey. The city of Constantinople, now Istanbul, became the capital of the Byzantine Empire and the headquarters of the Eastern Orthodox Church. This all quickly changed with the aggressive expansion of Islam. In the 7th century, Seljuk Turks captured half of Christian land, including the city of Jerusalem. At the turn of the millennia, Christians rose up to defend the Byzantine Christians from Seljuk Turks and recover the Holy Land in a 200-year conflict known as the Crusades. Both sides committed human rights abuses against each other, a reality that challenges interfaith dialogue and attempts at reconciliation tho this day. Turks’ bitter view of the Crusades presents a significant hurdle for evangelization, and for some Turkish Muslims, justifies the persecution of Christians. The Turks possession of Constantinople in 1453 marked the beginning of an attempt to completely eliminate Christianity in Turkey.
In a symbolic act, they forcefully converted a thousand-year old church and architectural wonder, Hagia Sophia, into a mosque. When the Ottoman Empire officially dissolved in 1923, the modern “secular” state of Turkey was born.
By Meg McEwen
An historical overview of Turkey’s relationship with the Church and its ongoing persecution of Christianity

20th Century Genocides In the 20th century, Christianity dipped from roughly 25% of the population to 2%, a direct result of government-supervised ethnoreligious cleansing. Most of the victims belonged to the Eastern Church. The Turkish government participated in an intensive, highly systematic killing spree, attempting to eliminate the Armenian people Leading up to this event, Armenians were treated as second-class citizens, abused by Muslims under the Ottoman Empire’s dhimmi system. Multiple international attempts were made to establish basic human rights for the Armenian people, but the government never enforced its agreements. The Armenian genocide left approximately one million corpses strewn across the parched path to the Syrian desert, a death march that remains largely controversial within the international community. Both the United States and Israel have failed to recognize the Armenian genocide, though many credible documents and eye-witness reports have surfaced regarding the tragedy. The Assyrian and Greek genocides also contributed to the plummeting number of Christians over the course of the early 1900s. Modern-Day Turkey Authorities consistently level hate-speech at Christians, keeping the spirit of enmity alive. Christians are not allowed to train their clergymen, and authorities rarely give them permission to establish a place of worship unless it is in a historical building. Christians are ostracized from society for choosing to opt out of compulsory religious classes. Churches find it nearly impossible to obtain legal standing as
religious congregations. Religious affiliation has been removed from ID cards but is still visible in back end systems, leading to government discrimination. Christians live in uncertainty under the surveillance of President Erdoğan, who recently used an imprisoned American pastor, Andrew Brunson, for leverage in hostage diplomacy with the United States. The president plans to reinforce the Muslim religion by pulling down public schools and replacing them with religious schools. Fifteen years ago, there were only 450 religious schools in Turkey. There are 4,500 today. The president expressed his desire to raise a “pious generation,” which will almost certainly translate into a “violent generation” in the aftermath. Levels of Persecution A large influx of refugees from neighboring, war-torn countries placed new communities of Christians under government pressure, with levels of persecution varying by ethnicity. Christian Turks face a high degree of persecution because the Turkish population is predominantly Muslim. There are 70 million people and 6,000 Turkish Christians, making it difficult for the Christians to practice their faith. In the culture’s understanding, Turkish and Islamic blood run in the same veins. The Turks consider Syrian and Iraqi refugees to be brothers, a remnant of the glorious former Ottoman empire. Christians in these communities are hated, marked as traitors to their heritage. Iranian Christian refugees land on the other side of the persecution spectrum; they are largely left alone, free to worship God. Even though Iranian Christians enjoy relative religious freedom, they fear that they

People who work closely with President Recep Erdoğan describe him as a stern patriarch who alternates between faithful piety and fiery oratory. Before Erdoğan, religion in Turkey remained primarily in the private sphere, and piety was hardly a defining feature of its secular government. But with Erdoğan’s climb up the political ladder, Islamism has come front and center. Erdoğan has transformed Turkey into an Islamic authoritarian state at war with Christianity. Erdoğan’s devotion to Islam is not surprising. He grew up in the Black Sea Region, known for its Islamic conservatism. Ironically, the Black Sea was once the heart of Christianity in ancient Turkey, but today, its Christians number only in the dozens. The fact that Erdoğan’s home community, and possibly even his own ancestors, used to be predominantly Christian makes his brand of Islamic nationalism all the more tragic. Islamist Worldview What does surprise is how quickly Erdoğan’s worldview and message gained traction among his countrymen. He rose from mayor of Istanbul in 1994, to the nation’s Prime Minister in 2003, to President in 2014. Many point to Erdoğan’s four-month imprisonment in 1998 as a defining moment. Charged with “inciting hatred” after reading a religious nationalist poem at a rally, he entered prison openly devoted to Islamism, but left claiming he would wall off his religion from his politics. Shortly after his release, he was quoted by the New York Times as saying, “Before anything else, I’m a Muslim. As a Muslim, I try to comply with the requirements of my religion… But I try now
very much to keep this away from my political life, to keep it private.” Because Erdoğan’s prison experience was one of luxury and comfort, some doubted its transformative effects. In fact, his jail sentence served to boost his profile, and his public charisma grew. In 2001 he helped found the Justice and Development Party (AKP), and two short years later he was elected Prime Minister. Defender of Christianity? A decade and a half later, Erdoğan remains in power (now as President), and Turkey looks radically different. For the first 10 years of his leadership, the country’s slide towards Islamism was hard to perceive. Erdoğan even seemed to defend Christianity at times. In 2007, when young Muslim extremists murdered three Christians operating a Bible publishing house in Malatya, one of the suspects was quoted saying, “Our religion (Islam) is being destroyed. Let this be a lesson to enemies of our religion.” Erdoğan said of the attack: “This is savagery.” Though such incidents make Erdoğan’s Islamism seem less blatant, his authoritarian bent remained clear. The tumultuous aftermath of the failed military coup in July 2016 led to a massive purge of journalists, government officials, teachers, and many others, displaying the draconian character of Erdoğan’s regime. The failed coup also testified to how drastically Turkey had changed, as much of the populace rallied to put down the coup. With the coup’s failure, Erdoğan purged his opponents, both real and perceived, emerging more powerful than ever. He brandished the strident style of his younger days as he took steps to solidify his grip on power. Islamism reemerged as a defining feature of his politics and rhetoric.
Revival of Ottoman Tradition In other words, Erdoğan declared himself openly at war with Atatürk, the founder of Turkey’s secular state. Erdoğan is a passionate historian and a great admirer of Abdülhamid II, known as the “bloody sultan” of the Ottoman Empire. Where Atatürk had cast off the Islamic authority of the Ottoman Empire, Erdoğan seeks to resurrect it, picking up where Abdülhamid II, the empire’s last effective sultan, left off. Said Erdoğan this past February, “Those who think that we have erased from our hearts the lands from which we withdrew in tears a hundred years ago are wrong… We are struggling so that a foreign flag will not be waved anywhere where adhan [Islamic call to prayer in mosques] is recited. The things we have done so far [pale in comparison to the] even greater attempts and attacks [we are planning for] the coming days, inshallah [Allah willing].” It is this open declaration of war that deeply troubles Turkey’s Christians. They know that their president’s view of history matters greatly when it comes to their future. They know that the way Turks in general view Christians is a product of how they interpret the close of Ottoman history. Explains one believer, “During the independent war we fought against lots of countries and some bishops blessed the Turks enemies. That’s why people started to hate Christianity and Christians. Also, some of the enemies’ flags had crosses, like Greece. And because of that people started to see Christians as an enemy.” Erdoğan has tapped into the deepest cultural fears of Turks and promised to resurrect 600 years of Ottoman history with himself as chief proponent. Indeed, he has positioned himself well. One year after the coup, he enacted constitutional changes that greatly reduced the role of parliament and consolidated power within his “executive presidency.” These changes came into full effect in June 2018, after Erdoğan “won” a hotly disputed early election. As his rhetoric increasingly demonstrates, Erdoğan views all opposition to his new authoritarianism as a “clash between cross and crescent.” More than any other leader besides Atatürk, Erdoğan has thoroughly transformed Turkey. The question is, what role do Christians have in Turkey’s future? Are they the enemies, as Erdoğan’s rhetoric suggests? Or are they second-class, dhimmi citizens, just as they were under Ottoman rule?

President Erdoğan’s Rise Signals Trouble for Christians
By Claire Evans
“Those who think that we have erased from our hearts the lands from which we withdrew in tears a hundred years ago are wrong…” – PRESIDENT RECEP ERDOĞAN

I was born in a country where Christianity is a deeply rooted, but deeply marginalized religion. Turkey, which today encompasses Asia Minor (or Anatolia), contains more biblical sites than any other region in the Middle East except Israel. Many Christian Apostles and Saints, such as Paul of Tarsus, Peter, John, Timothy, Nicholas of Myra, and Polycarp of Smyrna, among others, either ministered or lived in Turkey. The Seven Churches of Asia, the major churches of early Christianity, are in Anatolia. The first seven ecumenical councils were also held there. The first was convened in A.D. 325 by the emperor Constantine in Nicaea (Iznik). Today, however, only 0.2 percent of Turkey’s population of nearly 80 million are Christian. Centuries of Islamic Control The Islamization of the region began when Turkic tribes from Central Asia invaded the Armenian highland of the Greek Byzantine Empire in 1071 and started occupying Christian cities. Those Muslim tribes first established the Seljuk Empire in Anatolia and then ruled the Ottoman Empire (1299–1923). For centuries, Christians became dhimmis— third-class, tolerated citizens forced to pay a tax in exchange for “protection” under Islamic Sharia law. Then from 1914 to 1923, the Ottoman government and Turkish nationalist forces committed genocide against Armenian, Greek and Assyrian Christians. Approximately 3 million Christians perished. Many Greek Christian survivors were forcibly expelled from Turkey in 1923. But successive Turkish governments have aggressively denied that the genocide ever occurred and have continued persecuting Christians. From 1941-1942, the Turkish military attempted to force Christians and Jews—
including the elderly and mentally ill— to work under horrendous conditions in labor battalions. In 1942, a Wealth Tax was imposed to eliminate Christians and Jews from the economy. A savage anti-Greek pogrom in 1955 also targeted Armenians and Jews in Istanbul. In 1964, thousands of Greeks were forcefully expelled from Turkey. These policies all contributed to the annihilation of Christians in the country. Present-Day Discrimination Christians remain exposed to severe oppression in Turkey. Greek-speaking Orthodox Christians, for example, cannot freely obtain education in the Theological School of Halki, the main theological school of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. The school was shut down by the Turkish government in 1971 and has not been reopened. Since that time, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, the spiritual center of Orthodox Christianity, has been unable to train clergy and potential successors for the patriarch. The remaining Christian Assyrians are also struggling with many challenges. For example, they lack the official right to public education in their own institutions. In Istanbul, they are attempting to open a private elementary school although the government refuses to grant financial support. Meanwhile, both the government and some Muslim Kurdish locals in southeast Turkey continue to illegally seize their properties. Protestants are among the most oppressed Christians in Turkey. The government does not recognize the Protestant community as a “legal entity.” Hence, Protestants hold no right to freely establish and maintain churches. The Protestant community also faces discrimination in the training of religious leaders. Since current law prohibits the opening of religious training schools, the Protestant community relies on support from foreign church leaders. Sadly, several foreign religious workers and church members have been deported, denied entry into Turkey, refused residence permits, or denied entry visas. Violence Not Limited to the Past Several incidents in recent memory reinforce the very real threat of physical violence against Christians. In 2006, Father Andrea Santoro, an Italian Catholic priest, was murdered in his church in the city of Trabzon by a Muslim shouting “Allahu akbar” (Allah is the greatest). A year later, three Christian employees of the Zirve Bible Publishing House in Malatya were tortured and murdered by five Muslim assailants. Two of the victims were converts. In Anatolia, where Christianity was once the majority religion and thrived for centuries, Turkey’s state forces target and demonize Christian missionaries. And it appears that police, military and intelligence organizations are involved in the murders of Christians in the country. Turkey’s National Security Council has even argued that missionary activities should be regarded as a “national threat.”
“Christians remain exposed to severe oppression in Turkey. “

The Systematic Eradication of Christian Civilization in Turkey By Uzay Bulut

Who Can Count the Cultural Loss? The destruction of churches and their use for sacrilegious purposes such as stables are among the physical outcomes of Christian annihilation and Islamic intolerance in Turkey. But even more alarming is the destruction of the immense knowledge and great cultural legacies of millions of Christians—including that of Christian saints, philosophers and other scholars. Throughout its long history in Turkey, Christian teachings served as an inspiration for philosophy, literature, ethics, philanthropy, architecture, music and theatre, among other fields. Anatolian Christians—both in ancient times as well as under the rule of Byzantines and even as dhimmis under the Ottoman occupation—made countless contributions to human progress in the fields of science, technology, medicine, art, law and politics. Today, however, the Turkish state does not even recognize the “Ecumenical” status of the Patriarch and Patriarchate, the spiritual center of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Meanwhile, the destruction of Christianity is accompanied by the rise of political Islam in Turkey. For example, 54 percent of the participants in a 2017 survey conducted by the progovernment MAK counseling company said “yes” to Turkey having “a religious leadership similar to the caliphate.” Sadly, Turkish governments have carried out their oppressive and destructive actions against Christians either with the active participation or the silent approval of the clear majority of the Muslim Turkish people. Never once in their history have Turkish people attempted to protest the government as Christian and other non-Muslim citizens of the country were and still are exposed to horrific injustices such as murders, pogroms, rapes, and various social pressures. Annihilating Christian peoples and cultures in Turkey has harmed not only Christians but humanity at large. Sadly, the West still looks away as Turkey’s rich Christian heritage is on the verge of disappearing forever.

One cool evening in Ankara, I joined four Turks for tea. All were university-aged converts, two of whom still keep their conversion secret. They gather almost every night and challenge one another to grow in their faith despite the many hardships they face. This night, in hushed but urgent tones, they were eager to unburden themselves about the crisis of identity they face as Turkish Christians. “Ankara is a dark place, a conservative place,” explained one woman. “It is spiritually depressing.” Tears welled in the eyes of another. She was unable to speak for several minutes. She looked toward her brother who nodded in assent about the spiritual darkness surrounding them. Ankara is the capitol of Turkey and its second largest city, a hub of rich history and culture. The palatial Presidential Complex and other government ministries are scattered among its neighborhoods. The mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern day Turkey, is toured by millions
every year. When I visited, I was struck by the reverence on the faces of so many who had journeyed there. I wondered aloud why the man who invented the concept of Turkishness would be so admired almost 100 years later. What is “Turkishness?” “Most people show respect to Atatürk. I also like him and show respect to his ideas,” explained one of the Christians gathered at the café. He described his parents as terrorists, and said he was afraid to tell them of his conversion because they are Islamic nationalists. He added, “The most important one of Atatürk’s six principles is secularism, I think. Through the secularist system that he brought, we can have a choice to change to another religion from Islam. So I think Atatürk’s influence is really important and great for us who were Muslims before.” His friend has also kept his conversion a secret, but for a different reason—his family is committed to secular nationalism. He told me, “I became a Christian and immediately felt like I betrayed my country. I still feel that way.” “Turkish people believe that if you aren’t Muslim, you’re an enemy. When you ask people’s religion here, some people will say ‘I am Turk.’ Because people believe that if you’re Turk, you have to be Muslim,” he continued. Similar comments about Turkishness have marked every conversation I’ve had with believers in Turkey. Strong ideas about what it means to be a Turk have spread from their origin in Ankara all across the county’s 81 provinces. A fierce defensiveness about the Turkish national identity has been carefully cultivated. It has provided the fodder for Turkey’s transformation from a quasi-democratic state to a thoroughly authoritarian one. Turks to the World: “We Will Not Bow” In his 2014 post-election speech, President Erdoğan proclaimed, “The people gave a clear message to Turkey and to the world: What did they say? They said, ‘We are here.’ They said, ‘The Turkish people are impassable … We are the owners of this country. The people will not bow and Turkey is invincible.’” President Erdoğan won his 2018 election by further emphasizing that authentic Turkishness means a coming war between cross and crescent. The pressure of being true to the national identity is felt by Christian all across the country. Churches are so rare in Turkey that they are considered a foreign novelty, and are often visited by touring Muslims. One pastor

TURKEY’S YOUNG CHRISTIANS FEEL THE WEIGHT OF THE SPIRITUAL DARKNESS IN THEIR LAND
Turkish believers wrestle with the entrenched cultural belief that real Turks are and must be Muslim.
By Claire Evans

in Eastern Turkey shared that, “…they come to church and when I start talking, they are like, ‘Wow, you speak such good Turkish!’ And I say, ‘Well of course, I am a Turk!’” Free to Gather, For Now Back in Ankara, the four young Turks sitting in the café continued to contemplate how the idea of Turkishness had impacted their lives. It was clear that talking about their challenges with each other had greatly eased the burden. As we left the café, one pointed to a public square renamed after those who defended Erdoğan during the 2016 coup. Since the coup, state surveillance of Christians has increased and the idea of Turkishness has been further ingrained in Turkey’s citizens. These four believers are able to safely gather, for now. But so many others are not. Their families view them as apostates to their religion. Their nation views them as traitors. They are Turks who love their country and their families. But that love is constantly questioned by a government which perpetuates the myth thwill eventually face government pressure. The Turkish government is already actively relocating them to nationalistic cities with large Islamic communities, like the other refugee communities. Armenian, Assyrian, and Kurdish Christians endure a more intense form of persecution because they are nationally hated in Turkey for their religion and ethnicity. The Turks already persecute Armenian and Assyrians on an ethnic front, so the few Christians who survive within these communities truly endure the brunt of this persecution. In Southeast Turkey, a war is being waged between Turks and Kurds. Turks believe that Kurds are terrorists and thus seek to isolate the community to “protect” national security. Because they successfully established similar regions in in Iraq and Syria, they are labeled as unstable terrorists by the Turkish government (and the international community). The Turks frequently isolate and despise Kurdish communities in an attempt to repress a mounting rebellion. Christian missionaries have been imprisoned or deported while trying to minister and evangelize the Kurds. For this reason, the Kurds are an increasingly unreached ethnic group. ICC’s Involvement in Turkey Due to the extremely sensitive position of Christians in Turkey, we must be vague in describing our work there. But the brittle spiritual ground in Turkey has not stopped the Lord from paving a way for ICC to minister to persecuted Christians. ICC is building a nursery for MBBs (Muslim background believers) who leave their young toddlers at home alone while they work the only jobs open to them – those that require long hours and heavy labor. With the help of ICC, an illegal church is moving to a new location to safely accommodate its growing numbers. ICC also provides legal assistance to pastors who have been singled out by authorities because of their ministry work and advocates with the United States government to effect policies that may ease the pressure on Christians in Turkey.

See other posts on Turkey: Category Turkey

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Another American Missionary in Turkey targeted.

This past Saturday I was arrested by the police during a routine ID check at the Ankara train station. I had arrived to speak at a youth event, and then to preach at the international church the following day. Others filled in and so that wasn’t a problem, though it did cause a lot of believers in Ankara to pray for me. 🙂

Praise God, I’ve been set free, and have a 15-day visa. Need to talk with the lawyers to decide next moves. Thanks to all who have prayed, I’m doing great, glad to be back with my wife and other loved ones.David Byle

More background.

Some of the members of the youth group spent several hours Saturday evening going from police station to police station, trying to find where they had taken me. I had been taken to the main police station’s terrorism department’s jail, which obviously was not open to visitors.

For many hours Saturday I was interrogated by multiple policeman, who painstakingly typed up my answers in their computer. One of the interrogators was obviously from the secret police, as he knew the names of all sorts of Christian workers and activities around the country, and asked about my connections with them.

They asked so many questions about so many things that several times I thought to myself that I wouldn’t need to write up my own memoirs later on, if only they would share with me all the copious notes they had written about me. 🙂

Yesterday (Sunday) afternoon I was released and given a 15 day exit paper, during which time I must leave the country. They told me I’ll have to pay a fine for overstaying my visa, but it wouldn’t cost much, and if I do they wouldn’t put an entry ban on my file, thus enabling me to return on a tourist visa.

My friends and coworkers were working feverishly to help me while I was in there. Andrew Brunson’s lawyer, Cem Halavurt agreed to help me, since my own lawyer felt that since they were apparently accusing me of a crime (doing things “linked to terrorist groups,” though they ended up not pressing any charges) that it was no longer an area she was able to help with. He sent another lawyer who managed to visit me in the prison Sunday morning for about 30 minutes. Cem himself had bought an air ticket to fly to Ankara today (Monday) to help, but thankfully didn’t have to because I was released yesterday.

It’s hard to know exactly why they decided not to deport me (as they were planning to do on Saturday). It could be that they don’t want to disturb relations with America right when things seem to be getting better now that Andrew Brunson has been released. Or it could have been the Supreme Court decision from February 2017, which explicitly prevents the government from deporting me until they have time to look at my case and make a decision. Maybe it was a bit of both.

Whatever the case, I was happy to take the many opportunities that arose to explain the good news of Jesus to various different policemen. Even now, just a few minutes ago, when Ulrike and I arrived at the train station for our return journey, two of the policemen with whom I had spent so much time on Saturday came up to me to greet me and wish me well on my return journey.

I’ve met with some church leaders, some of which seem to think that our time of ministry here in Turkey is coming to an end. Others are expecting I’ll be able to stay, somehow, someway. I got a call from a staff member of the US Embassy this afternoon, who also encouraged me to make sure I leave the country in 15 days. They are aware of my situation, and have also informed people at the Istanbul Consulate, in case I need any help from them.

Tomorrow will be an important day, as we meet with lawyers, ministry colleagues, fellow BCC leadership team members, members of the BCC board, colleagues and leaders from our mission sending agency, to decide what steps to take next.

It might be as simple as making an exit trip out of Turkey, returning shortly thereafter with a tourist visa, then applying and (highly unlikely) receiving a residence permit. Or they may let me come back in on a 3-month tourist visa, but then need to be away from the country for 3 months before coming again. Or they may put a one year, 5 year or permanent entry ban on me (despite promising not to–one never knows).

These last two days Ulrike and I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support, not only from believers here in Turkey, but from literally all around the world. It means a lot to us and encourages us greatly to know we’re not alone, that we’re a part of such a great family, God’s family.

It goes without saying that we value your prayers as we consider what to do in this situation. We’ll try to send more information in the upcoming weeks as things become clear. Our hearts are at peace. We long to stay in Turkey with the people we have grown to love here, but are resigned to do whatever God wants. To him be all the glory. Amen.

David & Ulrike

Pastor Andrew Brunson released-PTL!

American Pastor Andrew Brunson Released by Turkish Government
Imprisoned Pastor Set to Return to US as Early as Saturday Morning10/12/2018 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that on October 12, 2018, Turkish courts released American pastor Andrew Brunson from house arrest. In court on Friday, Brunson was convicted of a “terror” charge, but as a result of the time previously served and good behaviour, has been released from house arrest and his travel ban has been lifted. This will allow him to return to the United States.After the hearing, Brunson left the courthouse and US officials said that he will be returning to his home in Izmir, Turkey before departing for the United States on Saturday morning. US President Donald Trump tweeted, “PASTOR BRUNSON JUST RELEASED. WILL BE HOME SOON!”

Pastor Brunson has ministered in Turkey since 1993 and was originally detained with his wife Norine in October 2016. While his wife was released shortly thereafter, Pastor Brunson remained imprisoned despite a lack of formal charges. The first series of charges was brought 63 days into his imprisonment, and other charges continued to be added as time progressed.

Pastor Brunson faced charges of having links to terrorist organizations, an increasingly common accusation in Turkey against any individual or group that the government is looking to target. If Pastor Brunson had not been released today, he could have faced up to 35 years in a Turkish prison.

The United States government has been fighting for the past 24 months for his release. Last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated, “President Trump has had a focus on it [and] the administration’s had a focus on it. We’re very hopeful that we’ll see a good outcome before too long.”

Since Brunson’s arrest, tensions have been high between Turkey and the United States as negotiations were made on Pastor Brunson’s behalf. In August of 2018, the United States imposed sanctions on two Turkish cabinet members, seeking to pressure the Turkish government to release Pastor Brunson. The Turkish government is hopeful that his release will help solve the diplomatic disputes between the United States and Turkey.

Religious freedom in Turkey has significantly deteriorated since the 2016 military coup. Turkey is currently listed as a Tier 2 Country on the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom’s (USCIRF) annual report.

Claire Evans, ICC’s Regional Manager, said, “Turkey’s release of Pastor Andrew Brunson is most welcome news. For two years, he has been held as a political hostage by Erdogan and has been imprisoned in challenging circumstances. While we are pleased with his release, it is disappointing that Turkey has still convicted him of a terrorism charge. This is a stark warning to the local Church that Turkey remains a serious violator 

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LATEST: US pastor Andrew Brunson (pictured) is due in court again this Friday, to answer charges of espionage. He is also facing terrorism charges following allegations that he has links to those behind the 2016 attempted coup. Andrew was released from jail into house arrest on July 25.

Latest

The fourth hearing in his case is scheduled for October 12.

  • Pray that God will sustain Pastor Andrew and Norine and deliver them from the lies that hold him captive. Pray these lies will be exposed (Luke 8:17) and the truth revealed.
  • Thank God for the powerful witness of Pastor Andrew’s grace and forgiveness towards his persecutors, including those he once counted as friends.
  • Pray that God will speak into the hearts of those who are testifying against Pastor Andrew and convict them of the need to speak the truth and defend him.

(Sources: Middle East Concern; US Commission on International Religious Freedom)

JOIN THE PRAYER CALL!

(Voice of the Persecuted) Andrew Brunson is an American citizen who lived in Turkey for over 20 years. He led a small church in Izmir and, along with his wife, had raised their three children there. The couple then decided to apply for permanent residency in this nation of people whom they greatly loved. On Oct. 7, they were called to a local police station with no worries beliving they were finally approved for residency. However, the Brunson’s were detained and his wife released shortly after. Andrew’s arrest followed the failed coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2016. The Turkish government is using evidence based on the testimony of a “secret witness’ against Andrew who maintains his innocence. Now Andrew is facing the third hearing of his trial, next week. Some are calling the case a sham trial to force the U.S. to hand over Fethullah Gülen, believed to be the mastermind of the July 2016 failed coup by President Erdogan’s government. In March of this year, his daughter spoke on behalf of her father in front of the U.N. Human Rights Council.

Many are warning of the recent changes taking place in Turkey. It has one of the lowest rankings in the world in terms of freedom of press. The regime continues to abuse the rights of its citizens, including freedom of speech, of association, and the rights of ethnic and religious minorities. Those not belonging to Sunni Islam are under suspicion and Christians in Turkey, a small minority, have been under increasing pressure and victims of intolerance.

At the last hearing, Andrew repeatedly denied charges that he was involved with terrorism and espionage. Brunson said in his defense,

“I am helping Syrian refugees, they say that I am aiding the PKK. I am setting up a church, they say I got help from Gülen’s network.”

There is not one photograph or tape recording praising the PKK at the (Izmir) Resurrection Church. Our church had several Turkish followers. Our doors were open to everyone. I strived to prevent politics entering the church.”

“My service that I have spent my life on, has now turned upside down. I was never ashamed to be a server of Jesus, but these claims are shameful and disgusting.”

In an effort to be united in prayer before and when Andrew enters the courtroom, Voice of the Persecuted and Persecution Watch is inviting Christians to join together on an 8 hour open prayer conference call that will begin at 7 p.m. EST on Tuesday, July 17th and continue to 3 a.m. EST on the 18th.

Andrew’s wife recently shared,

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for persevering in prayer with us. I pass on your comments to Andrew from time to time. YOU, the body of Christ, are truly amazing! Where else do people love and pray for others they’ve never met? What a testimony YOU have been. The summer heat means Andrew can’t sleep well as he is constantly drenched in sweat. He makes a point of offering that up as a sacrifice. He is not wanting to exaggerate the discomfort of heat – he knows that many have been in much worse conditions.
He has been calmer recently as is trying to see things through the lenses of demonstrating the value, the worth of Jesus – that those whom He loves and who love Him are willing to suffer for him. He often prays “Father, cause to burst into flame in me the love you have for Jesus, that I may be a fervent, ardent lover of Him, willing to undergo whatever is asked.”
Please remember the next hearing date – July 18.

When one hears about the persecuted, they may ask, “What can I do, I am only one person?” It’s simple, that person can pray. James reminds us that the prayer of a righteous person is very powerful and effective. (James 5:16).

Jesus says that if we have faith as small as a mustard seed we can move mountains. For nothing will be impossible for us (Matthew 17:20).

Imagine one person who is righteous and has faith as small as a mustard seed. What can that person accomplish in their prayers? Then imagine hundreds, if not thousands, of intercessors with that same mustard seed faith. What can they accomplish in Christ through their prayers?I

In Hebrews 13:3 we’re asked, “Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” In this verse, those being described as in prison and being mistreated were Christians experiencing persecution for their faith. The verse also highlights the oneness we should feel as believers in the Body of Christ.

As the next court date draws near, let us not forget the importance of the call in Hebrews 13:3. Brothers and sisters, let us continue to remember, in our prayers, Andrew Brunson and the thousands of brothers and sisters imprisoned for their faith throughout the world.

“If only you would tear the heavens open and come down, so that mountains would quake at your presence—just as fire kindles brushwood, and fire boils water—to make your name known to your enemies, so that nations will tremble at your presence! When you did awesome works that we did not expect, you who came down, and the mountains quaked at your presence. From ancient times no one has heard, no one has listened to, no eye has seen any God except you who acts on behalf of the one who waits for him.”  Isaiah 64:1-4 (CSB) BELIEVE!

PLEASE PRAY:

  • That Andrew will be able to sleep better (the summer heat is making prison conditions particularly difficult) and know God’s peace
  • That the lies and false accusations in this trial will be uncovered and Andrew’s innocence of all charges will shine through
  • That the Lord will bless all legal and diplomatic efforts on Andrew’s behalf
  • That Andrew will be acquitted of all charges and released

America ups the ante over Pastor Brunson’s detention

Time he was justly freed.

VOICE OF THE PERSECUTED

(World Watch Monitor) The American Charge d’Affaires in Ankara has said that Turkey’s continued detention of pastor Andrew Brunson on spying and terrorism-related charges is impeding US-Turkish relations.

Philip Kosnett said there is a “strong sense of unity in Congress between Republicans and Democrats” on the need for Brunson to be released and “a similar sense of unity between Congress and the administration that in order for the relationship between Turkey and the US to progress, we need to resolve that status not only for Brunson but also for other American citizens and local Turkish employees of US missions who we feel are detained unjustly under the state of emergency”.

According to the Turkish daily Hurriyet, Kosnett said that resolving those cases would improve “prospects for progress” in other areas of co-operation, such as security in northern Syria. He was speaking to reporters yesterday as it emerged that…

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Brunson’s trial highlights Turkey’s ‘hostage diplomacy’ tactic

And please also remember our American brother, Pastor Andrew Brunson, who is on trial in Turkey and facing serious charges including terrorist links. At a hearing last week, many local church leaders, as well as US officials, attended to hear Andrew and his lawyer give a ‘very strong and articulate’ defence. The next hearing is scheduled for July 18.

(Source: Middle East Concern)

Erdogan, Turkey’s president is a small minded tyrant!

What a travesty…

Turkey court rules to send Andrew

Brunson back to prison until next hearing

NORINE AND ANDREW BRUNSON

After the second hearing of Pastor Andrew Brunson’s trial, a Turkish court ruled to keep him behind bars until the next hearing scheduled for July 18, 2018. The ruling came after a secret witness accused Brunson of helping a terrorist organization and planning to create a Christian Kurdish state. Reports claim that secret witnesses are testifying via a video link with their faces blurred and voices altered.

Andrew repeatedly denied the prosecutor’s charges that he was involved with terrorism and espionage. Brunson said in his defense,

“I am helping Syrian refugees, they say that I am aiding the PKK. I am setting up a church, they say I got help from Gülen’s network.”

There is not one photograph or tape recording praising the PKK at the (Izmir) Resurrection Church. Our church had several Turkish followers. Our doors were open to everyone. I strived to prevent politics entering the church.”

“My service that I have spent my life on, has now turned upside down. I was never ashamed to be a server of Jesus, but these claims are shameful and disgusting.”

Brunson’s lawyer said that when a case lacks evidence, ‘it’s kind of become the custom’ to use secret witnesses that have no credibility or link to reality.

Three witnesses for Andrew’s defense were not permitted to testify on the grounds that they were also suspects in the case.

USCIRF Vice Chair, Sandra Jolley said the proceedings “were dominated by wild conspiracies, tortured logic, and secret witnesses, but no real evidence to speak of.”

“Worse still, the judge’s decision at the conclusion of today’s hearing to dismiss all of the witnesses called by Pastor Brunson’s defense without listening to a single minute of their testimony is simply unconscionable.”

“The truth is that this case is part of a larger decline in personal freedoms, including religious freedom and human rights, that we are witnessing in Turkey in recent years,” she said. “We are looking to the Turkish judiciary to uphold pastor Brunson’s innocence,” she stated.

U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) strongly condemned a new indictment issued by Turkish prosecutors this week.

“USCIRF urges President Trump and others in the administration to redouble their ongoing efforts to secure Pastor Brunson’s release. No stone should be left unturned in our efforts on behalf of this unjustly imprisoned American. We call again for his immediate release and, if this is not forthcoming, for the administration and Congress to impose targeted sanctions against those involved in this miscarriage of justice,” said USCIRF Vice Chairs Sandra Jolley and Kristina Arriaga.  Read full press release here

66 U.S. Senators and 50 Members of the European Parliament have sent letters to Turkey’s President demanding Pastor Andrew’s freedom.

It’s very disappointing for the many hoping and praying for his release. Some may also be struggling with the reason his imprisonment is being allowed. However, we will not lose hope knowing our God is with Andrew and trust His plan for his future.

Andrew’s wife shared,

Again, the Spirit of the Lord was on him to speak the truth clearly and have a good testimony during the 10 hour hearing. So glory to God and thank you for your prayers! It was very encouraging to have three members of USCIRF there, as well as Charge D’Affaires Phil Kosnett. Also, a number of believers and pastors, including from our home church. I know that meant a lot to Andrew.
Unfortunately, the next hearing is not until July 18.
On the way back we drove by a convoy of at least four vehicles – that much security was most likely Andrew being transported back to the Buca prison. That was a relief, but also so very sad and hard to drive by… Just like in the courtroom, so close, but so far…
So many prayers from so many places, so much fasting. This is not in vain. Surely a very big work of God is coming from this huge wave – really a tsunami – of prayer. THANK YOU!

During his imprisonment, Andrew wrote a song calling ‘worthy of my all’.

You are worthy, worthy of my all
This is my declaration in the darkest hour
Jesus, the Faithful One who loves me, always good and true
You made me yours, you are worthy of my all

I want to be found worthy to stand before you on that day
With no regrets from cowardice, things left undone
To hear you say, “Well done, my faithful friend, now enter your reward”
Jesus, my joy, you are the prize I’m running for

We believe the Lord is giving our brother Kingdom opportunities, as He has with others since the beginning of our faith. We pray God will comfort Andrew, his wife and family as they wait for the next hearing. We also ask for guidance and strength to endure, and supernatural joy to fill their hearts. In Jesus name, Amen

We would like to thank the ministry partners and the many intercessors for participating in our 24 hour prayer call for Andrew Brunson.  Much fervent prayer went up for our brother imprisoned for his faith in Christ.  Also, heartfelt prayer went up for our persecuted family, worldwide.  They who follow Jesus Christ and pay a high price.
We believe our prayers were anointed of Jesus and ascended in the power of the Holy Spirit into the throne room itself. So again, a heartfelt thank you, to the intercessors and ministry partners who made this call possible. Most importantly, we thank and praise our glorious God and King who enabled us, as one family, to connect with Him on behalf of our brother Andrew and our persecuted brothers and sisters.  Keep praying!

THANK YOU TO THE PRAYER TEAM OF A CHURCH IN MAROUA, CAMEROON AFRICA WHO PRAYED AS ONE WITH US BY REQUESTING PRAYER POINTS DURING THE PRAYER CONFERENCE CALL FOR ANDREW BRUNSON.

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VOICE OF THE PERSECUTED

A photo of the Rev. Andrew Brunson during his time in prison. Photo courtesy of World Witness

(World Watch Monitor) On the eve of jailed US pastor Andrew Brunson’s second court hearing in Turkey, growing international comment has focused on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s transparent “hostage diplomacy” tactic, one of several issues seriously souring his nation’s relations with the United States.

The upcoming 7 May hearing near Turkey’s third-largest city of Izmir marks Brunson’s 19th month in custody. According to statistics released last week by the Turkish Justice Ministry, the Protestant pastor is one of 35,000 suspects under arrest and awaiting trial in Turkey on suspicion of supporting the accused perpetrators of a failed coup attempt against the Turkish government nearly two years ago, on 15 July 2016.

After 23 years in open church ministry in Turkey, Brunson was detained during Ankara’s widespread crackdown against the…

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Persecution in Turkey

May. 03, 2018 | Turkey
Pray for Haddad and Other New Believers

Andrew Brunson trial

Disgraceful scapegoating of a godly missionary for political ends.

Brunson Trial Further Delayed 

American pastor Andrew Brunson (50) appeared in court in Izmir on Monday (16 April) to face charges of aiding terrorist groups that could result in a 35-year prison sentence. After the indictment was read and Andrew responded, the judge adjourned the trial for three weeks.

Andrew stated that he is a servant of God and that his motive in coming to Turkey was to preach Jesus Christ and raise disciples. He said he loves Turkey, has been praying for the country for 25 years and has done nothing wrong. 

Andrew has been in prison in Turkey since October 2016.

Read the full report

VOICE OF THE PERSECUTED

A Turkish court approved an indictment against Black Mountain native Andrew Brunson, clearing the way for a trial on April 16, 2018 that could result in his being imprisoned in that country for up to 35 years.

On March 28, Sen. Thom Tillis announced that he met with imprisoned American pastor Andrew Brunson on March 26 at Buca Prison in Ismir, Turkey.

“Pastor Brunson is strengthened by his love for his family and his faith in God, but his health has deteriorated,” Tillis said in a statement. “He has lost 50 pounds and spends 24 hours a day in a cell with limited human contact.  He is attempting to visit a doctor this week, which involves him being handcuffed and transported with several armed guards. He fears the possibility that the American government accepts the indictment and forgets about him, which we will not allow to happen.

“There should be no…

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