Pastor Andrew Brunson and his wife Norine are originally from North Carolina. But, for the last 23 years, they were had been performing missionary work in Izmir, Turkey – the country’s third-largest city.
The couple was charged with leading a small congregation of about 25 members at the Izmir Resurrection Protestant Church. While living in Turkey, they had applied for permanent residence and having given birth and raised three children in the country they considered it home. But on October 7th, 2016, a summons to appear at the local police station would change the scope and the narrative of their mission.
Expecting a response to their request for citizenship the couple showed up at the precinct where both were arrested with an accusation of missionary activities “against national security,” and were threatened with deportation. Two days later, Norine would be released and allowed to remain in the country. Pastor Brunson, however, was transferred to a center for counterterrorism with accusations of being a member of an armed terrorist organization (the Gulen Movement). Rather than be deported, the order as passed down from the presiding judge demanded the pastor be detained.
The Brunson family is not alone in this unlawful stint, as other Americans have also been arrested and are being held on similar charges. Later, the charges would be extended to include attempting a government overthrow and espionage. The pastor still sits in a small cell, crowded with 17 other Turkish prisoners that are accused of affiliations with the Gulen terrorist group. Other American citizens being charged and arresting for ambiguous claims of terrorist activities include 37-year-old Serkan Golge, a NASA physicist charged with terrorism and conspiracy against the government
Hopes of Reconciliation for Mr. Brunson
According to Norine Brunson who is the pastor’s main source of contact, it appears as if his Muslim cellmates are continuously attempting to convert the pastor to Islam. Is it possible, this is the driving motivation behind Mr. Brunson’s detainment? Both Norine and Andrew continue to deny all accusations, as the Turkish government continues to fabricate details and the press exercises a pro-government agenda – painting the pastor is a CIA operative.
The couple’s daughter, 19-year-old Jacqueline Brunson has since pleaded with President Trump to argue for her father’s release.
“We really, really want to get this case, my father’s case, to President Trump,” she told Fox News via Skype. “We really feel it would be helpful to have the president’s support and have him personally arguing for my father’s case to get him back home safely to his family.”
The Turkish Embassy in Washington, D.C. has remained silent about this case. But, there are ongoing efforts from our government to secure the pastor’s release. The House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations crafted a bipartisan letter in which 78 members of Congress signed and it was addressed to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. They are demanding the release of American pastor Andrew Brunson without conditions, citing he has been detained unjustly since October and has been denied access to American consular services and appropriate access to legal representation.
Other Efforts Towards Pastor Brunson’s Release
During a prophetic conversation with her husband, Norine states the pastor felt the Lord had spoken to him, and He was making a way to bring about justice on his behalf. And that is just what happened the week that Sec. of State Rex Tillerson happened to be in Ankara.
Norine already had a plane ticket due to previous plans to return to Turkey – and as shared by her husband she met with Rex Tillerson for 20 minutes during his visit there. As Mr. Tillerson did have a scheduled meeting with Erdogan, the unscheduled meeting with Pastor Brunson’s wife seemed to be a gift from the heavens. The couple’s fight for justice has been tireless, and this ray of hope was a positive development in her efforts to free Andrew.
No further details of the meeting or what the discussed has been released, but many viewing the case are suggested that Mr. Brunson is being used as a bargaining chip in the country’s efforts to have U.S. held Turkish members of Gulen extradited back to Turkey. The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) continues to pressure the Trump administration and Congress to speak up and fight on behalf of the pastor.
~ 1776 Christian