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(Voice of the Persecuted) American Pastor Andrew Brunson recently spoke to members of the European Parliament in Brussels. Andrew shared what it was like to live as a pastor in Turkey since 1993. He described those 25 years as “twenty-three by choice, two by force in the prisons”, and as spending those combined years telling people about the Good News of Jesus Christ. Though he and his wife suffered in Turkey, Andrew said they still loved the Turkish people and have no regrets they went there and did the work that made him a target for persecution. Andrew started several churches and had done this openly, with nothing to hide, in front of Turkish authorities. “It wasn’t a job for me. I fully believe in what we did, and I don’t try to hide that my call is to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ. I believe He is the only way of salvation and I don’t apologize for saying that. We spent 25 years in Turkey not to undermine the system in any way but to bring God’s offer of eternal life.”
Turkey has a large unreached people group who have never heard the Gospel of Christ, which is why Brunson agreed to go when asked all those years ago. It may surprise you that the Turkish people are often forgotten in prayer, but Pastor Brunson’s imprisonment has changed that. During his incarceration, Brunson was told about the unprecedented prayer movement taking place on his behalf. He said he didn’t feel worthy of it, but certainly needed prayer and was very grateful. As basically an unknown, he wondered why millions of people were praying for him. He concluded that God was using this with intentions to pour prayer into Turkey. “I rode a wave of prayer out of Turkey but…there was a tsunami of prayer that crashed into Turkey that is going to bring great blessing to that country…God was using my imprisonment for good in that way.”
Background: In 2016, the Brunson’s had believed they were called into the local police station to receive long term visa’s, but instead told there was an order for their arrest and they would be held for deportation. It was an unusual detainment for a Westerner who would normally be notified weeks in advance about deportation. They spent 13 days in the center under total silence without knowing why they had been detained and no legal or consular services. Andrew said that he remembers seeing the U.S. Consulate being turned away at the gates of the deportation center. They repeatedly asked what was happening and when they would be deported but only told, Ankara will decide. At the end of the 13 days, his wife, Norine was released but Andrew was imprisoned for “terrorism” for more than two years. Not wanting to leave him, Norine remained in Turkey during his imprisonment.
Attempts by Ankara to use Brunson as a political pawn for the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan failed. The U.S. responded to the imprisonment and false espionage and terror-related charges against Brunson with sanctions. On August 1, 2018, the U.S. Department of Treasury imposed sanctions on two Turkish government officials who were involved in the detention of Brunson. Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül and Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu had their assets frozen in the United States, they were prohibited from traveling to the U.S., or engaging in any financial transactions with American citizens. On August 9, the Trump Adminstration raised tariffs on Turkish products. Erdogan followed with tariffs on U.S. products. The U.S. sanctions proved to put a greater pressure on Turkey and on October 12, 2018, Brunson was convicted on the charge of aiding terrorism, but sentenced to time served. He was released from Turkish custody and immediately returned to the United States.
During the European Parliament meeting, Andrew thanked the MEP’s for there concern about religious freedom and using their position to advance it. He also warned of the heightened level of pressure now being experienced by Christians in Turkey. Many lies were often shared about Brunson in the Turkish media supported and controlled by Erdogan’s Islamic government. He some what became the face of Christianity in Turkey. Andrew said there’s been a significant increase of hate speech, tension and distrust since his case.
“I think the environment has been created so when there is increased persecution against Christians, now most Turks are conditioned to say, They deserve it,” he added.
As we at Voice of the Persecuted asked you to pray for Andrew from the beginning of his detention, we now plead with you to keep Christians in Turkey as well as the Turkish people in your prayers.
During the session, Andrew also told the MEP’s about an interesting dream he had in prison about Turkey, Iran and Russia. Andrew said he believed it was God inspired. Voice of the Persecuted highly recommends that you watch the video below of Brunson’s full speech in the European Parliament.
In his most difficult time as a prisoner in Turkey, Andrew wrote a song in Buca Maximum Security Prison only two weeks after the Turkish government falsely accused him of being a spy and helping to lead a coup attempt. These new charges carried an automatic three life sentences in solitary confinement with no parole. Andrew sang this song every day for the remainder of his two years in prison. Listen as Andrew’s explains the story behind the song.
With the help of Fady Gergis, Andrew’s song titled, Worthy Of My All – is now available as a free download. He recorded it at International House of Prayer in Kansas City (IHOPKC). Gergis said, “This song carries such a powerful testimony of continuing to believe that Jesus is worthy while almost having no hope of getting out of prison.” You can download it for free at this link. Fill in your email address, and you will receive a link for the download.
Andrew recently published book. You can preview and purchase God’s Hostage: A True Story of Persecution, Imprisonment, and Perseverance here.
After four years, a Christian student won his appeal in a UK appeals court after he was expelled from college for expressing his faith on sexual ethics in a debate on social media, according to CBN News.
Felix Ngole was dismissed from the University of Sheffield in 2016 where he was studying to become a social worker.
He was expelled for his participation in a 2015 Facebook discussion opposing same-sex-marriage. Being a devout Christian, he quoted biblical verses confirming the traditional Christian views on marriage.
A complaint was filed against Ngole by an anonymous source several months after the Facebook discussion. He was told by the university that he “lacked insight’ into the effect of his Facebook posts. The expression of his Christian views was found to be unacceptable by the university, and he was required to stay silent on the subject while attending the school.
Ngole was also told not to express his Christian views in public, including a church. He could never express his viewpoint in a work situation even if directly asked.
In their decision, the Court of Appeals rebuked the university saying that people should not live in fear when expressing their views. The court said, “The mere expression of religious views about sin does not necessarily connote discrimination.”
Ngole was represented by religious rights attorney, Paul Diamond, who objected to the university’s disciplinary process of silencing speech.
The student took to Facebook and expressed gratitude for his victory, writing:
“You say something that your employer doesn’t like and they expel you. And we know that type of thing that you would say that would lead to that. Most of it is just expressing your faith which as a Christian country we should be able to do that.” Read More
(Voice of the Persecuted) ASIA IS FREE!
Dawn News reports that Asia Bibi is free, has left the country and traveled on her independent will.
After nine years on death row, Asia Bibi was acquitted of blasphemy by Pakistan’s Supreme Court on October 31, 2018. Following widespread Islamic hardliner protests and death threats, she was released from Multan women’s prison on November 7th and flown to Islamabad to an undisclosed location amid tight security.
Khadim Hussain Rizvi, leader of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) who is also a radical cleric, instigated country-wide protests following the high court ruling and demanded she be hung. The protests halted daily life in major cities throughout Pakistan. Schools, shops and businesses were forced to close. The group also called for the murder of the Supreme Court judges.
Authorities began a nationwide crackdown and arrested the radical leader and over 1000 other leaders and supporters of the Islamist party to end the radical protests. The cleric’s arrest ignited violent clashes with police and injuries were reported.
After 9 years of affliction for her faith in Christ, repeated death threats and living under protective custody since November, Pakistani government officials have confirmed she has left for Canada.
The Guardian quoted her Muslim lawyer, Saif Ul Malook,
“It is a big day. Asia Bibi has left Pakistan and reached Canada. She has reunited with her family. Justice has been dispensed.”
He said that Bibi’s safe arrival in Canada was the result of hard work by activists, foreign diplomats and others who stood by her in hard times and worked for her freedom.
Click here to read how Saif Ul Malook’s described Asia’s amazing faith, strength and a dream she shared with him. Be encouraged!
From the time Malook agreed to defend Asia, his life has been constantly under threat. He was forced to flee Pakistan for the Netherlands in December 2018.
Asia is finally free to be reunited with her family, heal from the horrible injustice against her and worship freely. Let us praise the LORD for this outcome and pray no harm will come against her or her family. Rest in HIS arms, dear Asia. Please keep our Pakistani brothers and sisters in your prayers.
Attorney Aneeqa Maria, chief of The Voice Society, who pled the case of Pervaiz Masih released facts about his freedom from blasphemy charges in a statement shared with Pakistan Christian Post.
Pakistani Christian Pervaiz Masih, of Garhewala District Kasur, was accused of blasphemy on September 1st 2015. After 20 days of the submitting an appeal of innocence, he was granted bail. This case was different as rarely is bail ever granted to the accused. From start to finish, his trial took three years to be concluded.
Pervaiz Masih and his family suffered much even the loss od their three year old daughter. The statement claimed that Masih’s accusers murdered his little girl by drowning her in a well and later declared to have committed the murder to punish Pervaiz and his family for uttering derogatory remarks about their Prophet.
The report claims Pervaiz’s wife was tortured and received severe injuries while police interrogated her about her husband. Her bones were broken and she lost the ability to walk or stand straight. Pervaiz and his family were forced to stay in hiding during the 3 years after the blasphemy accusation.
The Honorable Court of Mr. Ejaz Ahmad Bosal accepted the application of acquittal filed by the Voice’s legal panel. However, he also gave a second chance to the complainants to re-open the case whenever they wish to do so. The Voice Society chief shared,
“For now, I am happy that he is free from his allegations, and if the complaints do not go for appeal against his acquittal he will always be free legally. But still he is a blasphemer and this allegation will follow his fate and it will be hard and challenging for him to survive this allegation.
People thought that after Asia’s release the situation will be different, or the attitude of the courts will be different. But I cannot find any difference in any sort of attitude. The things are the same as they were before, Pervaiz is released in three years because there was no evidence, and his case was pursued seriously.”
She thanked those who supported the case with their prayers and concerns. “I must say that it is because of their prayers that The Voice have got this opportunity to thank God and rejoice in him. Thank you for supporting this cause with your prayers.”
VOP Note: We rejoice with the news of this brother’s release. Please pray for his family, justice for those accused of blasphemy, the abolishment of the blasphemy law and protection for our brothers and sisters in Pakistan.
Photo: Pakistan Christian Post
In the darkness of night, Christ was born to bring hope and light into the world. He did what no other could accomplish; salvation to all who believe, love and follow Him. Joy to the world, no other gift can compare!
This Christmas, let us reflect not on the trials, but on all God’s blessings in our lives. Let us thank the Lord for His faithfulness to bring hope to the afflicted, to bind up the brokenhearted, liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners. We thank God for comforting all who mourn, giving them strength and peace. For the ability to praise in the midst of trials, He goes with us in every storm.
As we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, please take a moment to remember and pray for those who are suffering for their faith in Jesus. All over the world, persecuted believers are worshiping God for the greatest gift ever given to mankind, salvation through Christ alone. They’re counting their suffering as worthy to be in Him as part of the Body of Christ.
To all our persecuted brothers and sisters, our advocates and workers in the field, supporters and friends of Voice of the Persecuted, Rejoice! In the name of the Lord, Rejoice! Christ is King and Savior of the world. May Peace be your gift at Christmas and your blessing all through the year. We thank you for standing with us in the ministry!
God bless you,
From the Voice of the Persecuted (VOP) Team
The Supreme Court on Wednesday acquitted Asia Bibi, a Christian woman condemned to death on blasphemy charges after accepting her 2015 appeal against her sentence.
“The judgement of the high court and that of the trial court is reversed,” Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar said, reading out the verdict. He added that Asia Bibi should be set free if she is not wanted in any other case.
“Her conviction is set aside and she is to be relieved forthwith if not required in other charges,” the judgement read. (Dawn)
All glory to GOD in the Highest!
We congratulate to Pakistan for their courage!
Christian News – Be encouraged! The Bible was by far the most read book in 2017 in the Philippines. This is stated in a recent survey by the National Book Development Board, a government body. According to the results of the survey, examined by Agenzia Fides, despite the growing secularization in the country with a large Catholic majority, 72% of the population still reads the Sacred Scripture.
Bishop Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon, who for years presided over the Episcopal Commission for the biblical apostolate, welcomed the results of the survey and told Fides that “it is good news that the Bible remains a very read book in our country”. The Bishop reports that “in the last 10 years 10 million copies of the Bible have been distributed to the Filipino families”.
“Despite the frequent use of social media and modern means, Filipinos do not forget to read the Bible as a source of comfort and inspiration to face the challenges of the present: not only Catholics, but also the faithful of other Christian denominations read the Bible to start their day”, says to Fides Jayson Marco Caesar Leones, assistant at the Centro Escolar of Manila University.
“I remember a song that speaks of the importance of reading the Bible and says: take the Bible, open it, read it, understand it, it is the source of our hope, the Filipinos, known to be resilient in times of calamity and disaster, by reading and listening to the Word of God in the Holy Scriptures, gain strength and courage to be ready to face the storms of life”, says Leones, a Catholic layman.
The National Book Development Board had already promoted a similar survey in 2012 and at the time 58% of those interviewed said that the Bible was the most read book. The Philippines has a population of 110 million, 80% Catholics, divided into 86 dioceses. (Agenzia Fides)