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On Monday night, Pastor Andrew Brunson, who was imprisoned for his faith in Turkey, spoke at the Southern Baptist Convention and warned pastors that he believes the next generation is going to experience more intense Christian persecution and fears they’re not prepared. Persecution is on the move around the world — and gradually moving into American life — but God is at work in the midst of it, according to a panel who spoke on the topic during the Monday evening session. (BP) (watch video coverage below)
During a roundtable discussion at the Southern Baptist Convention 2019, moderated by Timothy George, founding dean of Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School, highlighted three stories of facing persecution. George interviewed Andrew Brunson, a pastor imprisoned for two years in Turkey, and his wife, Norine; Nik and Ruth Ripken, retiring missionaries; and Jack Phillips, a lawsuit-riddled Colorado cake shop owner, along with legal counsel Jim Campbell with the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).
Sermon by Pastor Brunson begins at minute marker 15:55
Roundtable discussion on persecution with Andrew and Norine Brunson, Nik and Ruth Ripken, Jack Phillips
(Voice of the Persecuted) received an update on American Christians, Andrew Brunson and his wife, Norine’s situation as of late Friday, October 21. Turkish officials arrested and detained the couple on October 7 in the coastal city of Izmir on grounds of conducting activities constituted as “national security risks”.
Norine and Andrew have been living in Turkey for 23 years, running a church with the full knowledge of the local authorities. They were summoned to the police department on Friday, October 7, for what they assumed would be questions about their recent residency application. Upon their arrival they were presented with a letter from Ankara labeling them a threat to national security and ordering their deportation. They were immediately detained, their phones were confiscated, and they were completely isolated from the outside world.
The authorities denied repeated requests from their lawyers, the US State Department, and friends to see them or communicate with them in any way. They were explicitly forbidden from having a Bible, and were not allowed to receive books or any change of clothes. Andrew’s glasses and watch were taken away. They were told that their government had forgotten about them and that “hopefully” they would be deported, suggesting that they might simply disappear and never be heard from again.
Norine was released after 12 days (Oct. 19) and verbally told that all charges against her were dropped, but her lawyer has told her that is almost certainly not true given that nothing was put in writing. She was allowed to see Andrew for half an hour on October 20, but was denied any access on October 21. Apart from Norine, Andrew has had no contact with the outside world since October 7.
Norine and Andrew explicitly waived their right to protest the deportation, and yet there has been no deportation to date. The right to legal counsel is guaranteed under Turkish law, and the right of the US State Department to visit detained US citizens is guaranteed by 36(1)(c) of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, which Turkey has ratified. Both of these rights have clearly been violated.
At this point, the priority is to get Norine and Andrew safely out of Turkey, something entirely in keeping with the deportation order. Norine’s current visa expires on November 10, and though she might be forced to leave at any time, she really does not want to leave the country without Andrew. Norine is also concerned that her husband might be transferred from the current immigration center to a prison. Prison in that environment is entirely different from prison in the United States, and often includes people disappearing and without ever being heard from again.
There are far more serious charges supposedly brought against them, but none of it in writing, and none of it with any semblance of transparency or accountability. Those charges cannot be discussed openly, but Norine indicates that it’s difficult to overstate how dangerous the situation is.
The new objective is to see Norine and Andrew safely released from Turkey. They are willing and ready to comply with the deportation order, and yet the authorities continue to hold Andrew. Very little progress has been made through normal channels, so we will now start pressing the issue through Congress, through the media, and through the Turkish embassy.
It is time to press Turkey for Norine and Andrew’s rights to be restored. If the objective was to deport them, why detain them and deny them rights guaranteed under both Turkish and international law? Where are they being held and why have the charges not been stated in writing? Why hold them in isolation and confiscate things like Andrew’s glasses?
As always, your continued prayers are much appreciated, and we know that God will cause good to come from this.
ACT NOW by
PRAYING and sharing this urgent prayer request:
- Pray that Andrew would be released from detention
- Pray that the authorities would not discriminate against Christians in Turkey;
- Pray for religious freedom in Turkey.
(11/11/16 UPDATE:) At this time, due to ongoing negotiations, we are only sharing that Turkish authorities have released Norine Brunson. We request that prayer and fasting continue for her husband, Andrew who is still being detained. The Brunsons have been residents of Turkey for the past 20 years. Pastor Andrew Brunson had been leading the Izmir Resurrection Church, a small Protestant congregation averaging 30 to 40 worshipers, in Turkey. We will share further updates, including how you can get involved if further action becomes necessary.
As always, your continued love, concern and prayers are much appreciated. We know that God will cause good to come from this. Andrew’s wife, Norine told Voice of the Persecuted that she is tremendously blessed to hear that a large network of prayer warriors are lifting her and husband in prayer, each day.
“Amazing. Humbling. Please pass on our gratefulness,” she added.
Your prayers are such an encouragement and make a difference to those suffering for Christ. Please continue to press in for this couple and their family.
- Pray for Andrew and peace for his wife, Norine.
- Pray the authorities would not discriminate against Christians in Turkey.
- Pray for religious freedom in Turkey.
By Dani Miskell, Special to ASSIST News Service
IZMIR, TURKEY (ANS – October 19, 2016) — World Watch Monitor has reported of an arrest made on Friday October 7th of the American Christians, Andrew and Norine Brunson. The couple has been detained by Turkish officials in the coastal city of Izmir on grounds of conducting activities constituted as “national security risks.”
The Turkish Interior Ministry has both issued the arrest and subsequently ordered the Brunson’s to be deported within 15 days. They have declined to release any further details of the accusations they’re making on the Brunson’s. They’re declining to respond because official papers from Ankara, the Republic’s capital, hadn’t arrived yet.
The couple has been denied access to the U.S. consular officials and lawyers. Authorities at the Migration Administration Detention Facility sentenced them. This also is the location of where the Brunson’s are currently being held until their deportation.
According to Barbara G. Baker of WWM, the Brunson’s had been residents of Turkey for the last 20 years. They served as leaders of a small Protestant Church known as the Izmir Resurrection Church, in the Alsancak district. The couple had filed a routine application back in April to renew their residence visas. They never received a response until six months later, when they came home and found a written summons requesting them to report to a local police station, along with their passports. They did so on Friday October the 7th and were then immediately taken into custody.
In the last week, several attempts have been made on the Brunson’s behalf. One lawyer requested visitation but was denied access because he didn’t have legal authorization. He returned with an affidavit, but the officials claimed that the couple had already signed a statement declaring they didn’t want representation. They have yet to produce any written statements claiming this.
A second lawyer decided to act on the Brunson’s behalf and filed a petition to the Izmir governor, on Wednesday October 12th. It protested that the stipulations made against the American Christians were illegal under Turkish detention laws.
A member of the Turkish Parliament has also been reported to inquire about the handling of the couple’s detention.
Members of the Izmir Resurrection Church have attempted to send a change of clothes to the Brunson’s but were rebuffed by the detention center. The Brunson’s are reported be in the forties.
One of the church’s leaders reported that the U.S. Embassy in Ankara had confirmed of their involvement in “following the arrests,” but embassy officials are declining to comment at this time.
The Brunson’s current state is reportedly not the first of its kind. It’s a continuing pattern. There have been many cases similar to theirs over the past few years, where the Interior Ministry issued deportation orders against expatriate Christians living in Turkey. Others were more fortunate to have been permitted official access to their lawyers. There have been reports of those granted temporary stays of deportation along with a formal court appeal.
Another case similar to that of the Brunson’s is Canadian-American Christian, David Byle. Byle was taken into custody back in April. The Interior Ministry had also denied his application to renew his residence visa, and advised the immigration authorities to deport him on grounds of being a “danger to public order”. Byle has been helping educate the Turkish public about the Bible. He organizes legal street outreaches on behalf of a Bible Correspondence Course. His lawyers filed three cases against his arrest, deportation order, and re-entry ban. At this present time, they remain on hold due to the Turkish judicial anarchy in honor of supporting the Fetullah Gulen movement. Byle continues to live in Turkey during this interim.
First reports of the Interior Ministry’s harassment on American Christians date back to 2014. Patrick Jensen’s account occurred in September of 2014 while he was serving as an American Protestant Pastor in the Gaziantep City of southeast Turkey. He had been serving for nine years until the Interior Ministry blacklisted him two years ago and ordered for imminent deportation. It was overturned 2 months later by the Gaziantep Administrative Courts judicial decision.
The option of judicial review is being avoided in the case of the Brunsons’ deportation. They continue to be refused any legal rights in order to prevent their forced removal from Turkey. The recent failed military coup, on July 15th, has left Turkey in a “state of emergency.” Now the government in Ankara has had free rein to loosely implement policies and directives. Even if they have violated the principle rule of law, they are allowed free reign and their regulations aren’t expected to expire until mid-January 2017.
“They are never going to be happy with any foreigners doing Christian work in this country,” one Turkish church leader told Barbara G. Baker of World Watch Monitor. “So we have to take these government actions in proportion, realizing there are so many countries in this region where expatriate Christians can’t even go openly.”