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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.
“We serve a God who specializes in opening prison doors!” (Quote from Janet Parshal from her recent program and interview with Pastor Brunson on Moody Radio on “In the Market” which aired on October 15, 2019. You can hear that interview in its entirety at Moody Radio and click on Jan’s program “In the Market”. click here
Hallelujah! Sing to the LORD a new song! (Pslam 149:1)
Tonight we will lift up Pastor Brunson, Turkey-Russia-Syria and the Kurd’s in prayer. Many of you know and have prayed for Pastor Brunson’s release from a Turkish prison this past year. Pastor Brunson has written a book about his experience titled ‘God’s Hostage: A True Story of Persecution, Imprisonment, and Perseverance‘. He is currently touring and interviewing across the nation and sharing at speaking engagements about his experience. He’s asking for continued prayers.
Tonight, I’ve prepared Prayer Points based on the things Pastor Bronson has asked us to pray for. Join us tonight as we continue to support this precious man, his wife and family and pray for the Middle East!
The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much! (James 5:16)
Sister Leigh, Prayer Moderator – Persecution Watch
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What is Persecution Watch?
Persecution Watch is a U.S. national prayer conference call ministry that prays specifically for the global Persecuted Church. For over a decade, Blaine Scogin has led this national network of believers who faithfully pray for the persecuted and the global harvest for the Kingdom of God. The group meets via a free call-in service every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday night at 9pm Eastern (please check your time zone). Blaine also serves as Prayer Director for Voice of the Persecuted.
On occasion, persecuted brothers and sisters have been invited on the call to share the trials they’re facing. The team serves to encourage them by washing their feet in Spirit led prayer. Time is often reserved for those on the call to ask questions. We believe this helps to gain a better understanding of the situation that persecuted Christians endure in their specific nations. Q&A also helps us to focus our prayers based on their current needs.
Persecution Watch also hosts callers who want to pray united from other nations. If your heart is perplexed by the sufferings of our persecuted brothers and sisters, you no longer need to pray alone. We welcome all who desire to pray for the persecuted church and consider it a joy to pray together with you. If you’re new to the call and can’t find your voice, listen in and pray silently or on mute. We are grateful and thank the Lord for bringing us all together to pray in agreement for our persecuted family in Christ.
Meet you on the call!
Turkey’s high-profile criminal case against Protestant pastor Andrew Brunson has triggered a significant increase in public hate speech against the nation’s small Protestant community, creating what its church leaders last week called a ‘climate of insecurity’ for its congregations and individual members.
World Watch Monitor shared that according to the Turkish Association of Protestant Churches’ annual human rights report for 2018, the number of attacks designed to incite hatred of Protestants “purely due to their beliefs” in Turkey’s local, national and social media outlets had seriously increased during Brunson’s arrest, jailing and two-year trial.
The report said that the Protestants’ 150 congregations watched the US pastor’s case closely “with great sadness and concern”, disturbed by the media’s repeated practice of linking churches and individual Christians with terror organisations, without providing any substantiating evidence. Instead, the accusations by secret false witnesses against Brunson were “reported as if they were true,” and local and national publications refused to allow the slandered churches and individuals their constitutional right of reply or correction.
Although the government has enacted a Personal Data Protection Law, during the Brunson case the Turkish media published names, personal details, photographs and specific church activities openly in a negative context, the report said, targeting both Protestant churches and their members in direct news reports.
Open publication of the name and company of one Protestant church member, accused by a national newspaper of supporting a terrorist organisation after he visited a church in the eastern city of Van, led to the loss of a number of his business contracts.
Protestants in the cities of Diyarbakir, Mardin, Izmir and Manisa attempted legal action against the “insidious propaganda” linked to the Brunson case that targeted their churches and leaders, the report said. But local authorities either declined to investigate or failed to punish the perpetrators.
Negative Malatya atmosphere recalled
The Protestant Association explained their particularly “serious concern and apprehension” over this recent surge in religious hate speech because of its similarity to widespread Turkish media coverage against Christian churches and activities 12 years ago, just before the 2007 torture and murder of three Christians. Two Turkish citizens and one German resident were stabbed to death by five young Turks in Malatya, in southeast Turkey.
The 2018 report reiterated a number of unresolved problems faced by the Turkish Protestant community over the past decade. They include the longstanding difficulty of establishing recognized places of worship, legal restrictions prohibiting seminaries or other formal religious education for non-Muslim faiths, and the absence of a legal path to obtain official identity as a religious congregation.
The Turkish government persisted again this past year in failing to invite the Protestant community or any of its church representatives to meetings of religious groups organized by the government or official organisations. Local churches within the Protestant community are not linked with a hierarchical structure like the Orthodox and other ancient Christian traditions in Turkey. Accordingly, the government has yet to acknowledge the Association of Protestant Churches formed in 2009 as the religious group’s representative institutional body.
The report noted that an unspecified number of Protestant foreign church members residing in Istanbul, Izmir, Mersin and other cities were deported or denied re-entry back into Turkey during 2018, or told to leave Turkey within 10 days after renewal of their residence permits was refused.
On a positive note, for the first time since the year 2000, a Protestant church was approved during the past year to form a religious foundation; another Protestant church’s application for foundation status is currently pending.
The Protestant community currently consists of some 150 churches, mostly concentrated in Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir. Only 10 congregations meet for worship in official church buildings, most of them historical buildings. Another 67 fellowships either rent or purchase facilities designated as legal “association” meeting places. A total of six Protestant foundations with five representative branches have been formed and registered. The remaining congregations, including some 25 house fellowships, have no legal entity status.
Photo 1: Pastor Andrew Brunson
(Voice of the Persecuted) A Turkish court has ordered the release of US Pastor Andrew Brunson. After two long years of detention on false charges, Andrew will be coming home and able to dance at his daughter’s wedding. Brunson and his wife, originally from North Carolina, moved to Turkey 23 years ago. Andrew led the Izmir Resurrection Church with a congregation of about 25. The couple had raised their family of three children in Turkey and had applied for permanent residency.
Case background: On Oct. 7, the couple was called to a local police station never imagining there was anything to be worried about. They went to the police station thinking they were finally approved for residency. At the station, they were initially told to leave the country because Andrew was accused of receiving funds from abroad to fund missionary initiatives that Turkey claimed would endanger the security of the country with their activities. Later, the Turkish press reported that the decree of expulsion for the Evangelical pastor had been transformed into arrest after a secret witness accused him of having ties with a terror organization. Later, more secret witnesses accused him of espionage. Many believed he was a political pawn used to force the US to extradite Fethullah Gülen who is considered an enemy of the Turkish government and living in self-exile in Pennsylvania for years.
Andrew spent much of his time in a cell with limited contact and his health deteriorated. Andrew lost 50 lbs., told he was forgotten and suffered from depression. The only thing that sustained him was his faith in God and love for his family.
Trial hearings: During the last 3 trials, Andrew shared his love for Christ and the Turkish people. He firmly denied all accusations against him and said, “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.” After the last hearing in July, he was taken back to prison, but due to health concerns he was released under house arrest and put under a travel ban. At today’s hearing, the Turkish prosecutor asked that Brunson be given a 10 year prison sentence,
During the today’s hearing it was reported that three witnesses withdrew their statements against Brunson after reports that the U.S. and Turkey were negotiating a secret deal for his release. Another report shared of the four witnesses who had earlier testified against Brunson, one claimed reading the allegations in the news, another said he was misunderstood by the judge, and the last two claimed that they first heard the allegations from one another. While the trial was ongoing, Former Turkish member of parliament Aykan Erdemir said that witnesses who have appeared at the hearing are now changing their testimony. This would clear the way for the judge to dismiss the case. Turkey has been suffering by the U.S. economic sanctions placed on the country when Brunson wasn’t released at the last hearing. Turkish agencies began reporting his release would be a partial unblocking of the terrible U.S.-Turkish relationship.
Today, Andrew told the court, “I am and innocent man. I love Jesus. I love Turkey.” Witnesses at the hearing shared that Pastor Brunson wept when the court ruling was announced. We expect many happy tears are flowing with his in the Body of Christ, globally.
Homecoming: The U.S. military is expected to fly Andrew back to the United States., U.S. officials told Reuters that Brunson could return to the United States as soon as Friday. A Pentagon spokeswoman told Reuters that the expected plan involved flying Brunson through Germany on the way back to America but did not specify the timing.
Our Victory in Christ
Giving God all the glory, Christians around the world are rejoicing and singing praise to the Lord for this victory. Andrew’s release is an answer to many fervent prayers. We are thankful to all those who allowed the Lord to guide them for his release. Voice of the Persecuted and Persecution Watch would like to thank those who prayed on yesterday’s prayer conference call event for Andrew. What beautiful prayer call full of joy and anticipation for what the Lord is doing. It felt more like a family reunion, in love and agreement, with some we’ve never met. The top key words throughout the day were, forward and dance. Lois Kanalos of Voice of the Persecuted said, “I kept seeing Andrew dancing in the courtroom like David for the Lord! I imagine he did, if only in his heart. Now he and the church in Turkey can move FORWARD…onward soldiers!”
We will continue to pray for Andrew’s transition and healing from his ordeal. Let us also pray for the church in Turkey to be bold and a shining light in the darkness.
Now in this present age or later in glory…victory!
(Romans 8: 26-39) What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written,
“For Your sake we are being put to death all day long;
We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(Voice of the Persecuted) For years, relations between the U.S. and Turkey have been deteriorating and, among other issues, critically affected by the detention of an American pastor, Andrew Brunson. Andrew has lived in Turkey for 23 years and is a pastor for the Izmir Diriliş (Resurrection) Church, a small evangelical Presbyterian congregation in the city of Izmir. He’s been unjustly detained since October 7, 2016 on charges of espionage and links to terror organizations which he firmly denies. Many believe Brunson is nothing but a political pawn in Turkey’s quest to force the U.S. to extradite Fethullah Gülen, who is considered an enemy of the Turkish government and living in self-exile in Pennsylvania for years.
During the first 18 months before his first trial hearing Andrew lost 50 lbs. and suffered extreme depression. Pastor Brunson’s first court trial hearing was on April 16, 2018, the second hearing took place on May 7; a third hearing on July 18. His fourth hearing is scheduled for October 12, 2018. The 50 year old pastor is facing a 35-year prison sentence if convicted by the Turkish court.
Through U.S. pressure, many hoped that Andrew would be released at the previous hearing on 18 July, but the judge ordered Andrew stay in detention. Reports claim that following an international outcry, the court ruled on July 25 that Andrew could be released from prison and be kept under house arrest due to health concerns.
On October 2, Ismail Cem Halavurt, Andrew’s lawyer, took Andrew’s case to the Constitutional Court hoping the claims against Andrew will be rejected and Andrew released from house arrest.
Turkish Christians and friends of Andrew Brunson are requesting prayer for the upcoming hearing.
Details for the call are below. Please, join us and let us remember all those who are in the shadow of the cross.
Your brother in Christ,
Serving Jesus as Prayer Director of Voice of the Persecuted and Persecution Watch.
Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. Mark 11:24
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See video: Jacqueline Furnari, daughter of Andrew Brunson, testifies to the U.S. State Department’s inaugural Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom in Washington, D.C., on July 24, 2018. Brunson has been imprisoned in Turkey since October 7, 2016, and is being tried on charges of terrorism, espionage, and attempting to convert Turks to Christianity.
A crowd of Turkish Christians from Andrew Brunson’s Izmir Resurrection Church greeted their pastor with cries of “We love you, Andrew!” as he arrived home under police escort on Wednesday afternoon, 25 July.
(World Watch Monitor) After nearly 22 months in detention, Brunson was released at 5.30pm from Izmir’s Kiriklar maximum security prison and transferred to house arrest following a court order responding to his lawyer’s appeal, which cited health reasons.
However, the pastor will now not be allowed to leave the confines of his home until his next hearing, scheduled for 12 October.
Brunson, a Christian pastor from North Carolina who has lived in Turkey for 23 years, has been on trial for terrorism and spying charges – of having links with the Fethullah Gülen movement, which the Ankara government blames for the failed July 2016 coup attempt, and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Last week the Second High Penal Court in the western province of İzmir rejected an appeal to release him in its latest hearing, 18 July, and decided to continue listening to the testimonies of witnesses in the next hearing. Western observers in the court told World Watch Monitor there was not one piece of evidence so far produced to indicate the pastor is guilty of any crime, and that his trial is for political expediency. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan wants Gülen to be extradited back to Turkey (the cleric is currently living in the US) to stand trial for the 2016 coup.
Brunson was detained nearly two years ago, in October 2016, and faces up to 35 years in prison if found guilty. The pastor has completely denied all the charges, calling them “shameful and disgusting”.
The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Vice Chair Kristina Arriaga, who attended the hearing in Aliağa, near Izmir, welcomed his release from prison but said more needed to be done.
“This is welcome news,” she said. “It is good that Pastor Brunson will have some relief after being held in a Turkish prison for more than 600 days. But it is not enough. The Turkish government has deprived this innocent man of his due process rights and liberty for too long, and it must completely release him. If it fails to do so, the Trump Administration and the Congress should respond strongly and swiftly with targeted sanctions against the authorities responsible.”—
(Voice of the Persecuted) Due to health condition, the Turkish court has ruled to allow American pastor, Andrew Brunson to be moved from jail to house arrest. The court ordered that Brunson is banned from leaving Turkey as he waits out his trial to continue at his home in Izmir. In custody since 2016, Brunson was arrested for terror and espionage charges, which he strongly denies. Andrew faces up to 35 years in prison for “committing crimes on behalf of terror groups without being a member and for espionage. All who know this gentle pastor call the trial a sham and the charges outlandish.
We can imagine the joy his family is feeling at this moment as they wait at the prison for his release. Let us lift up the Lord and give him praise for all He is doing in this case and Andrew’s life. May God heal him and give our brother strength. In Jesus holy name, all glory to God.