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Spike in Boycotts of Turkish Goods and Services; Consumers Cite Warmongering as Cause

Image: by Yerevanci, Wikimedia Commons

The Armenian people — whose nation was the first to adopt Christianity as its state religion in 301 AD—were native to what is present-day Turkey for more than 3,000 years. However, they became an occupied nation following Turkic invasions in the 11th century. Although indigenous, as Christians Armenians were considered second-class citizens by their oppressors, and their human rights steadily declined and culminated in outright massacre by Turkey beginning in the 1800s. Their pleas for equal rights and even autonomy were met with a premeditated, state-sponsored genocidal plan which sought to eliminate the Ottoman Turkish Empire of non-Turks, including not only Armenians but Christian Assyrians and Greeks. The result was a combination of torture and massacre for adult men; torture, rape and abduction into harems, and forced conversions for select women and children; and torture, murder and deportations — also known as death marches — for the remaining Armenians. Although more than 1 ½ million Armenians, ¾ million Assyrians/Chaldeans and 1 million Greeks perished in the ordeals, today’s Turkish regime does not acknowledge the Genocide. And, there has yet to be restitution for these crimes against humanity.

— Lucine Kasbarian

As Turkey continues it’s constant attacks against Armenians, Lucine, known by VOP’s founder, has asks us to share the following report.

Six days into the renewed attacks by the Azerbaijan-Turkey-Israeli axis on Armenia and Artsakh, many countries have come forward to denounce the warmongers.

But none of these condemning nations has yet to put any meaningful actions behind its words.

Consequently, everyday people who have stakes in the conflict — or are simply upholding their values — are imposing their own sanctions upon these rogue states.  Enter the consumer boycott.

A term used to describe the withdrawal from commercial or social relations with a country, organization, or public figure as a form of protest or punishment, a boycott can be effective because anyone can participate.   One need not hail from the corridors of power to make an impact.

According to the Boycott-Turkey.org and Boycott-Turkey.net campaign (websites hijacked – this is a partial mirror site), “probably one of the most powerful weapons individuals have to effect political change is their consumer purchasing power.”

For years, Turkey has injected itself, often militarily, into the sovereign affairs of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Greece, Cyprus, India, and now, Armenia and Artsakh. On October 2, reports emerged that Turkey is using NATO and American facilities to attack Armenia and Artsakh.  Since NATO is unable or unwilling to rein in this rogue nation that many consider to be the single greatest threat to global security, public boycotts are increasingly gaining favor.

Against the backdrop of war, public disapproval for Turkish-made goods has intensified in Armenia again. Armenians recognize that Turkey’s involvement in this war will allow it to complete the Armenian Genocide.

The Republic of Armenia announced on October 1 that its supermarkets will no longer carry Turkish products. Merchants and importers are choosing other trade partners.

Since the renewed attacks on Armenia, communities in the Armenian Diaspora have also seen a resurgence in Turkish products and services boycotts.

Boycotting Turkey has been relatively consistent over the generations as Armenians as a rule refuse to support Turkey’s economy which has already enriched itself through confiscated Armenian national wealth and territory after launching the Armenian Genocide with no reparations or sanctions in sight.

These citizen initiatives include boycotting Turkish construction companies; restaurants, nightclubs; grocery stores and packaged goods; Turkish rugs, carpets, and textiles; Turkish music/ dance performances, and musical recordings; Turkish movies and soap operas; Turkish Airlines and tourism to Turkey, Azerbaijan, and/or N. Cyprus; as well as discouraging enrollment in Turkish language and studies programs at international academic institutions, many which are deeply enmeshed with the Turkish government and its military industrial complex.

Armenian-American activist Shunt Jarchafjian is on a mission to educate his fellow Armenians about the products they might see at their local markets. He pointed out that Tukas tomato paste was owned by the Turkish Armed Forces Pension Fund. He says that if someone bought that product from 1967 to 2014, the purchaser contributed to the tax revenue of the Republic of Turkey, and helped fund the retirement of the soldiers serving in the Turkish Armed Forces. He also adds that the Ulker processed foods company sits atop an Armenian cemetery confiscated by the Turkish government during the Armenian Genocide. He makes a point of explaining how the Turkish military and government have tormented the Armenians year after year, and how consumer consciousness counts.

Some activists are also demanding the suspension of support of all cultural exchange programs organized to foster so-called “reconciliation” initiatives between Turkey, Azerbaijan and Armenia.

According to Bloomberg News, the Turkish lira “plunged to successive record lows in September,” that is, since the Armenia/Artsakh invasions, with 7.83 lira to the dollar. As many aggrieved groups are simultaneously boycotting Turkey, the country may be feeling the squeeze economically.

In July 2020, communities of Greece and Greek Cyprus doubled down on their decades-long boycotts of Turkish products and tourism in response to the unresolved Turkish Genocide of Hellenes, Armenians and Assyrians and the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus.  Their new initiatives are in response to Turkey’s highly-contested conversion of the UNESCO-protected Christian Orthodox Cathedral of Hagia Sophia into a mosque and Turkish illegal drilling incursions into the Eastern Mediterranean.

Turkey under Erdogan may attempt to justify his many foreign interventions in a bid to realize his dream of restoring the Ottoman Caliphate. However, Turkey’s relationship with the Muslim world is also not as ironclad as Erdogan may wish to have it appear.  Mahmoud Zahran, a researcher specializing in Turkish affairs, said “the success of boycott campaigns would reveal how unpopular Erdogan’s regime is in a region where he has tried to paint himself as a leader.”

At the end of September, Saudi Arabia announced a ban on all Turkish goods. The Saudi Kingdom has been at loggerheads with Turkey over the contested murder of exiled Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the status of the Qatar peninsula.  According to the Turkish newspaper Dunya, the Saudi government has ordered individual businesses not to trade with Turkish companies or buy any products made in Turkey, and has imposed fines on companies that do not comply.

A Turkish boycott campaign in also in effect in Egypt. In January of this year, MP Ismail Nasr El-Din called on the government to impose a boycott of Turkish products, services and tourism “in response to the blatant transgressions by the Turkish government in the region, and its attempts to plunder the wealth of the Middle East, spread chaos, and destabilize the Middle East.” MP Omar Sumaida, head of the Congress Party, said “we launched a campaign to boycott Turkish products, and our party has developed plans to educate citizens to boycott Turkish products in all offices affiliated with the party across the country.” As early as 2013, a number of Egyptian TV channels stopped airing Turkish soap operas and dramas, to protest Turkish intervention in the Middle East.

These popular boycotts intensify the existing Arab League boycott. Many Arab countries cannot afford the high cost of retaliating militarily to Turkey’s incursion into northern Syria, and so are opting for economic sanctions as defense.  “An Arab boycott of Turkish products would significantly hurt Ankara’s economy. Turkish exports to the Arab world total more than $30 billion annually, representing 18.3% of its overall exports, according to the trade data website, Trade Map.

Iraqi Kurds such as Jwnaid Murad, owner of Las Market in Erbil, have a boycott of Turkish products in effect. “Of course, boycotting goods will affect my business. But after watching Turkey commit the war crimes they have in Rojava, I don’t care,” he said. “If I had to choose between starving to death and eating food produced by Turkey, I would starve.” Iraqi Kurdish boycott organizer Hamid Banyee of Sulimaniyeh says “We’re expanding the campaign to include all parts of society, which will be a fatal blow to the Turkish economy,”

The Turkish lira has been in sharp decline since 2017, including increasing inflation, Turkish economists say. Sergey Dergachev, senior portfolio manager at Union Investment, believes that the geopolitical choices made by Turkey have contributed to the financial freefall.

As the number of global Armenian boycotts increase following the violent flare-up between Azerbaijan and Artsakh in July, Turkish/ Azeri thugs started to attack peaceful Armenians around the world, as well as destroy and deface Armenian churches, schools, monuments and memorials.  The very day Azeri attacks on Artsakh began on Sep 27, the Karageozian family of Armenian-owned Noor Mediterranean Grill in Somerville, Massachusetts began receiving death threats, violent social media posts, negative online reviews, and slurs.

Few know that since 1992, independent Armenia has endured an illegal economic blockade by Turkey and Azerbaijan for standing by the Armenians of Artsakh. In fact, Turkey has been running one of the longest and biggest boycott operations of all time which includes occupying and confiscating the ancestral Armenian homeland for a thousand years. Thus, Armenian-made products rarely leave Armenia for export. At the same time, Turkey has been exporting its own cheaper goods to Armenia through the Republic of Georgia, an act which presented the needy of Armenia with reason to abandon their own more expensive products for Turkish ones. 

Turkey has no diplomatic relations with Armenia and refuses to establish them until Armenia gives up Artsakh, accepts the boundaries agreed upon in the disastrous 1921 treaty of Kars between Kemalist Turkey and Soviet Russia (there is no official agreement over these borders between independent Armenia and the Republic of Turkey), and promises to stop pursuing international recognition for the Armenian-Greek-Assyrian Genocide of 1915. 

Says Armenian-American activist Joe Sifatsouz, “Most Turkish restaurants outside Turkey are subsidized by the Turkish government, which might explain why there are so many of them. When a friend has a yen for kebabs, tell him or her to enjoy the variations made by neighborhood Armenian, Assyrian, Cypriot, Egyptian, Greek, Kurdish, Lebanese, Syrian, Palestinian, Indian, or Iraqi restaurants instead.”

But individual resolve is seen as only one aspect of the issue. U.S. President Trump once said he was ready to halt a $100 billion dollar trade deal with Turkey over its hubris in Syria. “If the superpowers are sincere about curbing the Turkish menace, they should stop hiring Turkish construction firms, break bilateral tax treaties and remove Turkey companies from U.S. Stock Exchange listings,” added Sifatsouz. “Right now, Turkish businesses abroad must pay their host countries as well as Turkey’s Internal Revenue Administration. Removing obligatory taxes to the Turkish state — and other large-scale economic sanctions — will bring Turkey to heel.”

By Lucine Kasbarian

Turkey Deporting Foreign Christians or Banning Their Return, Sources Say

Sultan Ahmed Mosque, also known as the Blue Mosque, in Istanbul, Turkey. (Wikipedia)

(Morning Star News) – Dozens of foreign Christians in Turkey have been forced to leave the country or been banned from returning in what appears to be government targeting of the Protestant Christian community, rights advocates say.

Many, like Carlos Madrigal of Spain, have been serving in leadership roles in Protestant churches in the country for years. Such foreigners have lived in the country for decades, forming families and buying property, according to a researcher at Middle East Concern (MEC).

Madrigal has lived in the country for more than 19 years on a clergy visa as the spiritual leader of the Istanbul Protestant Church Foundation (IPCF), according to a press statement from the group. At the airport in November 2019, he was issued a stamp in his passport that he realized would keep him from returning to Turkey if he left the country, so he decided to cancel his trip and appeal the decision, according to published reports.

Madrigal appeared on Turkish television in June to point out that he could see no clear reason why he was banned from the country, the MEC researcher said.

Noting that the ban against Madrigal was issued in November 2019, the IPCF stated, “It is with great sadness that we must inform you that since 2019, it has been made increasingly difficult for foreign Protestant clergy serving in Turkey to be resident in our country.”

Denied

Turkey’s Ministry of Interior notified another foreign Christian, Joy Anna Subasigüller, a U.S.-born mother of three married to a Turkish pastor, on June 5 that her family visa was denied, according to German media outlet Deutsch Welle (DW).

Subasigüller, who has lived in Turkey 10 years, is a stay-at-home mom of three children ages 2, 4, and 4 months. Her children, like their father pastor Lütfü Subasigüller, are Turkish citizens, and she suspects the decision to deport her is related to his Christian work, according to DW.

Pastor Subasigüller was stunned that Turkish authorities would require them to abandon their home and relatives in Turkey, he told DW. The couple plans to contest the decision in court.

Another case involves a U.S. pastor in Istanbul who was about to fly out of the country from Istanbul with his family on June 24. He learned he would not be allowed to return to Turkey, canceled his flight and filed an appeal, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).

Another foreign resident of Turkey, Hans-Jurgen Louven of Germany, had invested more than 20 years in culture and faith tourism in the country with encouragement and assurances from local officials. In August 2019 an application to renew his residency visa was denied, and he was ordered to leave the country in 10 days, according to Christian support group Open Doors’ World Watch Monitor.

De Facto Ban

It is estimated that about 35 Christian workers received similar bans in 2019 and 16 more since the end of June, according to a Middle East and North Africa researcher for CSW.

The bans could go undetected by the unsuspecting. As Christian foreigners leave the country at airports, officials stamp an “N-28 Code” in their passports, according to the IPCF. Officially the code indicates that they need to obtain special approval to re-enter the country via their country’s embassy, but those who have tried to obtain it have been refused, making the code essentially a de facto ban, said the MEC researcher.

The N-28 Code can also be used to deny visa renewals, according to the IPCF.

Those fighting the ban find that administrative courts are not giving lawyers access to reports from Turkish intelligence, according to the MEC researcher. Advocates hope that they will be more successful by appealing to the constitutional court and, if not, then at the European Court of Human Rights, he said.

Effect on Churches

The targeting of foreign Christians puts pressure on Turkey’s small and vulnerable Protestant community, which relies on foreigners for formal religious training and sometimes for funding, advocates say.

“This will deprive them of support and make them feel isolated and abandoned,” said the CSW researcher.

There are about 10,000 Turkish Protestants who attend about 170 churches, many of them house churches, in the overwhelmingly Muslim country of more than 84.3 million people, said the MEC researcher.

While officially Turkey allows freedom of religion, including conversion from Islam, advocates say that pressure began building against foreign Christians in the country when U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson was imprisoned on spurious terrorism charges from 2016 to 2018.

Some Christians believe that a blacklist may have begun while authorities were trying to gather evidence against Pastor Brunson, the MEC researcher said. Some have noticed that many of those banned had attended one of three Christian conferences, he added.

“It’s notable that none of these people have been charged with any breaking of the law,” he said.

Foreign and local Christians love Turkey, he added, saying that some will have to count the costs of staying in light of recent developments.

“You actually find that Turkish Christians, they love their country,” he said. “These people who are receiving the bans – I know many of them personally love Turkey and have given such a lot to Turkey.”

Turkey ranked 36th on Open Doors’ 2020 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.

Erdogan Wants to Crush Recognition Efforts of Armenian Genocide

ANCA, EAFJD and Armenia’s Foreign Minister Condemn ‘State Policy of Intimidation’

(Asbarez News) President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey convened a five-hour closed-door session of his High Advisory Board to discuss efforts to crackdown on activists and advocacy organizations engaged in securing the international recognition of the Armenian Genocide.

According to Anadolu news agency, Erdogan convened the meeting to formulate Turkey’s response to “groundless and anti-Turkey allegations regarding the events of 1915,” with his Communications Director Fahrettin Altun reiterating that Turkey would not allow the “seeds of hostility” to be sown through “distorted historical events.” Read More

A still frame from the 1919 documentary film Auction of Souls, which portrayed eye witnessed events from the Armenian Genocide, including stripped naked and crucified Christian girls.

Minorities in Turkey on edge amid threats, attacks

(Al-Monitor) Vulnerable groups have faced intimidation or worse in recent weeks in what both the government and the opposition warn are efforts to stoke conflict, though they disagree on who’s to blame.

ISTANBUL — Ethnic and religious minorities in Turkey are on edge after a series of threats and attacks, with both government officials and their critics warning society’s most vulnerable are being targeted to foment strife.

Kurds, Christians and others have all faced intimidation or outright violence in recent weeks in what appear to be mostly unrelated incidents. Yet they coincide with growing economic uncertainty and political tensions wrought in part by the coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 4,500 people in Turkey and hammered the economy. READ MORE

Reported by Ayla Jean Yackley

Turkey: Armenian church in Istanbul vandalized

ISTANBUL (Armradio) — The Surp Grigor Lusavorich (St. Gregory the Illuminator) Armenian Church in Istanbul’s Scutari district has been attacked, Ermenihaber.am reports.

According to the source, on May 23, an unknown person brutally ripped off a cross from the church door. The moment of the attack was caught on cameras.

The church leadership has issued a statement on the incident, noting that a complaint has been filed with the police.

A new cross has been placed on the gate.

Istanbul police arrested the suspect caught on video, Diken news site reported.

The incident comes weeks after an attack on an Armenian church in Istanbul’s Bakirkoy district.

Tonight on the Persecution Watch: Praying for the Church in Turkey (Dec. 17, 2019)

(Voice of the Persecuted) Dear brothers and sisters, we all remember that precious day, by the Grace of God, when our dear brother Andrew Brunson, was released and reunited with his precious wife, Norine. Such a joyous victory and how grateful we are to our glorious and faithful Father. For 2 years, we faithfully prayed with full expectation for our brother unto his freedom. I still remember how Blane Scogin, leader of Persecution Watch, who was led by the Holy Spirit to encourage us to continue praying without ceasing until Pastor Andrew would be free. Our God who reigns from heaven is an awesome with wisdom, power and love. Yes our God is an awesome God!

Voice of the Persecuted shared a report of Andrew Brunson speaking to MEP’s about his life as a pastor in Turkey for 25 years, “twenty-three by choice, two by force in the prisons”. All those years, Brunson told the Turkish 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. “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. 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.”

A letter written by Turkish Christians around 2011 asked for the global church to pray for them. The request also recalled the brutal attack on 3 Christian men who were murdered for their faith in Malatya, Turkey in 2007. The victims had their hands and feet tied and their throats slit. The attack was considered one of the most vicious on Christians in Turkey at that time. Click hear to watch a video report of the news story.

“From the body of Christ in Turkey, to our holy and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ around the world, grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

We are writing to you from Turkey – from the land of Noah, of Abraham, of Paul, of Mt. Ararat and Harran, of Antioch, Ephesus, Galatia and the Seven Churches of Revelation……

Yet today in our land of 72 million, which is 99.8% Muslim, the size of Christ’s flock is only a handful. We are writing to ask, indeed, to plead for your prayers.

As Turkish Christians we love our country very much. Pray for God’s will to be done, and for His Kingdom to come!

Pray that the Lord’s hand will be with us and a great number of people will believe and turn to the Lord.

We, the church in Turkey, have invited the worldwide church to pray for the land and the church of Turkey. We ask you at your church to pray for us…

We are praying for you, and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding and we beg you brothers.

Pray for us! The God of peace be with you all. Amen. 2 Corinthians 1: 11 “You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many..

These are a few points to help direct your prayers for Turkey. Please feel free to pray for any other points you feel led to pray for.

1- Please pray for the blessing and peace of Turkey in general, as the Lord desires us to bless and be a blessing to all.

“By the blessing of the upright the city is exalted….” Proverbs 11:11

2- Pray the Lord will display His love and mercy to the people of Turkey by pouring out His Holy Spirit upon our land, revealing His glory through healings, signs and wonders.

3- Pray the Lord breaks down the lies and the endless disinformation about Christ, the Bible and Christians that has blinded and hardened hearts in our land. Pray that God redeems the negative memories of history.

“Of course, we are living in the flesh, but we do not fight in a fleshly way. For the weapons of our warfare are not those of the flesh. Instead, they have the power of God to demolish fortresses. We tear down arguments and every proud obstacle that is raised against the knowledge of God, taking every thought captive in order to obey Christ..” 2 Co. 10:3-5

4- Pray that hearts and eyes are opened to see Jesus as the way, the truth and the life.

5- Pray for the Turkish believers who are always on the frontline to walk close to the Lord. Pray for refreshing, emboldening, strengthening, protection and encouragement.

6- Pray for more servant hearted leaders. For good role models. For faithful laborers.

7- Pray for the ongoing unity amongst the churches and for its increase and deepening.

“May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus that together you may, with one voice, glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 15:5,6

Thank you for your prayers. May the Lord’s hand be upon you always.

We also encourage you to watch this prayer video.

Tonight, we welcome you on the Prayer Conference Call, as the Lord leads.

Pray for the Church in Turkey, for Andrew Brunson, for God is not done with him and his wife Norine yet, and for those who are lost. Call details below

In Christ Love,

Nadia Dybvik  and Merlaine Smokes, Prayer Call Moderators

From any location on your phone

Time: 

9:00 PM EST

8:00 PM CST+

7:00 PM MST

6:00 PM PST

Call in number: 712 775-7035      

Access Code: 281207#

Recommended: For those who may be subject to added charges for conference calls. Please download the app, it’s free!

MOBILE APP: Free Conference Call HD also provides a quick and easy way for you to dial into conference calls without having to remember the dial-in credentials. Save all of your conference call dial-in numbers and access codes using this free app. With the Free Conference Call HD you can instantly dial into a conference call via 3G/4G data network and or regular mobile carrier. Google Play link  or App Store – iTunes

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.

Andrew Brunson Speaks to European Parliment, Releases Book and Records Song Written in Prison

Pastor Andrew Brunson suffered exteme persecution at the hands of the Turkish government – Photo: Fady Gergis Youtube capture

(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.

Inspiring

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.

Pastor Brunson case increased ‘hate speech’ against Turkey’s Protestants

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.


Malatya’s Kurtulus (Salvation) Church posted message after an attacker heaved a brick through the church’s display window on 11/24/2017: “’Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.’ Jesus Christ.” (Photo: World Watch Monitor)

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

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