Christians—and Now Lawmakers—Advocating for Release of Imprisoned Pastor Andrew Brunson

***News Release***

Christians—and Now Lawmakers—Advocating for Release of Imprisoned Pastor Andrew Brunson

Save the Persecuted Christians Coalition a Participating Organization for June 20 Washington, D.C., Protest Calling for His Release from Turkish Prison

WASHINGTON—In a decisive move Wednesday evening, the North Carolina House of Representatives unanimously voted for a resolution to formally ask the Turkish government to release one of their own—North Carolina pastor Andrew Brunson, who has been imprisoned in Turkey on accusations of spying or aiding terror groups.

On a national level, the Save the Persecuted Christians (STPC) Coalition, which advocates on behalf of 215 million Christians facing heavy persecution worldwide, is working to raise awareness about a June 20 protest in front of the White House to support Brunson and call for his release.

The protest is being organized by Magdi Khalil with Coptic Solidarity. Pastor Brunson was arrested by the Turkish government in October 2017 and is facing up to 35 years in jail on charges of espionage and terrorism.

The rally and protest for Brunson is set for 9 a.m. to noon Wednesday, June 20, at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., Washington, D.C. (outside the White House in front of the main gate). The protest is a way for those concerned about Christian persecution to show solidarity with Pastor Brunson and to shed light on the situation for Christians in Turkey under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Faith McDonnell, International Religious Liberty Program Director at the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD) and a founding member of Save The Persecuted Christians, said she is delighted STPC is working in partnership with Coptic Solidarity to call for an end to the unjust imprisonment of Brunson.

“President Trump, Ambassador Sam Brownback and others in the U.S. government have declared their commitment to seeing Pastor Brunson released, and our protest is meant to encourage them to keep on pressuring Turkey until he comes home,” she said.

The STPC Coalition joins Coptic Solidarity and the Middle East Forum as a participating organization for the protest. Author Dr. Wafa Sultan of California will speak. The protest is the day before the annual conference for Coptic Solidarity begins in Washington, D.C., where U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback is slated to speak.

“Pastor Brunson has committed no crime, but President Erdoğan is keeping him in prison in order to exchange him with U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen,” Khalil said. “This is political blackmail! Mr. Erdoğan is an extremist Islamist president who has been sponsoring terrorism for many years. His actions in regards to Europe are also a form of blackmail, starting with sending hundreds of thousands of refugees there and recently claiming to be the protector of Muslims in Europe, thus stirring up feelings of mistrust among European Muslims against their new homeland. He also maintains a rigid antagonistic attitude toward Israel.”

According to The News Tribune, U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, former North Carolina House speaker, has strongly pressed for Brunson’s release. Tillis visited him in prison and in May attended his trial, which is adjourned until July.

The Trump administration has said it is working to bring Brunson home, and the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) is also working to free Pastor Brunson (read more and sign a petition here).

Meanwhile, the STPC Coalition continues to work diligently to disseminate actionable information about ways in which the American people can help those – like Pastor Brunson – who are being persecuted. One of the ways Americans can render support is by encouraging their pastors and faith leaders to visit and order a free banner to display in front of their houses of worship. These simple banners feature the Arabic “nun” character, which has become an international symbol for the oppression of Christians ever since the Islamic State used this first letter of the Arabic word for “Nazarene” to designate homes of followers of Christ targeted for persecution.

Raising awareness is an important first step, especially as Christian persecution occurs so routinely it rarely makes headlines. For example, according to Open Doors, 255 Christians are killed worldwide every month. 104 Christians are abducted. 180 Christian women are raped, sexually assaulted or forced into marriage. 160 Christians are detained or imprisoned without trial. And 66 churches are attacked.

The STPC Coalition is a building movement, similar to one in the 1970s that helped free another population suffering from heavy persecution—Soviet Jews—so as to impel policy changes that will hold the persecutors accountable and increase the costs for their crimes against humanity. Building such a movement is necessary to provide American policymakers the leverage needed to influence change worldwide and to alleviate the suffering of those who are being persecuted merely because of their faith in Jesus Christ.

With the fate of Pastor Brunson—and thousands of other persecuted Christians in Turkey—hanging in the balance, the Coalition hopes the June 20 protest will help fuel this important movement and thereby encourage American policymakers to keep working diligently in the defense of persecuted Christians worldwide.