Fervent Calls Intensify for Turkey to Release Imprisoned Pastor Andrew Brunson
Although Brunson Moved from Jail Cell to House Arrest, Save the Persecuted Christians Coalition and Other Groups Continue to Urge His Homecoming
WASHINGTON—Patience is waning, as the Trump administration late last week called for increased sanctions on Turkey and the immediate release of imprisoned pastor Andrew Brunson, who has been detained by the government of Turkey since the fall of 2016 on false accusations of “spying” and “aiding terror groups.”
Along with Christians and other faith-based groups, the Save the Persecuted Christians (STPC) Coalition has been raising awareness about Brunson’s plight, as well as advocating for his release. The STPC Coalition and other groups rejoiced last week, as the North Carolina pastor was moved from his jail cell to house arrest.
President Donald Trump tweeted on Thursday: “The United States will impose large sanctions on Turkey for their long time detainment of Pastor Andrew Brunson, a great Christian, family man and wonderful human being. He is suffering greatly. This innocent man of faith should be released immediately!”
The STPC Coalition was part of the recent international “Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom,” the first-ever event from the U.S. State Department that is now scheduled to occur annually. Brunson’s release was a central topic of the Ministerial, and attendees heard a moving testimony from Brunson’s daughter, Jacqueline Furnari.
STPC Coalition member Faith McDonnell, who serves as Director of Religious Liberty Programs at The Institute on Religion & Democracy, attended the Ministerial and heard Furnari’s impassioned address regarding her father.
“What struck me the most was that attendees from all different faith groups had been so deeply moved by Jacqueline’s story,” McDonnell said. “Upon the news of the move to house arrest, we all had been on our feet for her, with tears flowing freely around the room at the same time.”
At Brunson’s hearing on July 18, the Turkish court had ruled to keep the pastor in prison, at least until his next hearing Oct. 12. His move several days later to house arrest was a hopeful sign.
Frank Gaffney, founder and president of the Center for Security Policy and a Coalition member, said the Trump administration has broken new ground in the fight to advance mankind’s divinely conferred and unalienable right to religious freedom by explicitly holding the Turkish government accountable for its persecution of Pastor Brunson.
“American leaders made clear that there would be ‘consequences’ and ‘large sanctions’ on Turkey if it doesn’t free the pastor who is now under house arrest after nearly two years of brutal incarceration on preposterous charges,” Gaffney said in his Secure Freedom Minute radio program. “The Save the Persecuted Christians Coalition believes that by applying such techniques far more broadly, the United States and other governments can create powerful disincentives to the persecutors, and perhaps enduring, systemic relief to their victims—including the 215 million Christians around the world who do not enjoy Pastor Brunson’s celebrity.”
Millions of Christians are praying for Brunson’s release, and groups such as the STPC Coalition are working to bring him home. The Trump administration has also been active, and the American Center for Law and Justice also started a petition on Brunson’s behalf, at this point signed by nearly 600,000.
The STPC Coalition, which advocates on behalf of 215 million Christians facing heavy persecution worldwide, 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 for their faith.
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. Every month.
With such staggering statistics, and the knowledge that most of these crimes are not covered in the media, the STPC Coalition developed a special news aggregator—www.ChristianPersecutionNews.com—to capture those present-day stories of persecution that do make the news and to provide Coalition members an easy way to share these heartbreaking stories with others.
One of the ways Americans can render support is by encouraging their pastors and faith leaders to visit www.SaveThePersecutedChristians.org and order a free banner to display in front of their houses of worship. These simple banners feature a graphic “Save Us” plea with a cross and the coalition’s website where Americans can learn about the global persecution of Christians and find out more about what they can do to help stop the violence.
With so much of the world’s population attacked, imprisoned or exiled for their beliefs – much like Pastor Brunson has been – the time is fitting for the work of the STPC Coalition. The Coalition is a building movement like 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.