Turkish Cover-Up Deepens, Troubles Christians as Pastor Andrew Brunson’s Plight Continues
New Report Shows Turkish Government Is Covering Up Christian Persecution; Save the Persecuted Christians Coalition Advocates for 215 Million Worldwide Who Face Violence Because of Belief in Jesus Christ
WASHINGTON—A new report has found the Turkish government is covering up Christian persecution, especially eye-opening as the imprisonment of American pastor Andrew Brunson continues to make headlines.
The new report from International Christian Concern (ICC) shows that officials in Turkey are reportedly pressuring Turkish Christians to deny the state-sponsored oppression and hardships they regularly face, reported Mission Network News (MNN). A Voice of the Martyrs representative also told MNN that the current political atmosphere has believers on edge, stating “all Christians in Turkey are facing some pressure or distrust from the culture around them and even from their government. The government of President (Tayyip) Erdogan is moving in a more Islamic direction.”
The Save the Persecuted Christians (STPC) Coalition notes that Turkey and its Christian population have been making international news as the Turkish government digs in its heels over the release of Brunson. He has been detained in Turkey since the fall of 2016 on false accusations of “spying” and “aiding terror groups.” Brunson has been on house arrest since late July but is still not free to return to the U.S., venture outside his home or preach in his Turkish church. His next hearing is set for Oct. 12, and several of his appeals have been denied.
In the meantime, the Trump administration has been equally vocal on Brunson’s release, imposing sanctions on Turkey and doubling down on tariffs, which has made the Turkey lira, and in turn the Turkish economy, suffer. An encouraging sign for Brunson came Thursday, when the prosecutor in the pastor’s case was reassigned.
“Thousands of Christians continue to pray for Pastor Brunson’s release, as well as for the many Christians suffering hardship there,” said STPC Coalition member Dede Laugesen. “Andrew’s Brunson’s case is remaining in the spotlight because of the ongoing commitment of the Trump administration, for which we are immensely grateful and appreciative. But millions of Christians around the world do not have this same support and are suffering in silence and alone.”
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.
In its report, ICC quotes government-controlled papers that discuss an abundance of religious freedom. Turkish Christians tell a very different story, one of harassment, violence and increasing pressure. One Christian woman quoted for the report said her husband was beaten, and both verbal and written attacks on the church occur. MNN also noted that Brunson’s situation has heightened awareness of how Turkish Christians are treated by the government. Due to his non-native status, Brunson’s American citizenship gives him notoriety that the average Turkish Christian does not have.
The outlet also suggested praying for Turkish Christians and for Erdogan, that he may have a change in heart over both Brunson’s imprisonment and the religious freedom and peace of Turkish Christians.
The STPC Coalition has been working to raise awareness about Brunson’s wrongful imprisonment, by first being part of a rally in Washington, D.C., in June, then through the historic international “Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom” in July from the U.S. State Department. Brunson’s release was a topic of the Ministerial, and attendees heard emotional testimony from his daughter, Jacqueline Furnari.
The STPC Coalition also offers the moving “The People of the Cross” exhibit, which shown as a side event to the Ministerial. One banner features Pastor Brunson with these words: “Despite letters from 66 U.S. Senators and 50 members of European Parliament and repeated requests from President Trump and his administration, Turkish President Erdogan’s prosecutors insist that Pastor Brunson serve a life-sentence—an explicit and ominous warning to other Christians, especially those who lack the pastor’s celebrity and international support.”
Another banner in the exhibit highlights “brutal persecution” in Turkey, where just .02 percent of Turks are Christian, down from 20 percent in 1920. “Oppression has reduced Christianity from 20% before WWI to near extinction,” the banner reads. “No clergy may be ordained; confiscated church properties become museums or mosques—or simply deteriorate. Some of the world’s oldest Christian communities are disappearing.” “The People of the Cross” exhibit is a traveling display that is available for other venues and events. Contact Save the Persecuted Christians for more information.
Raising awareness is crucial, 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 current instances of persecution that do make the news and to provide those concerned 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—like Pastor Brunson and other followers of Christ in Turkey—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.