Although Turkey is defying President Donald Trump and refuses to release a North Carolina pastor it claims is a spy, both Andrew Brunson and Trump have faith.
Trump puts his faith in the power of U.S. sanctions to eventually make Turkey relent and release Brunson, who has been held since 2016.
Brunson puts his faith in God.
This week, a Turkish court turned down Brunson’s request to be released from house arrest over the charges, CBS reported. The action was a disappointment for his supporters, who saw a positive sign last week when he was moved from the prison where he had been kept to house arrest.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Saturday that Turkey will not change its mind even if Trump follows through on his threats.
Trump did follow through.
On Wednesday, the Treasury Department designated Süleyman Soylu and Abdulhamit Gül, the ministers of interior and justice, as leaders of organizations responsible for serious human rights violations, in response to Brunson’s arrest, according to The Guardian.
“Pastor Brunson’s unjust detention and continued prosecution by Turkish officials is simply unacceptable,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said. “President Trump has made it abundantly clear that the United States expects Turkey to release him immediately.”
Turkey responded by saying it would get even.
“There is no doubt that the decision, which disrespectfully intervenes with our judicial system, stands in contrast to the essence of our relations and will seriously damage the constructive efforts made in order to resolve problems between the two countries,” a Turkish statement said.
I applaud the Trump administration for sanctioning individuals within Erdogan’s gov’t who are responsible for the imprisonment of Andrew Brunson & other Americans. As a nation, we owe it to those who are being jailed unjustly to hold their Turkish perpetrators accountable.
— Sen. James Lankford (@SenatorLankford) August 1, 2018
But the White House was not backing down.
“We’ve seen no evidence that Pastor Brunson has done anything wrong, and we believe he is a victim of unfair and unjust attention by the government of Turkey,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Wednesday, according to NBC.
Earlier in July, Trump had called for Brunson’s immediate release.
“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!” Trump tweeted.
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 26, 2018
Vice President Mike Pence echoed Trump.
‘If Turkey does not take immediate action to free Pastor Andrew Brunson and send him home to America, the United States will impose significant sanctions on Turkey until this innocent man of faith is free,” Pence tweeted.
If Turkey does not take immediate action to free Pastor Andrew Brunson and send him home to America, the United States will impose significant sanctions on Turkey until this innocent man of faith is free. pic.twitter.com/GM9WohpMRm
— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) July 26, 2018
Erdogan had previously made comments to the effect that Turkey views Brunson as a bargaining chip in its efforts to extradite Fethullah Gulen, who Erdogan blames as a leader in the failed 2016 coup, CNN reported.
Brunson, whose trial resumes in October, is charged with supporting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which is outlawed, and the Gulen Movement, which Turkey claims was part of the coup attempt. Brunson has denied the charges.
John R. Bass, the U.S. ambassador to Turkey, said Brunson was guilty of nothing more than being a Christian.
“He appears to be being held simply because he’s an American citizen who as a man of faith was in contact with a range of people in this country who he was trying to help, in keeping with his faith,” Bass said last year, in remarks disseminated by the consulate.
Turkish courts have denied an appeal to release U.S. Pastor Andrew Brunson. Andrew's wife, Norine shared this powerful request: "There have been many prayers for the legal side of things, but let's just pray for a miraculous release." #standwithPastorBrunson pic.twitter.com/sjZhRXHFhn
— Open Doors USA (@OpenDoors) August 1, 2018
Posts on a Facebook page maintained by Brunson’s wife, Norine, show that while Turkey has control of the North Carolina pastor’s body, it does not own his spirit.
In a July 18 post, after one hearing in which her husband confronted his accusers, she wrote, “… the name of the Lord was absolutely glorified!!! … As he explained why he was here, he gave the gospel. He publicly forgave all those who have come against him, forgiving as he has been forgiven.”
She quoted him as saying, “It is a privilege to suffer for the sake of Christ. Blessed am I, as I suffer for him. Blessed am I, as I am slandered. Blessed am I, as I am being lied about. Blessed am I, as I am imprisoned. Blessed am I, as I share his suffering.”
In March, she shared something he had written.
“To the extent that I am known, I want to be known as a servant and lover of Jesus Christ…. I have prayed for this land and its people for many years,… for God to pour out great blessing… In my weakness, I pray daily for strength and courage to persevere and remain faithful to my King until the end. My deepest thanks to my family around the world that is standing with and praying for me,” Brunson wrote, Norine said on the Facebook page.
In February, she noted that he was composing a song while awaiting trial. She said its lyrics were:
“It will be worth it all someday. It will be worth it all. To see you face to face/ To look into your eyes ablaze with love for me. To run into our embrace
I want to see your face/to gaze into your eyes/ablaze with love for me/run into your embrace. No more tears, no more pain, no more loneliness, fears, no suffering. In your embrace, safely home, forever safe in your embrace. It will be worth it all. You are worth it all/ You are worthy of my all”
Brunson has lived in Turkey for the past 23 years and served as pastor of Izmir Resurrection Church, which is a small Protestant congregation.
In April, during one of his first hearings, Brunson made it clear that the Turkish authorities were all wrong.
“I don’t accept any of the allegations or accusations,” he said, according to CBS.
“I did not engage in any illegal activity. I had no relations with anyone engaged in such activity,” Brunson said. “I am a Christian pastor. I did not join an Islamic movement. Their aims and mine are different.”
Brunson’s daughter, Jacqueline Furnari, told NBC that her father was “a pawn in a political game between Turkey and the U.S.”
“The start was very, very difficult. It was a dark time,” she said in April. “He’s anxious … but altogether he’s doing a lot better.”
“He’s done nothing wrong, he’s a peaceful loving man, he’s a pastor. These charges are absolutely absurd.”
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