Samaritan’s Purse chief Franklin Graham is urging Christians to pray for American pastor Andrew Brunson, whose trial on claims his Christianity makes him a terrorist started on Monday.
“Missionary and American pastor Andrew Brunson is facing trial in Turkey … and he needs our prayers,” Graham said on social media. “He is being falsely accused; and in my opinion, this is because of his Christian faith. Some of his family live in the area where my father lived in North Carolina. I know that this is very difficult, to be falsely accused in a Muslim country. Please join me in lifting Pastor Brunson up in prayer, that God will protect him and give him courage and boldness as he stands before the lions.”
The American Center for Law and Justice, which has documented Brunson’s case as it has developed, said the situation for Brunson now is “critical.”
“Pastor Andrew is innocent. He is no terrorist. He is a father, a husband, and a peaceful man of God. But he is facing what could amount to the rest of his life in prison,” the international organization said.
“Pastor Andrew has already spent 18 months behind bars, locked away from his wife and children and the church family he pastored in Turkey for 23 years without incident. He has committed no crime or activities against the state. In fact, at the time of his arrest, he was applying for permanent residency in Turkey. It’s where he lived and raised his family for over two decades.”
The ACLU reported, “To accuse him of ‘Christianization’ – equating it to membership in an armed terrorist organization and military/political espionage against the people he’d come to love – is ludicrous. Pastor Andrew is on trial because of his Christian faith. Nothing more.”
Brunson was arrested at the end of 2016, and only in the last few weeks was told why.
The ACLU said the government’s “confounding 62-page indictment submitted by the prosecution … reads more like a rambling diatribe against Christianity.”
It attacks Israel, and offers hearsay claims from “secret witnesses.”
“We have learned that Senators Tillis and Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback, are attending the pastor’s trial in Turkey. Hopefully their physical presence might demonstrate to Turkey, and President Erdogan, how serious the U.S. is taking this case and how it might affect relations between our two countries,” the ACLJ says.
“The eyes of the entire word need to be laser focused on Turkey right now and unite to demand this innocent man’s release. We cannot tolerate a U.S. citizen being imprisoned for the rest of his life because of his Christian faith. It is a gross violation of his human rights and religious liberty.”
The ACLJ has suggested that Brunson was arrested without a crime because Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wanted to use him as a political pawn to force the U.S. to return an exiled political opponent, Fethullah Gülen.
In January, 24 members of the Council of Europe signed a document demanding Turkey release Brunson.
The written declaration criticizes Erdogan for using Brunson as “a bargaining chip” with the U.S. to extradite Gulen, whom Erdogan blames for the failed coup attempt in July 2016.
ACLJ said its international affiliate, the European Centre for Law and Justice, submitted a written question to the Council’s Committee of Ministers “with the argument that Turkey is violating its international commitments to respect and apply human rights within its territory.”
The question to the ministers was: “What do you intend to do to ensure that Turkey adheres to its European commitments and obligations. And what can you do to ensure the effective enjoyment of the rights enshrined in the European Convention by Pastor Brunson?”
Eventually, 24 members of the council – from Moldova, Sweden, Ukraine, Romania, Ireland, Armenia, Spain, San Marino, Poland, Serbia, United Kingdom, Luxembourg, Hungary, Netherlands and Croatia – signed a document stating Brunson has been held for more than 400 days, “without any reason, and in blatant violation of his rights.”
The ministers’ statement said: “He has lived under inhumane conditions and lost over 50 pounds. While no evidence had ever been set forth to substantiate any crime from him, the Turkish authorities have systematically denied the multiple appeals contesting his detention.”
Turkey, once held up as an example of a moderate Islam friendly to Western values, has been sliding backward in recent years. The latest crackdowns on Christianity signaled an acceleration of its return to Islamic Shariah law under the Erdogan regime.
For example, the country, which is 99 percent Muslim, recently seized ownership of 50 churches.
The last time Turkey was ruled by Shariah, under the Ottoman Empire, it slaughtered more than 1.5 million Christians of Greek, Armenian and Syrian descent.