In October of 2016, as part of the paranoia following a failed
coup attempt, the Turkish government arrested American pastor
Andrew Brunson and charged him with espionage and aiding Turkeys
enemies. Pastor Brunson, a Presbyterian minister and Wheaton
College graduate, had led a Christian congregation in the
overwhelmingly Islamic nation for more than 20 years.
To say the charges were bogus is to understate what was obvious
to just about everyone except Turkish authorities. In reality,
Brunson became a hostage in Turkeys steady march toward a more
radical Islamism. Not only was he threatened with life
imprisonment, but was used as a political pawn. Turkey demanded
that in exchange for Brunson, the U.S. extradite Fethullah Gulen, a
Muslim cleric who now lives in Pennsylvania, and whom Turkish
President Erdogan claims was behind the failed military coup in
US pastor Andrew Brunson prays for US President Donald Trump as
they meet in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC,
October 13, 2018. (Photo by ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
We pray for you often, as a family, Brunson told the
president as he asked if he and his wife, Norine, could pray with
him. My wife and I pray for you.
But President Trump and his administration werent interested in
bargaining. Instead, the U.S. slapped sanctions on Turkey, a member
of NATO, which was a move the BBC called unprecedented. As
Turkish-U.S. relations soured, again, as the BBC reports, the
sanctions and looming tariffs took their toll on the Turkish lira,
stoked inflation, and brought the Turkish economy to the brink of
an economic crisis.
Realizing that improved relations with the U.S. might be a good
thing, Turkey released Pastor Brunson from confinement on Friday,
citing good behavior and time served as an excuse to let him go
without finding him not guilty.
Throughout the ordeal, Pastor Brunson maintained his innocence.
Let it be clear, he wrote, I am in prison not for anything I have
done wrong, but because of who I ama Christian pastor.
I desperately miss my wife and children. Yet I believe this to
be true: It is an honor to suffer for Jesus Christ, as many have
before me. My deepest thanks for all those around the world who are
standing with and praying for me.
Thanks be to God, who has heard the prayers of His people.
This is another way in which President Trump has been delivering
on a promise to promote religious freedom abroad and here at
As Ed and I mentioned, we were initially skeptical back in 2017
when the president issued his first executive order on religious