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Evangelicals hail Trump’s request for release of US pastor in Turkey

President Trump talks with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as he arrives at the entrance to the West Wing of the White House in Washington, D.C., on May 16, 2017. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Joshua Roberts

WASHINGTON (RNS) Evangelical leaders are praising President Trump for pressing for the release of American pastor Andrew Brunson during Trump’s meeting this week with the Turkish president.

“This shows the clear and open lines of communication between evangelicals and this White House,” said Johnnie Moore, an author and advocate for persecuted Christians.

Brunson, a North Carolina native, has been detained in Turkey since October.

“Not only were we able to make the President and Vice President aware that this was a priority of ours, we were pleased that they shared our concern and acted upon it,” said Moore, author of “Defying ISIS: Preserving Christianity in the Place of Its Birth and in Your Own Backyard,” in a statement to RNS.

Pastor Andrew Brunson

The White House stated that Trump on Tuesday (May 16), in a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, “asked that the Turkish Government expeditiously return him to the United States.”

Officials in Turkey, which is 99 percent Muslim, have cracked down on opponents and perceived opponents — including some American Protestants — since a failed July coup.

A minister of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Brunson was originally detained in the coastal town of Izmir, where he had lived for two decades, and was later transferred to a prison. The American Center for Law and Justice, a conservative Christian law firm working for Brunson’s release, said he has been falsely charged with “membership in an armed terrorist organization.”

The Turkish president reiterated Tuesday that he believes that organization, identified by Turkish media as a network of U.S.-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, was involved in the attempted coup. Gulen has rejected those claims.

A Turkish Protestant official said there is no connection between Brunson and the organization, Slate reported.

Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the ACLJ, discussed Brunson’s case with Trump at a White House meeting days before the president’s meeting with Erdogan.

He called the White House’s attention to the case “a major sign of significant progress toward bringing Pastor Andrew home.”

The European Centre for Law and Justice, a partner of the ACLJ, previously petitioned the United Nations to intervene for the pastor, saying Turkey was violating its constitution and the U.N. Charter.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with Brunson’s wife in March when he visited the Turkish capital of Ankara, and a State Department spokesman said in April it had called on Turkey to “resolve his case in a timely and fair manner.”

About the author

Adelle M. Banks

Adelle M. Banks, production editor and a national reporter, joined RNS in 1995. An award-winning journalist, she previously was the religion reporter at the Orlando Sentinel and a reporter at The Providence Journal and newspapers in the upstate New York communities of Syracuse and Binghamton.

15 Comments

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  • I hope they succeed. I’m sure Turkey will want something in return. I’m hoping it won’t be a trade for Gulen. He’s dead the moment he returns to Turkey. Trump’s admiration for Erdogan may allow Erdogan to sweet talk Trump.

  • I wonder any evangelicals are hailing the murder of 30 Muslims by a Christian militia, or are they merely being dead silent about it?

  • So are you really saying that if all the ways of knowing stuff, doing it by faith is just the worst?

    And what does this have to do with the topic at hand?

  • Meanwhile Cheeto let Turkish thugs under the cover of diplomatic immunity beat up anti Erdogan protesters in DC. Can he have even less regard for a free and democratic society? The US has always been a safe place to protest foreign governments without fear of reprisals. Trump violated that tradition.

  • You are typing all of this on a machine invented by a gay atheist (Alan Turing). A person essentially murdered by backwards Bible thumping bigotry.

  • “Trump’s admiration for Erdogan may allow Erdogan to sweet talk Trump.”

    We already know he is willing to burn allies intelligence assets to impress foreign diplomats sweet talking him. So Erdogan conning him into something stupid and probably dangerously damaging to our Kurdish allies, is distinctly possible.

  • The protesters were pro-Kurdish. It is my opinion that if Erdogan could get away with it, he would launch a Kurdish genocide.

  • So you’re a hypocrite. Comes with the territory of being a religious nutcase.

    Of course you want to put your tramp stamp on development of knowledge while supporting it’s greatest impediment.

    If your religion conflicts with science, it speaks badly of your religion. It means you will be as dishonest as possible to pretend faith is an unnecessary component of your belief. You will just make crap up for God.

    You appear to be working through some kind of therapeutic venting off topic. Stick to your meds. Bless your heart.

  • Ooooh, you are going to get your big sky daddy to come down and beat me up!

    I hit a nerve there! Get back to your meds. You are wasting bandwidth here.

  • Three days later, and still not a word about this.

    I wonder any evangelicals are hailing the murder of 30 Muslims by a Christian militia, or are they merely being dead silent about it?

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