Pastor talks of breakdown in Turkey, but also forgiveness

Pastor Andrew Brunson, left, gestures as his wife, Norine, listens during an interview at the headquarters of Christian Broadcasting Network in Virginia Beach, Va., on Oct. 19, 2018. Andrew Brunson was recently released from prison in Turkey. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (AP) — The American pastor recently released after two years of confinement in Turkey said Friday (Oct. 19) that he suffered a breakdown during his time in prison and was put on anti-anxiety medication.

Andrew Brunson said he was deprived of books — even a Bible — for long stretches of time. For eight months, he spent 24 hours a day with more than 20 men in a cell designed for eight.

But the worst of it, he said, was the uncertainty. The pastor who had led a small congregation faced the possibility of life in a Turkish prison if convicted on charges of terrorism and related counts, accusations he still calls “ridiculous.”

“I didn’t do very well,” Brunson said of living in the crowded prison cell. “It was very high stress, and I was sleeping three to four hours maximum a day. And I was really struggling a great deal. I didn’t know how long this would continue. I didn’t know why I was in prison.”

He added: “I really had a breakdown emotionally. And I received medication for anxiety because I was just a basket case.”

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Sitting next to his wife, Norine, Brunson spoke inside the Virginia Beach headquarters of the Christian Broadcasting Network after an interview on “The 700 Club,” among other CBN shows. The network closely followed his ordeal, which became a cause celebre for evangelical Christians as well as President Trump.

Earlier this month, Brunson was convicted in Turkey and sentenced to more than three years in prison. But he was freed and allowed to leave for the two years he had already spent in custody. For the past few months, he had been on house arrest.

Brunson was accused of links to Kurdish militants and a U.S.-based Muslim cleric whom Turkey blames for a failed coup in 2016.

Upon his return, Brunson, 50, visited the White House and placed his hand on Trump’s shoulder in prayer before asking God to provide the president “supernatural wisdom to accomplish all the plans you have for this country and for him.”

Trump was insistent on Brunson’s release without conditions. And the president maintained there was no deal for Brunson’s freedom.

Brunson said Friday that he was unaware of any deals. And he pointed out that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had previously suggested trading Brunson for Pennsylvania-based Muslim cleric, Fethullah Gulen, who is accused by Turkey of engineering a failed coup in 2016. The swap was never made.

RELATED: US pastor freed from Turkey prays with Trump in Oval Office

The Brunsons, who spent 25 years in Turkey, said they still love the country but can’t return anytime soon. They said they don’t know what’s next, but they view their ordeal as part of God’s plan.

“We haven’t done anything great,” Brunson said. “But for so many people in so many countries to be praying for us, this is something that God did. It wasn’t just to bless me. He’s using that to bless Turkey.”

In the meantime, the couple is still recovering from the past two years, which included Norine Brunson’s arrest with her husband and the two weeks she spent with him in prison.

She was released and allowed to stay in the country while he was shipped around to various prisons. Their children, then ages 15, 18 and 21, were in the U.S. and have remained there.

The Brunsons said they still don’t know why the Turkish government made its accusations. Their missionary work was legal and out in the open for more than two decades.

But they said they were American Christians, who are viewed with suspicion in Turkey. And they were there after the failed coup.

Brunson said Turkish authorities never offered any proof to support the charges; no emails, no social media postings or recordings.

But people the Brunsons had known testified against him. It’s something the pastor is still processing.

“It’s not an option not to forgive; we are required to as Christians,” Brunson said. “Is it easy? No. But God forgave me. As I get emotions that come back, I say, ‘I forgive.'”

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Ben Finley


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  • Say again? “The American pastor … Brunson was convicted … and sentenced to … prison … [for] links to Kurdish militants and a U.S.-based Muslim cleric whom Turkey blames for a failed coup in 2016”?

    Once again & louder, please? “The American pastor … Brunson was convicted … and sentenced to … prison … [for] links to Kurdish militants and a U.S.-based Muslim cleric whom Turkey blames for a failed coup in 2016” ?!?!?!

  • You don’t believe that someone can be accused, arrested, tried & convicted and imprisoned falsely? Especially if that person is a foriegn national, particularly a citizen of the US?

  • Nothing can be determined “falsely” by simply asserting it as not being true or as having been “fals[ified]”. All that must be proven & debunked. Had Andrew Brunson’s A-Team of Legal, Criminological, Diplomatic & WarGame Minds, including the U.S. president, V.P. and my Evangelical people of faith Proven Absolutely Not True the following Indictment? 3 middle fingers up and read between the lines, was all that they did in so many words. So no.

    (1) There’s “evidence of contact between [Andrew Craig] Brunson and the top FETÖ official in the [Aegean] region, Bekir Baz. … [And also of Brunson’s] frequent contacts with … [Baz’s] aide [Mustafa] Safa and Amnesty Turkey Branch Executive Taner Kılıç, who is also being accused of aiding FETÖ. … GSM signals showed that [Brunson and Baz] were at the same place or at least very close to each other on 293 occasions. … Brunson’s GSM accounts were also at the same place as the GSM accounts of Baz’s deputy Mustafa Safa.”

    (2) “Brunson … took part in organizing the 2013 Gezi Park riots … [using] lists containing the names of ‘gas station workers in Turkey’s southeast,’ ‘railway employees,’ or ‘soldiers to get in contact with,’ with whom he exchanged information through close contacts.”

    (3) “[Brunson was] aim[ing] to create a Christian Kurdish state”.

    (4) “[Brunson sent this] message to an American soldier six days after the 2016 coup attempt blamed on military infiltrators by FETÖ …’Things will get worse, we will win in the end.'”

    (5) “On April 11, 2011, [Andrew] Brunson was injured in an armed attack by a person named Mehmet Ali Eren while he was chatting with his friend at the churchyard. During the incident, the attacker shouted: ‘You traitors! We will bomb the church in Manisa. And Al Qaeda will claim responsibility for this.’ After that, the same attacker became a follower of the very church led by Brunson. It was even reported that this person was running errands for Brunson’s wife Norine Brunson.”

    Source: Daily Sabah, January 1, and March 13, and April 15 and 17, May 7, and August 9, 2018.

  • “Daily Sabah (lit. “Daily Morning”) is a Turkish pro-government[2][3][4][5] daily published in Turkey. Published in English, German, Arabic and Russian and owned by Turkuvaz Media Group.” Wikipedia

    I Googled the Daily Sabah for 1 January and 13 march 2018 but did not find a reference to Brunson. Please supply the specific links to back up your claims.

  • Through the year I go to news(dot)google(dot)com, type in the words – Daily Sabah Brunson – and that’s what I got. No other newspapers followed up on the case as close as DS.

  • When Daily Sabah reports, it’s “conspiracy theories” to you, but when CNN, NBC and all American mainstream media agencies report, it’s not “conspiracy theories” to you. GROW UP.