Andrew Brunson speaks during a U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom event in Washington on Feb. 6, 2019. He was joined by his wife, Norine, and USCIRF Commissioner Tony Perkins. Photo courtesy of USCIRF

Andrew Brunson, back in US after detention, hopes to return to Turkey one day

WASHINGTON (RNS) — Pastor Andrew Brunson, the American evangelical imprisoned in Turkey for almost two years, says he’d like to return to that country someday.

For now, he is grateful to be on U.S. soil.

“We would love to go back. We love the people because we believe God loves the people there and we want to show God’s love to them,” he said Wednesday (Feb. 6), recalling fondly the decades he and his wife spent there before he was sent to prison on terrorism-related charges the U.S. declared were false.

“We spent 25 years in Turkey and someday we hope the conditions will be right for us to go back,” he said.

Brunson, who had pastored a small church in the coastal city of Izmir, spoke briefly at a reception in his honor hosted by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent nonpartisan watchdog.

Brunson recalled that USCIRF commissioners were among the first people to visit him in prison after his arrest in October 2016. The North Carolinian said the commissioners helped him to know that he was not forgotten during his time in prison.


RELATED: Andrew Brunson freed after telling court, ‘I love Jesus, I love Turkey’


“It was a real boost to me and encouraged me,” said Brunson, adding that one of the commissioners at the time, Sandra Jolley, brought him an illustrated Book of Psalms, “which was a comfort to me over the rest of my time there.”

Brunson was moved to house arrest in July 2018 and freed by a Turkish court a few months later in October.

Sandra Jolley, former commissioner of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, speaks about the Brunsons and their experiences on Feb. 6, 2019, in Washington. Photo courtesy of USCIRF


 This image is available for web publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

His wife, Norine, added that they realize that “not all stories end the way ours did.” She expressed her appreciation for the support they have received.

“We are grateful for all the efforts, all the prayers and in the end,” she said, “we have to give glory to God.”

Her husband also expressed his concerns about people of Christian and Muslim faiths who he believes remain imprisoned unjustly in the Muslim-majority nation.

“I have many friends in prison in Turkey now who should not be in prison and many families have been destroyed,” he said.

Andrew Brunson, who plans to publish a book in the fall about his experience, also noted that there are other Americans detained in Turkey who need to be remembered.

“I hope that there will be continued interest in getting them released,” he said. “I don’t think any of them are guilty either.”

Commissioner Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, spoke of his fellow commissioners' advocacy for Brunson and how he had been at a hearing that led to Brunson's release.

“I had the privilege and the honor of being there in the courtroom when the unexpected occurred,” said Perkins. “But I think a lot of folks across the country of different religious backgrounds and traditions had been praying for Pastor Andrew Brunson and we had the privilege of seeing those prayers answered as I accompanied the Brunsons home back here to the United States in October.”

The event featuring Brunson and held at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center highlighted USCIRF’s Religious Prisoners of Conscience Project.

Commissioner Gayle Manchin, vice chair of USCIRF, stressed that the efforts to bring home detained people is a human struggle that supersedes politics.

“Many of us in this room are mothers and fathers and so I ask you to pause just for a minute and reflect on the fact that this weekend the Brunsons’ daughter is getting married and Rev. Brunson will be there to walk his daughter down the aisle,” she said. “They will be a family living in freedom again.”

Comments

  1. PRESUMPTION: “Andrew Brunson … was sent to prison on terrorism-related charges the U.S. declared were false.”

    FACT: THESE “CHARGES” ARE STILL UNPROVEN “FALSE”:

    (1) There’s “evidence of contact between [Andrew Craig] Brunson and the top FETÖ official in the [Aegean] region, Bekir Baz … [and Mustafa] Safa and … 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 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.'”

    (4) “On April 11, 2011, [Andrew] Brunson was injured in an armed attack by a person named Mehmet Ali Eren … shout[ing] ‘You traitors! We will bomb the church in Manisa. And Al Qaeda will claim responsibility for this.’ After that, the same attacker … 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.

  2. Kudos for referencing your sources but the Turkish Daily Sabah may not be an entirely reliable source of information.

  3. I am glad that Mr. Brunson was released, but the idea that Mr. Brunson needs to go back to show Go’d love for the people in Turkey appears to me to be a bit strange. I think that God is perfectly capable of showing such love through Muslims and through people of no faith, as well as through Christians.

  4. According to Mehmet Solmaz, “The other side of the coin in Turkish media: The Turkish media landscape is more diverse than critics of the government would have you think – here’s what you possibly didn’t know”, Middle East Eye, 10 December 10, 2015:

    “[The] media landscape [in Turkey is] dominated by opposition papers … Statistically speaking, the five best-selling papers are the Zaman, Hurriyet, Sozcu, Posta and Sabah, totaling 2,029,958 papers a day on average from 23 November to 30 November. Only Sabah is pro-government as the other four strongly oppose the AK Party [‘the ruling Justice and Development Party’], and above all [‘Turkish President Recep Tayyip’] Erdogan. Overall, 65 percent of the daily newspapers in Turkey openly call themselves anti-AK Party and five percent remains in the grey area, while remaining 30 percent support the government. The cases of arrests of journalists are mainly with issues related to breaking the law, but even when taking them into account, the bulk of media coverage has been and remains anti-government – uninterrupted. In many cases, those detained are released, despite the fact that had they acted in such a manner that in the West they would have been fired, sued or even jailed. They include journalists who … [1] accused the president of giving the orders for the Ankara bombing … [2] of sending weapons to ISIS … [3] ma[de] allusions to coup attempts [against Erdogan] as a solution … [4] prompt[ed] coups against democracy, using media freedom as a shield for their anti-democratic steps … [5] implied Erdogan will face the same fate of [‘former Egyptian president Mohamed’] Morsi. … It is important to remember that such rhetoric is not harmless in a country where the military – backed by some quarters of the press – toppled four democratically elected governments.”

  5. Thanks for providing such detailed information. I note that Mehmet Solmaz wrote of Daily Sabah, “Only Sabah is pro-government” and that fits in with the kind of things it says, for instance, about the Armenian Genocide: See:

    https://www.dailysabah.com/op-ed/2019/02/07/self-hating-turks-and-the-genocide-debate

    https://www.dailysabah.com/diplomacy/2019/02/06/macron-draws-ire-with-move-to-defame-turkey-over-armenian-genocide

    This is not to state that everything that Daily Sabah writes is wrong, but care should be taken in using this source about sensitive topics such as Christian and Kurdish relations (and, of course, the Armenian Genocide.)

  6. You’ve got nothing to worry about: “Andrew Brunson … was sent to prison on terrorism-related charges the U.S. declared were false”, reports Religion News Service. Because, “care [has been] taken in using this source about sensitive topics”.

  7. Does that mean that the information you gleaned from the Daily Sabah was false?

  8. “Does that [NOT] mean that the information you gleaned from [Religion News Service and elsewhere] was false?”

  9. What it means is that we must take care in quoting information as fact.

  10. So, these “terrorism-related charges [against Brunson that] the U.S. declared were false” – are they in “fact” proven “false”?

  11. I don’t know and you don’t know. Personally, I think it unlikely that a pastor would be involved in the things that Daily Sabah reported he was, and which you posted here. It now appears that you have doubts about these allegations, too.

  12. QUESTION 1: These “terrorism-related charges [against Brunson as Daily Sabah reported but which] the U.S. declared were false” – have they in “fact” been proven “false”?

    MGLASS: “I don’t know … Personally, I think it unlikely that a pastor would be involved in the things that Daily Sabah reported he was”.

    HPO: Nothing, in “fact”, has been proven “false” by the U.S.

    QUESTION 2: How, in “fact”, could [these “terrorism-related charges [against Brunson as Daily Sabah reported] be “declared … false” – without having been proven to be “false” in the first place?

    MGLASS: “I don’t know … Personally, I think it unlikely that a pastor would be involved in the things that Daily Sabah reported he was”.

    HPO: POWERFULLY THAT’S ONLY HOW: politically, diplomatically, coercively, militarily, financially, economically, etc. But all outside the national and international court and tribunal systems. Only US President Donald Trump, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who were negotiating together for the Release, Though Non-Acquittal, of The Accused, know how for sure. But they’re not telling. Meanwhile and thus far, Daily Sabah has not retracted any of their reports of any of the “terrorism-related charges [against Brunson that] the U.S. declared were false”.

  13. I see you give greater credence to Daily Sabah than you do to the US Government. Fair enough, if that’s your call. However, I don’t think it amounts to much that the Daily Sabah hasn’t retracted the things that you said they reported.

    If you have evidence from other sources I would be interested to find out about it. In the mean time, I’ll keep an open mind on the whole question.

  14. You’re such a hippocreet, Impasse! Why can’t I NOT “give greater credence … to the US Government”?! You do it all the time these past two years! Listen to yourself:

    “Mglass … [from] 2 months ago … [to] 2 years ago … Trump pivots so many times it keeps everyone off balance. That explains its usefulness to him. … This leaves him an enormous scope to do what suits him at the moment. … The idea that he will be bound by what he said – or appeared to have said … is a delusion. … I am concerned with some of the rhetoric from President Trump … Look at what President Trump said … It is clear that Trump accused his ideological opponents of violent intent … These statements aren’t non-violent or non-threatening – quite the contrary! … Overheated rhetoric from Trump … is dangerous stuff!”

  15. I asked you for more evidence and all you give in return is abuse. Not smart.

  16. So why, again, can’t I NOT “give greater credence … to the US Government” the way you don’t either for these past 2 years?

  17. So, just as you yourself do NOT “give greater credence … to the US Government”, I can also NOT do that, too, then?

  18. Give credence or not give credence, that is up to you. Just don’t become abusive. That’s all I ask.

  19. First of all, do you “give greater credence … to the US Government”?

  20. I’d give credence if and when I consider it’s warranted. And whether you like that answer or not I still expect courtesy if you choose to reply.

  21. But, second of all, when the “terrorism-related charges [against Brunson that] the U.S. [President Trump] declared were false”, were, in “fact”, POWERFULLY BUT NEVER TRUTHFULLY PROVEN FALSE inside the national and international court and tribunal systems, (1) all that to you “warranted … credence”?! (2) Why can’t you bring yourself around to rightfully accusing that here, too, “Trump pivots [and] keeps everyone off balance [because of] its usefulness to him”?! (3) That here, too, when he “declared … false” all the “terrorism-related charges” against Brunson, “the idea that he will be bound by what he said – or appeared to have said … is a delusion”?! (4) That here, too, in “declar[ing them all] false”, Trump’s “statements aren’t non-violent or non-threatening … [but] dangerous stuff”?!

  22. In this instance, I don’t thing the primary question is whether Trump is credible but whether the charges against Andrew Brunson are true.

    I think it helps to look at the recent history of Turkey. After a failed coup in 2016, the Turkish Government targeted journalists, academics and human rights activists. The head of Amnesty International in Turkey was also arrested and charged with terrorism but later released. See https://www.dw.com/en/turkey-frees-local-amnesty-head/a-45099089

    In this situation it appears that the Turkish Government is using the post-coup crackdown to stifle dissent, whether related to the coup or not.

    Trump’s concentration on the Andrew Brunson case appealed to Evangelical Christians in the USA, but even if you don’t trust Trump, that doesn’t mean that the charges against the pastor are true.

  23. PLEASE ANSWER THE QUESTIONS.

    (1) When the “terrorism-related charges [against Brunson that] the U.S. [President Trump] declared were false”, were, in “fact”, POWERFULLY BUT NEVER TRUTHFULLY PROVEN FALSE inside the national and international court and tribunal systems, all that to you “warranted … credence”?!

    (2) Why can’t you bring yourself around to rightfully accusing that here, too, “Trump pivots [and] keeps everyone off balance [because of] its usefulness to him”?!

    (3) That here, too, when he “declared … false” all the “terrorism-related charges” against Brunson, “the idea that he will be bound by what he said – or appeared to have said … is a delusion”?!

    (4) That here, too, in “declar[ing them all] false”, Trump’s “statements aren’t non-violent or non-threatening … [but] dangerous stuff”?!

  24. Wrong question. If you are accused of a crime, the job of the prosecution is to prove that the accusation was true; it is not your job to prove that the accusation was false.

    The burden of proof is on the prosecutor, not the accused.

  25. Q&A WITH MGLASS:

    QUESTION 1: These “terrorism-related charges [against Brunson as Daily Sabah reported but which] the U.S. declared were false” – have they in “fact” been proven “false”?

    MGLASS: “I don’t know … Personally, I think it unlikely that a pastor would be involved in the things that Daily Sabah reported he was”.

    QUESTION 2: How, in “fact”, could [these “terrorism-related charges [against Brunson as Daily Sabah reported] be “declared … false” – without having been proven to be “false” in the first place?

    MGLASS: “I don’t know … Personally, I think it unlikely that a pastor would be involved in the things that Daily Sabah reported he was”.

    QUESTION 3: When the “terrorism-related charges [against Brunson that] the U.S. [President Trump] declared were false”, were, in “fact”, POWERFULLY BUT NEVER TRUTHFULLY PROVEN FALSE inside the national and international court and tribunal systems, all that to you “warranted … credence”?!

    MGLASS: “Wrong question.”

    QUESTION 4: Why can’t you bring yourself around to rightfully accusing that here, too, “Trump pivots [and] keeps everyone off balance [because of] its usefulness to him”?!

    MGLASS: “Wrong question.”

    QUESTION 5: Why can’t you bring yourself around to rightfully accusing that here, too, when Trump “declared … false” all the “terrorism-related charges” against Brunson, “the idea that he will be bound by what he said – or appeared to have said … is a delusion”?!

    MGLASS: “Wrong question.”

    QUESTION 6: Why can’t you bring yourself around to rightfully accusing that here, too, in “declar[ing them all] false”, Trump’s “statements aren’t non-violent or non-threatening … [but] dangerous stuff”?!

    MGLASS: “Wrong question.”

  26. HpO, your rant, complete with its partial quotations of what I wrote, is silly and repetitive. If you want to believe the Daily Sabah, go right ahead. If you want to believe Donald Trump, go right ahead, I have already stated that I don’t know enough to make an informed judgment, and neither do you. It’s time to stop.

  27. AGREED: As they say in Australia, “It’s time to stop” – at the beginning, with The Rant of Impasse The Hypocrite, who applies Double Standard on US President Donald Trump!

    “Mglass … [from] 2 months ago … [to] 2 years ago … Trump pivots so many times it keeps everyone off balance. That explains its usefulness to him. … This leaves him an enormous scope to do what suits him at the moment. … The idea that he will be bound by what he said – or appeared to have said … is a delusion. … I am concerned with some of the rhetoric from President Trump … Look at what President Trump said … It is clear that Trump accused his ideological opponents of violent intent … These statements aren’t non-violent or non-threatening – quite the contrary! … Overheated rhetoric from Trump … is dangerous stuff!”

  28. HpO I won’t insult you in return for your bad manners. I will simply state that if I had to choose between Erdogan and Trump, I would hold my nose and prefer Trump. If you have a problem with that or think it is hypocritical, then it reflects on you.

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