Andrew Brunson, an Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC) pastor, was released from house arrest in Turkey and returned to the United States last week after being held for two years on terrorism and espionage charges.
The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) joins with the EPC, an NAE member denomination, and Christians everywhere in celebrating his release and return. The NAE thanks President Donald Trump; Vice President Mike Pence; Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback; and Senators Lindsey Graham, Jean Shaheen and Thom Tillis for their roles in Brunson’s release.
Senators Shaheen and Tillis led a bipartisan effort to press the government of Turkey to release Brunson. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom took up his case, as did many religious freedom advocacy groups, including the American Center for Law and Justice, which gathered more than a half million signatures on a petition seeking Brunson’s release.
In July, Secretary Pompeo and Ambassador Brownback convened an international gathering of foreign ministers and diplomats from 87 countries to strategize on ways to increase religious freedom around the world. At the gathering, Brunson’s daughter, Jacqueline Brunson Furnari, made a plea for her father’s release, noting that she delayed her wedding date so that her father could be present. She expressed her family’s love for the Turkish people, despite the hardships her father endured.
Evangelicals in the United States prayed for Brunson’s release over the last two years. Ted Esler, president of Missio Nexus, said, “The missions community has been closely following Andrew’s situation. We are so glad he is back in the United States. We praise God for this development, and we continue to pray for the Christians in Turkey who face ongoing repression.”
Along with his wife, Brunson served as a church planter and pastor in Turkey for 23 years. During his trial in April, he said, “I don’t accept any of the allegations or accusations. I did not engage in any illegal activity. I had no relations with anyone engaged in such activity. I am a Christian pastor. I did not join an Islamic movement. Their aims and mine are different.”
Brunson was convicted of terror-related charges and faced up to 35 years in prison if found guilty of all the charges. However, on October 12, a judge sentenced him to three years, one month and 15 days in jail. The judge then reduced the sentence to time served on good behavior and ordered him to be released. After the ruling, the Brunsons went to their home in Izmir for several hours before being driven to the Izmir Adnan Menderes Airport in western Turkey.
Jeff Jeremiah, EPC stated clerk, said, “The Brunsons continue to need prayer as they resettle in the United States. Andrew and Norine made Turkey their home and ministry for almost 25 years. As he said at the White House on Saturday, he does not know their next chapter — so that will be our prayer focus for the coming months as we do what we can to help them get settled. I urge all believers to ask our Lord to clearly reveal his will for the Brunsons as they seek how to continue to serve him.”