by Erin Rodewald// April 28, 2017
(This article originally appeared in The Philos Project)
On April 16, Pastor Andrew Brunson did not celebrate Easter with his flock. Instead, he marked six months and eight days of confinement in a Turkish prison, where he is being held on charges of “membership in an armed terrorist organization.”
Since 1993, American citizens Brunson and his wife Norine have faithfully shepherded a small but vibrant Christian congregation at the Resurrection Church in their adopted home of Izmir, a buzzing, ancient city on Turkey’s Aegean coast. Originally from North Carolina, Brunson was ordained in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church and followed the call to church plant in the Muslim-majority nation, where less than 0.2 percent of the population identifies as Christian.
The Brunsons served the people of Turkey without incident for nearly 25 years, even as religious tensions mounted and an increasingly authoritarian regime squeezed religious freedoms. But everything changed on the morning of October 7, 2016, when the Brunsons were summoned to their local police station. Assuming they were about to receive their long-awaited permanent resident designations, they were surprised to find themselves detained on the grounds that they were a “threat to national security.”