Tag: Turkey

U.S. Secretary of State meets with Imprisoned American Pastor Andrew Brunson’s Wife in Turkey

Pastor Andrew Brunson with his wife Norine

American Pastor Andrew Brunson has lived in Turkey for 23 years. He was a pastor at the Resurrection Church in Izmir before being detained on 7 Oct 2016. Andrew has been charged with being part of a terrorist organization. He’s been sentenced to prison in Izmir since November. Andrew has a great love for the Turkish people. He and all who know him maintain the charges are false. Turkey has seen a pressing crackdown against anyone who the current Turkish government deems as a threat. This apparently includes Christians, particularly those from the West.

Last week, Andrew’s wife, Norine shared:

On Monday, Andrew told me he felt the Lord had said I would meet with Sec of State Tillerson. On Tuesday, I was told by the embassy and another Senator that the meeting would NOT happen. I decided to come to Ankara anyway and arrived last night. I met with another significant person in the State Department early afternoon, then late afternoon was told the Secretary would meet with me. PTL, I just had a 20 min meeting with Sec. of State Tillerson. I do not know what will come of it, considering the sensitive period Turkey is in, but was grateful for the opportunity.

The ACLJ who is representing the family and advocating for Pastor Andrew’s freedom, reported that the 20-minute meeting took place in Ankara, Turkey as the Secretary of State held a series of meetings with senior Turkish officials.

This meeting occurred just a few days after Pastor Andrew made a direct personal appeal to the Trump Administration to secure his freedom.

This is a powerful sign that the Trump Administration is taking the plight of this wrongfully imprisoned U.S. citizen very seriously.

We have also been informed that Pastor Andrew’s case was raised at a press conference with the Secretary of State in Turkey.

Please continue to pray for Pastor Brunson and his release.

Source: Voice Of The Persecuted



TURKEY – PRAY FOR END TO PASTOR’S PRISON ORDEAL

Pastor Andrew Brunson (left) has been behind bars in western Turkey since October – because officials suspect he’s a ‘terrorist’. In fact, he and his wife, Norine, love Turkey and have served its people for the past 23 years.

Pray that Andrew will be released immediately so that he and Norine can continue their ministry at Izmir Resurrection Church.

Their nightmare began on October 7 when they were summoned to Turkey’s Interior Ministry. They thought they were being called to a meeting to discuss their application for permanent residency. Instead, they were arrested and detained.

Norine was released after two weeks but Andrew was charged with having links to the Gulen movement which the Government blames for last year’s attempted coup.More than 40,000 people have been arrested on suspicion of involvement in the failed plot.

In the past four years, at least 100 pastors serving in Turkey have reportedly been denied visas or permits, and forced to leave.

Several pastors have been accused of being ‘a threat to national security’. Many fear the Turkish authorities are taking advantage of current insecurity to clamp down on Christianity.

Ask God to protect, encourage and strengthen Andrew. As a foreigner, the American pastor has to apply to the Ministry of Justice for each family visit, while Turkish prisoners are allowed such visits once a week. Pray that Andrew will be freed soon.

Pray that Andrew’s fellow inmates will be touched by his witness.

Pray that Christians in Turkey will stand firm in their faith and not be discouraged by the recent crackdown.

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(Sources: The Association of Protestant Churches in Turkey, Middle East Concern, Release International)



TURKEY: Jailed US pastor’s appeal rejected

American pastor, Rev Andrew Brunson (49)

On 29 December, a Turkish court denied an initial appeal for the release of Rev Andrew Brunson (49), an American pastor who has been under arrest since early October over alleged links to a terrorist organisation. A further appeal can be made to a higher court.

Andrew was detained under deportation orders in the port city of Izmir on 7 October 2016 and held in detention facilities without formal charges until 9 December, when he was brought to court for the first time for questioning. He was accused of “membership in an armed terrorist organisation” and sent to prison. The organisation in question is the Gülen movement (see below), blamed by the Turkish government for last July’s failed coup.

Andrew’s lawyer was denied access to him during his first two months of detention, but has since been permitted to meet him in prison three times. US Embassy officials were blocked several times in their attempts to visit Andrew in detention, but were permitted to meet him in prison on 30 December.

Andrew was allowed a family visit on 28 December, during which he said he has been allowed to have a copy of the New Testament, though not any other books in English. During his time in the immigration facility, he was denied access to a Bible. While Turkish prisoners are allowed family visits once a week, Andrew’s family must apply to the Ministry of Justice for every visit. The American Center for Law and Justice is representing his family.

Background

The Izmir Dirilis Resurrection Church pastored by Rev Brunson

Andrew is pastor of the Izmir Dirilis (Resurrection) Church (pictured), which has a congregation of thirty to forty members, on the west coast of Turkey. He and his wife Norine have led the congregation for 23 years. A native of North Carolina, Andrew belongs to the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. He and Norine have three children, who are studying in the US.

In April 2016, the Brunsons applied to renew their residence visas, but received no response. When they arrived home on 7 October, they found a summons requesting them to report with their passports to a local police station. On arrival, they were taken into custody.

According to the authorities at the Migration Administration’s detention facility in Izmir, the Turkish Interior Ministry ordered that Andrew and Norine be deported within 15 days as they posed “a threat to national security”. The directive reportedly accused them of activities said to constitute a “national security risk”.

They were held incommunicado, and a lawyer asking to visit them was denied access. Norine was released on 19 October and given an extended permit to remain in Turkey, but Andrew was detained at Harmandali Detention Center, an immigration detention facility on the north edge of Izmir.

On 8 December, he was transferred overnight to a counter-terrorism centre before being brought before an Izmir court on 9 December for interrogation. The court ordered that he be imprisoned on the grounds of links with a terrorist organisation. The judge said the terrorism charges came from a “secret informant”, and specified allegations that the pastor had links with the Gülen movement. He was transferred to Izmir’s Sakran Prison.

Prison conditions

On 28 December, Norine (pictured, left, with Andrew) posted a Facebook message in which she wrote, “I want to clarify that Andrew is NOT being held with violent people in prison. He is in a room with 11 Muslims who are very devout so prayers are always going on in the small room, but these are not violent people and he is not in danger from them. They all sleep in bunks in a fairly tight space, and eat the meals in another room and have a small courtyard to go out to.”

On 2 January, she wrote: “I got to see Andrew last Wednesday… He was very down and discouraged. He had been almost completely cut off. The week leading up to Christmas, the lawyer had come two days late. Until he saw her, he had no idea if I was still in the country, if his letters were going to an empty home, etc. as all my letters had been held. Also, because we had had hope for a release by Christmas, to then have things take a turn for the worse on 9 December was a crushing blow. Andrew turns 49 tomorrow. Please pray that the Lord will no longer remain silent, but will make his presence felt and do something very special for him.”

The Gülen movement

The Gülen movement, classified as a terrorist organisation in Turkey, has been blamed by the government for last July’s failed coup. Since July, thousands of judges, prosecutors, military personnel, opposition party politicians, journalists, teachers and other civilians have been arrested in an attempt to identify and prosecute those responsible. On 2 January, the Justice Ministry announced that to date 41,326 “terrorism suspects” had been arrested. Turkey is under a “state of emergency”, due to run until until mid-January 2017.

The man behind the movement, cleric and political activist Fethullah Gülen, lives in Pennsylvania, and the American authorities refuse to extradite him. Armenian members of Turkey’s parliament claim that retaliation for this refusal is the reason for the treatment of American Christians in the wake of the failed coup. In recent months, several expatriate pastors have been accused of being “a threat to national security” and deported.

Aykan Erdemir, senior fellow at the Foundation for Defence of Democracies and a former member of the Turkish parliament, told Religion News Service: “Protestant or Christian churches are seen as an American influence, and now that Turkey is anti-American, they are being targeted even more.”

Source: Church In Chains (Christianity Today, Middle East Concern, World Watch Monitor)



‘No Christmas or carol singing’ orders in Santa Claus’ homeland Turkey

Istanbul Erkek Lisesi, also known as Istanbul High School, Istanbul 2011 © Guillaume Piolle / CC

“No more Christmas celebration and/or lessons on Christmas including carol singing is permitted, effective immediately”. An email on 13 December sent to about 35 German-funded teachers at Istanbul Erkek Lisesi (also known as Istanbul High School) saying that the National Ministry of Education had communicated that no more of these activities should take place.

That Turkey is the homeland of the real ‘Santa Claus’ is an irony largely lost on most media: St Nicholas, who secretly left gifts for poor children, was in fact Bishop Nicholas who lived in c.300 AD in Demre (formerly known as Myra), in Lycia, Southern Turkey.

Church history teaches that Nicholas attended the Council of Nicaea, close to Istanbul, where 300 early Church Fathers agreed on their core beliefs as followers of Jesus Christ. It’s the teaching of these beliefs that now appears to be being challenged.

German broadcast media Deutsche Welle (DW) reported that the school management denied that they banned celebrating Christmas. However, DW reports the school said that German teachers have recently been “talking about Christmas and Christianity in a way that was not foreseen by the curriculum.”

Proselytizing ‘not allowed’

Online portal Diken quoted the head of the Commission for the new Turkish Constitution and ruling party AKP MP Mustafa Sentop as saying: “We will not allow missionising/proselytizing in a government institution.”

The directive from the National Ministry of Education particularly affected the German teachers who’d been working hard over two or three months to prepare the content and choir for a Christmas carol concert to be performed at the High School itself. This did take place last Friday as planned, with a revised programme, for which the choir director must only have had a couple of days to amend all the music and carols.

(For the past seven or eight years, the German and Austrian Consulates have collaborated with the High School on the concert: it’s not clear if a separate performance was also due to take place at the German Consulate.)

The BBC quoted a statement in which the school said [the concert] was allowed to take place under the supervision of the Turkish education ministry and with individual pupils’ parental permission – but that the teachers pulled out…without giving a reason.

The school statement concluded: “it must be asked who these provocations are useful for. It is clear they do not serve Turkish-German relations.”

After the news exploded across the German media over the weekend, the Turkish-managed school itself posted a statement on its website on Sunday night, 18 Dec., denying it had issued such a ban. It also explained that a concert scheduled at the German Consulate had been “cancelled by the German teachers in question without explanation”.

Diplomatic row

After the diplomatic row had broken out between Germany and Turkey, it appeared by 19 Dec that Turkey was trying to say that the email’s content (“nothing that is in the spirit of Christmas traditions and the Christian holiday should be announced, prepared or carried out in the classrooms from now on”) had been misunderstood. The school is reported to have said that some German teachers had addressed Christmas without answering students’ questions satisfactorily. German Press Agency DPA reported the that German department’s leadership mailed German teachers after meeting with the school’s Turkish heads saying there’s “no ban on discussing ‘Christmas’ in teaching.”

German Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer said, 19 Dec, he was confident “misunderstandings” could be resolved.

Earlier, on 17 Dec the German Foreign Ministry had declared: “We do not understand the surprising decision of the leadership of Istanbul Lisesi,” and “It is a great pity that the good tradition of the intercultural exchange in the pre-Christmas period was suspended at a school with a long history of German-Turkish friendship.” Founded in 1884, the exclusive bilingual state school (places at which are highly competitive) provides Turkish students high quality, free tuition in Turkish and German.

“There is no question of the school or its management placing an obstacle in its way or prohibiting it,” the statement said. An MP from the ruling Justice and Development Party backed up the school’s administration, saying “such false reports do nothing for Turkey-Germany relations.”

The high school has forbidden its 35 German teachers from speaking to the media about the controversy.

The dispute prompted a caricature of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that appeared on the front page of Die Welt today (19 Dec), dressed as the fictional character The Grinch, entitled, “Stolen Christmas.”

Already tense relations between Turkey and Germany after the failed 15 July coup attempt were further strained earlier this month when the Deputy Speaker of the Turkish Parliament was stopped and temporarily detained by German police at the Cologne airport. After losing her passport, Ayse Nur Bahdekapili was traveling on a temporary travel document from the Turkish embassy, which German airport authorities initially refused to accept.

According to The Guardian, the General Secretary of the CSU (Angela Merkel’s allies in Bavaria, Southern Germany) Andreas Scheuer said the reports were “new proof that [President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan’s Turkey is burning all bridges with Europe”.

Christmas is part of Germany, and that applies too for a German school abroad, Scheuer told the Funke regional media group.

Relations between Ankara and Berlin have been strained in the wake of the failed military coup in July, with Germany repeatedly expressing concern over the scope of a massive crackdown on Erdoğan’s opponents.

Developments in Turkey have a strong resonance in Germany, home to a three-million-strong ethnic Turkish population, the legacy of a massive “guest worker” programme in the 1960s and 70s.

Source: World Watch Monitor



ONE DEAD, SEVERAL INJURED IN ISLAMIST ATTACKS ON COPTS IN EGYPT

By Jeremy Reynalds, Senior Correspondent, ASSIST News Service (jeremyreynalds@gmail.com)

ISTANBUL, TURKEY:  One Christian is dead, several others have been wounded and a fire gutted a church building after Muslims across Egypt waged a weekend of violence against Copts.

According to a story by Morning Star News, In Tahana El-Gabal village in Minya Governorate, on July 17 Fam Mary Khalaf, 27, was overpowered by a group of Muslims who stabbed him repeatedly in the chest. One of the knife stabs went directly into his heart, killing him instantly, a statement from the local parish reported.

Three others were seriously injured in the attack. They were Nagib Hanna, father of Rev. Metaous, a local Coptic priest and Malak Aziz, brother of the Rev. Boutrous, another local priest. Azza Jouma, a Christian neighbor of the three victims, was stabbed in the face.

The attack started when four Muslims began harassing Metaous’s primary school-age son as his grandfather was looking after him outside his home. The men threatened to run the boy over, witnesses told human rights activists investigating the incident.

Once the stabbing began, the group of four quickly grew into a mob of more than two dozen people screaming, “Stand by your Muslim brother.”

The assault was one of numerous cases of violence against Copts in Minya Governorate over the past few months.

They included an attack in May in which an elderly Coptic woman was stripped, beaten and paraded naked through her village streets because of a rumor, later shown to be false, that her son was having a romantic relationship with a Muslim woman.

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Church building burned in Luxor, Egypt.

Ishak Ibrahim, a human rights researcher at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), said the attacks in Egypt and specifically in Minya continue because no one is being punished for committing them.

“What happened in Minya is nothing but a natural result of not enforcing the law in previous sectarian attacks against the Copts, and forcing the Copts to go through reconciliation meetings and obey illegal solutions that are demeaning,” Morning Star News reported he said.

The Tahana El-Gabal stabbing death came about a day after a mob of Muslims, enraged over a rumor that a church building was being constructed in the governorate, attacked Copts in their village.

Starting shortly after 9 p.m. on July 15, groups of Muslims set on the Copts in the village of Abu Yacoub, causing minor injuries and torching five homes.
The attack lasted into the early morning hours of July 16. Firefighters showed up several hours after the structures had been destroyed.

The bishop of Minya, identified according to tradition only by his consecrated name, Makarious, said in a news release that the rioting mobs were in complete violation of the law and that there was no excuse for the violence.

“Nobody has the right to attack others and kill and destroy their property, no matter what,” he said.

The Abu Yacoub riot was the second such incident in 15 days to take place in Minya Governorate over a rumor that a church building was being constructed, and the third in the country in 30 days.

Morning Star News said in a similar incident, on June 30 another mob rioted in response to a rumor of the building of a church in Kom El Loofy village in Minya Governorate. The 300-strong mob torched four Coptic-owned homes and harassed or assaulted Copts.

Church building in LuxorOn June 17 in Amriya, a village south of Alexandria, local Muslims accused area Copts of building a church in a Coptic-owned construction site and began rioting. The mob assaulted Coptic men in the village, and then attacked and looted several Christian-owned homes and a Coptic community center.

In the Amriya attack, police later arrested six Muslims and six Copts, including the owner of the construction site. The Muslims were released with no charges, in time to break the Ramadan day-time fast, but the Christians were charged with holding prayers without permission and building without a permit, then released the following morning.

The EIPR’s Ibrahim said the anti-church riots pose a dangerous problem for Copts, because they indicate that even if laws in Egypt change to allow them to freely construct church buildings, certain elements of Egyptian society still wouldn’t allow it.

“The government is not strong enough to protect the Copts from all these attacks,” he said.

Authorities are now trying to force Coptic communities in all the cases into what is known as a reconciliation process. Instead of criminally charging the perpetrators of Christian persecution, Morning Star News reported, the government seemingly does everything it can to force victims into “Reconciliation Committees.”

Reconciliation Committees are based on traditional tribal councils, where two equal entities come together to solve a dispute. The committees are supposed to lead to equitable justice for all parties, but because Copts have significantly less power coming to the table than members of the Muslim majority, they are often victimized a second time instead of receiving justice.

In some cases, Copts have been made to pay damages to attackers who destroyed their property in unprovoked incidents.

Bishop Makarious has urged all the victims to stand firm and refuse to participate in such committees because the perpetrators so often escape without punishment.

“We’re going to continue demanding the enforcement of the law and will not give up,” he said. “Every time they are set free, that is just encouraging others to do attacks in the same way, because they feel they are protected by the government.”

According to Morning Star News, while mobs are burning down Coptic homes, churches are destroyed in mysterious fires. On July 16 at 2:30 a.m., Copts rushed out into the streets of Al-Madamoud in Luxor Governorate to find flames shooting out of the roof of the Church of the Archangel Michael.

An iconographer restoring the church’s religious paintings was stuck inside the building on the top floor in a room for visitors.

As the fire continued to burn, he screamed for help and was about to jump, but the crowd was able to save him with a ladder.

When people pushed open the doors of the church building to go inside and fight the fire, they found the altar engulfed in flames and the blaze spreading everywhere. The men and women began trying to douse the flames with garden hoses and bottles of drinking water. By the time firefighters arrived two and a half hours later, the building was gutted.

The next morning, Safwat Samaan, director of the human rights group Nation Without Borders, was able to visit the scene. Members of the congregation crowded into the blackened shell of the build with tears welling up in their eyes.

“It broke my heart to see old men, eyes full of tears and women wailing,” Morning Star News reported he said.

Members of the congregation are now afraid authorities will claim the fire was accidental, as officials nationwide have in so many other church building fires. Authorities claim the fires are accidental, started by unattended candles or an electrical short, even when no candles are present and electricity is shut off to the building.

That was the ruling in the fire at the Catholic Church of St. George, also located in Luxor Governorate, which caught fire under mysterious circumstances on April 20 at 3 a.m.

Authorities claimed the fire was the result of either unattended candles or a short in a wire, but there were no candles, and a church attendant had turned off the main electric line to the building.

Because of the similarities between the fires at the Church of the Archangel Michael and the Church of St. George, many Copts have suspicions that a serial arsonist is targeting churches in Luxor, Samaan said.

“I wonder if this was just an accident, or if this was a planned arson, but the results will be in the hands of the firefighters and the police,” Morning Star News reported Samaan said. “I am concerned they will come to yet another all too convenient ruling.”

Source: ASSIST News Service