“All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” – 2Timothy 3:12
This past week, American Pastor Andrew Brunson was released from prison in Turkey and brought home, through the efforts of President Trump and many others. He was arrested and put in prison on October 7, 2016 on the charge of “political or military espionage” and “membership in an armed terrorist organization”, which carried a sentence of 35 years in prison. The Brunsons had lived in Turkey for over 23 years, where Pastor Brunson ministered to a small congregation at Izmir Drilis (Resurrection) Church in the city of Izmir.
Vice President Pence recently spoke out on behalf of Pastor Brunson: “To believers across America, I say, pray for Pastor Brunson… And to President Erdogan and the Turkish government, I have a message on behalf of the President of the United States of America: Release Pastor Andrew Brunson now or be prepared to face the consequences. If Turkey does not take immediate action to free this innocent man of faith and send him home to America, the United States will impose significant sanctions on Turkey until Pastor Andrew Brunson is free.” Pence made these statements in August. Turkey ignored him.
President Trump began imposing economic sanctions against Turkey. Brunson was finally released. With Turkey being a strategic ally (they are an enemy of Iran, and their geographical location is crucial to containing Russia in the Middle East), why wouldn’t President Trump and Vice President Pence be more interested in maintaining Turkish relations than freeing one American pastor?
As Dr. Jerry Falwell Jr. said, “Previous American presidents, pursuing the globalist agenda, would have quickly caved to Turkey, given the geopolitical realities of the situation. President Trump didn’t. I know this president’s heart – and I know he would never do such an expedient thing. Instead, he did the right thing.”
The truth is that Pastor Brunson, as our verse for this week promises, is suffering persecution for his outspoken witness for Jesus Christ in a country that is more than 98% Muslim. While Turkey has long been a more secular government, Washington Post writer Soner Cagaptay, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and author of ‘The New Sultan: Erdogan and the Crisis of Modern Turkey’, describes the alarming recent movement of Turkey towards it’s Islamic roots in Sharia Law. This would explain why an American pastor would start being persecuted for promoting the gospel of Jesus Christ.
In his February article entitled ‘In long-secular Turkey, Sharia is gradually taking over’, Cagaptay described what is happening in Turkey:
“Over the past few weeks, Turkish officials have broken with decades of precedent in what is still, at least nominally, a secular republic: they have begun describing the country’s military deployment in Syria as ‘jihad.’ During the first two days of the operation, which began on Jan. 20, the government’s Directorate of Religious Affairs ordered all of Turkey’s 90,000 mosques to broadcast the “Al-Fath” verse from the Koran – ‘the prayer of conquest’ – through the loudspeakers on their minarets. Mainstreaming jihad, which sanctions violence against those who ‘offend Islam,’ is a crucial step in draping the sheath of sharia over a society.” Pastor Brunson is guilty of “offending Islam”.
Cagaptay goes on.
“Most Muslim countries have a mix of religious and secular laws, which invite other, and less draconian, forms of sharia. Blending with state power, it imposes Islamic practices on the public, such as fasting during Ramadan. It also demonizes those who do not practice and punishes speech or acts deemed offensive to Islam. In recent years, the government led by Erdogan has been limiting individual freedoms, as well as sanctioning individuals who ‘insult Islam’ or neglect Islamic practices.”
Professor Ergun Caner, a former Sunni Muslim who is now a Christian, explains Sharia Law in terms of how it impacts witnesses like Pastor Brunson:
“Sharia is a legal system that has two levels. They have Dar Al-Islam, which is the house of Islam, and those are the legal rulings that deal with Muslims. But if you’re a nonbeliever, if you’re an infidel, then there’s Dar Al-Harb, which is the house of war. In a country that has sharia law, an infidel is allowed to live there, but they have to follow rules and are second-class citizens. You are not equal to the Muslim. That’s why most of us see the spread of sharia law as one of the most dangerous things we’ve faced. There are no individual rights. If you have violated Pakistan 295c, or blasphemed the prophet, within 24 hours you are put to death. The appeals process is nil.”
“The Evidence of Faith’s Substance” – Article #317