A Turkish court sent U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson back to jail this week, but only after he declared his faith.
“There is no concrete evidence against me. The disciples of Jesus suffered in his name, now it is my turn. I am an innocent man on all these charges. I reject them. I know why I am here. I am here to suffer in Jesus’s name,”Brunson told the court.
Pas. Brunson is accused of aiding terror groups and espionage. His Christian testimony and 23 years as a missionary help prove that charges of aiding an Islamic group are false.
Jail is grueling. Solitary confinement affected him, he said previously. Family and visitors said he seemed broken and confused. But in court this week he offered forgiveness.
“I forgive those who lied against me,” he said. “I forgive those who do injustice against me.”
“One of my big fears has been that I will be forgotten in prison,” Pas. Brunson wrote in January. “Thank you for not forgetting! It is a great encouragement to know there are people praying for me – it reminds me that I am not alone, and that I need to stand firm, with my face pointed in God’s direction always. Thank you for standing with me in this most difficult time.”
His next hearing is October 12.
U.S. officials – including senators and ambassadors – have attended his trial. President Trump and Vice President Pence have defended him. The U.S. Senate passed a bill prohibiting Turkey from buying U.S. fighter jets partly because of Brunson’s imprisonment.
The top U.S. diplomat in Turkey attended Brunson’s hearing. Philip Kosnett told reporters, “I have read the indictment. I have attended three hearings. I don’t believe there is any indication that Pastor Brunson is guilty of any sort of criminal or terrorist activity.”
Pas. Brunson was arrested in 2016 after an attempted coup against Turkey’s President Erdogan. He faces up to 35 years in prison. Two other U.S. government employees are also imprisoned, and perhaps more.
Erdogan hinted that Brunson is a political pawn to pressure the U.S. to extradite a Muslim cleric that Erdogan blames for the coup attempt.
Norine Brunson, Andrew’s wife, wrote on Facebook:
“The summer heat means Andrew can’t sleep well as he is constantly drenched in sweat. He makes a point of offering that up as a sacrifice. He is not wanting to exaggerate the discomfort of heat – he knows that many have been in much worse condition.
“He has been calmer recently as he is trying to see things through the lenses of demonstrating the value, the worth of Jesus – that those whom He loves and who love Him are willing to suffer for Him. He often prays, ‘Father, cause to burst into flame in me the love you have for Jesus, that I may be a fervent, ardent lover of Him, willing to undergo whatever is asked.”
Norine said, “There have been many prayers for the legal side of things, but let’s just pray for a miraculous release.