Andrew Brunson could not have seen this coming.
A native of the small town of Black Mountain, North Carolina, in the United States, he had peacefully lived, raised his children, and worked in Turkey for more than 20 years. An American evangelical pastor of the Izmir Resurrection Church, Andrew and his wife were arrested for threatening national security one day in October 2016.
While his wife was released after three days, the State alleged that Andrew had ties to the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETO) and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party. FETO was supposedly the culprit of the failed coup attempt in July 2016.
Andrew spent 63 days in detention without any charges levied against him.
The official charges against him? Espionage, attempts to overthrow the government, and membership in organizations that Turkish authorities qualify as ‘terrorist’.
Recently, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed throughout the process that Andrew received fair treatment, and that he ‘[was] not a hostage’.
Andrew denied all the charges against him. And he received help from many human rights organizations along the way.
After being detained and imprisoned for almost two years, the Turkish government released Andrew and he returned safely to his home in North Carolina in October 2018.
What did he do wrong? It seems that he was only guilty of being a Christian.
Since the failed coup attempt, over 150,000 people have been taken into custody, 78,000 arrested, and over 100,000 civil servants have been fired from their jobs.
Civil, political, and human rights have been severely curtailed. Under this ‘state of emergency’, prisoners can be held without a trial for seven years.
The discrimination against religious minorities like Christians is particularly disturbing. There are only 100,000 Christians in a population of more than 70 million. Christians’ share of the population has dwindled from 20 per cent to 0.2 per cent in the last century, undoubtedly due to the social hostility toward Christians.
In Turkey, blasphemy against Islam is a criminal offence. Insulting Christians or Christianity is not. Parents must subject their children to classes on Islam that are imposed on all children.
Andrew and so many other Christians have had their fundamental human rights trampled upon. And along with it, their dignity. Andrew is human, right?
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On the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, ADF International reaffirms the fundamental understanding that human rights are based on the inherent dignity of each person.
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