Thursday, December 15, 2016

Family fights for release of US pastor jailed in Turkey on terrorism charges

The family of a U.S pastor imprisoned in Turkey launched a campaign Wednesday for his release, saying the North Carolina native is being held on false terrorism-related charges and that his life is in danger.
Andrew Brunson, 48, pastor of a Protestant church in Izmir, was locked up Friday after first being detained in October. The government accuses him of having ties to an American-based cleric, Fetullah Gulen, who Ankara blames for a July coup attempt.
"The government of Turkey -- led by an Islamic party -- has begun increased crackdowns on Christians, and Pastor Andrew, if convicted, may face years in prison based on extremely serious -- and false -- charges," said Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice, which is representing Brunson's family.
Brunson and his wife, Norine -- originally from Black Mountain, N.C. -- have lived in Turkey for 23 years, running a Christian church with the full knowledge of local authorities, according to the ACLJ.
On Wednesday, after weeks of silence, the family called the charges against Brunson "unfounded" and "shocking" and demanded his immediate release. 
"Andrew’s strong faith has always been at the center of his life and that has never been more evident than his pastorship in Turkey," his family said in a statement. "His love and concern for the people of Turkey is unmistakable, as he has dedicated 23 years of his life serving them."
Brunson was summoned to a local police station in Izmir on Oct. 7. According to the family, Brunson, a U.S. citizen, thought he would be receiving a long-awaited permanent residence card. Instead, Brunson was told he was being deported because he was a "threat to national security."
Brunson was arrested and fingerprinted while awaiting deportation. Officials confiscated personal items, including his phone, and denied him access to a Bible. They also prevented him from consulting an attorney and kept him in isolation for a period of time.
But Brunson's ordeal would soon take a dark turn.  
On Friday, after 63 days in captivity, Brunson was taken to a counter-terrorism center in Izmir. After further questioning, he was charged with "membership in an armed terrorist organization," and a judge ordered he be imprisoned instead of deported.
Lawyers for the ACLJ told Wednesday that the charging documents include no evidence to support claims the man broke any law. If convicted of such terrorism charges, Brunson could face years of imprisonment.
"We are launching a global campaign to call attention to his plight demanding that Turkey – a NATO member – release Pastor Andrew without delay," Sekulow said. 
The family said the U.S. State Department as well as a member of Congress have been quietly negotiating his release over the last several weeks.
"We have seen reports of U.S. citizens in Turkey being detained and deported," a U.S. State Department official told Tuesday, though the official did not mention Brunson by name, citing privacy concerns."
"The Department of State takes its obligation to assist U.S. citizens arrested abroad seriously. When a U.S. citizen is detained overseas, we seek to visit as soon as possible and to provide appropriate consular services," the official said.
The Brunsons, with help from the ACLJ, launched a global campaign Wednesday to raise awareness of the pastor's plight and pressure the U.S. government as well as the United Nations and NATO countries to act on his behalf. Turkey is a member of NATO. An online petition is also being circulated to help secure Brunson's release. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Christian Pastor In Turkey Imprisoned And Accused Of Armed Terrorism Links

A Turkish judge sent Rev. Andrew Brunson to prison in Izmir today, 64 days after the US pastor and his wife, Norine, were detained on 7 Oct. under Interior Ministry deportation orders.
Although his wife was released on 19 Oct. and given an extended permit to remain in the country, Andrew Brunson has been held since 20 Oct. at the Harmandali Detention Centre on the northern edge of Izmir.
The 48-year-old was transferred overnight on 8 Dec. to a counter-terrorism centre, before being brought before an Izmir court today (9 Dec.) for interrogation.
The American Protestant heard today for the first time the allegations filed against him, which apparently prompted his arrest and lengthy detention. According to the officiating judge, the “terrorism” charges came from a “secret informant”. The court ruled that the files on Brunson’s case would continue to remain inaccessible to his lawyer, who had not been allowed to meet him until today’s hearing.
Brunson’s lawyer has confirmed that the court document released at the hearing charged her US client with “membership in an armed terrorist organisation”. The judge specifically mentioned allegations that the pastor had links with the Fetullah Gulen movement, which is accused by Ankara of instigating a failed military coup against the Turkish government on 15 July. The pastor is now incarcerated at Izmir’s Sakran 3 Nolu T Tipi Prison.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Mounting Concerns About Detained US Couple In Turkey

Christians have expressed concern about the plight of American Christians Andrew Brunson and his wife Norine who were detained in Turkey earlier this month on charges that friends linked to their church work. Turkish officials arrested and detained the couple on October 7 in the coastal city of Izmir saying their activities constituted “national security risks”," explained advocacy group Voice of the Persecuted (VOP).

The couple had been been living in Turkey for 23 years, running a church with "the full knowledge of the local authorities," the group added in a statement obtained by BosNewsLife. "They were summoned to the police department on Friday, October 7, for what they assumed would be questions about their recent residency application. Upon their arrival they were presented with a letter from Ankara labeling them a threat to national security and ordering their deportation."

The couple was "immediately detained, their phones were confiscated, and they were completely isolated from the outside world," VOP said.

Turkish authorities reportedly denied repeated requests from their lawyers, the United States State Department, and friends to see them or communicate with them in any way. The couple was also "explicitly forbidden from having a Bible, and were not allowed to receive books or any change of clothes. Andrew’s glasses and watch were taken away," stressed VOP, which closely monitors the case.

"They were told that their government had forgotten about them and that “hopefully” they would be deported, suggesting that they might simply disappear and never be heard from again."

While Norine Brunson was released after 12 days on October 19 and verbally told that all charges against her were dropped, a lawyer apparently told her that it is almost certainly "not true given that nothing was put in writing."

She was allowed to see her husband for half an hour on October 20, but was denied any access the next day, Christians said. Besides with his wife, Andrew Brunson has had no contact with the outside world since his detention, according to VOP.

"Norine and Andrew explicitly waived their right to protest the deportation, and yet there has been no deportation to date." Rights activists said Turkey violates the right to legal counsel is guaranteed under Turkish law, and the right of the US State Department to visit detained American citizens as guaranteed by the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, which Turkey has ratified.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

I Was Kicked Out Of Turkey For Being A Christian

Turkey has been Ryan Keating's home for more than 20 years. But last week all that was thrown into jeopardy.
After a short trip out of the country, the American was told he could never come back. No reason was given. There was no investigation. No evidence. He was held in a cell overnight at Istanbul airport and interrogated by the anti-terror police. Then he was told he was a threat to national security and forced aboard the next plane out the country.
"Unfortunately this is typical of the kind of treatment that Christians often get in Turkey," he told Christian Today.
Keating has been in and out of the country since 1993 and has been a full-time resident in the capital Ankara with his wife and four children for the last ten years.
He is doing a PhD in philosophy of religion at Ankara University and has set up Ankara Refugee Ministry (ARM), which provides food, shelter and clothing to 6,000 of refugee families. Run out of Kurtulus Church, one of Turkey's largest evangelical churches, which the Keatings attend, ARM also offers English classes and career training for a handful of Turkey's 2.7 million refugees.
On top of that Keating runs a coffee company called Coffee Haus and directs a discipleship program at his church.
All that is at risk now because Keating has been labeled "a threat to national security" and given a lifetime ban from Turkey.
He has appealed the decision but cases such as his normally take at least two years to resolve and for that time, Keating is a nomad. But he is quick to stress his treatment is not unusual for Christians in Turkey.
"There has been some ways in which Turkey has given increased freedom to religious minorities. But there are other incidents of arbitrary discrimination and this is one of them.
"There is no evidence or justification for why I have been banned. I know I haven't done anything illegal ever in Turkey. We are very careful to obey the laws. We have done nothing to threaten or do harm to Turkey in any way.
"There has been no investigation, no evidence, just an arbitrary ban. And to use this blanket 'threat to national security' – what does that even mean? What are they suggesting I have done or would do?"
Although his family have stayed in Turkey for the time being, they are concerned about their future. They have packed emergency bags in case they are arrested at short notice.
"We have generally been safe, if tense, in Turkey," he said. "But if I can be banned they're all worried about they will be as well."

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Turkey Deporting More Christian Ministry Workers, Tagging Them as Threats to National Security

More and more Christians doing ministry work or working in churches in Turkey are being deported by local authorities from the Muslim nation, with some of the Christians tagged as threats to the country's national security.
Among these Christian ministry workers who are experiencing persecution in Turkey are Andrew and Norine Brunson, who are leading the Izmir Resurrection Church located in the Turkish capital, Ankara. The church currently has an average of 30 to 40 worshippers.
The Christian couple, who have been residing in Turkey for the past 20 years, were detained by Turkish officials for supposedly conducting activities that constitute a "national security risk."
The Turkish Interior Ministry has already ordered their summary deportation. The Christian couple have been trying since last April to renew their resident visas but have not received any response from the concerned agencies.
A lawyer who was trying to help the couple sort out their immigration problems was also reportedly denied access to the Christians. Church friends who tried sending clothes to the Brunsons were also turned away.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Five Turks Convicted of Killing Christians in Malatya Sentenced for Life – But Remain Free

Nine years after three Christians were tortured with knives and murdered in southeast Turkey, the Criminal Court in the city of Malatya, where it happened, has convicted their five accused killers, sentencing each of them on 28 Sept. to three consecutive life sentences in prison.

News of the long-awaited verdicts in the notorious "Malatya massacre" case quickly flashed throughout the Turkish media at the conclusion of the trial's 115th hearing. Emre Gunaydin, Salih Gurler, Abuzer Yildirim, Cuma Ozdemir and Hamit Ceker were all found guilty of premeditated murder, to be jailed for life without the possibility of parole.
But most media outlets failed to report the court's surprise ruling: that the now convicted killers would in fact still remain free, subject only to routine surveillance, while the case is being appealed before two higher courts.
Hours after the court decisions were announced, Pastor Ihsan Ozbek released a statement to the press on behalf of the Association of Protestant Churches in Turkey.
Deploring the judiciary's stated inability to "uncover the darkness behind the murders", Ozbek declared that the Protestant community desired a prompt, "just conclusion" that uncovered the motivation of the perpetrators and punished their crime.

Thursday, April 28, 2016


You don't need to have "Istanbul, Not Constantinople" memorized to know that Turkey is a Muslim country built by Muslim colonists and settlers on the back of a Christian civilization. Some of its mosques used to be churches. And quite a few Muslims in Turkey would like to turn all the remaining churches into mosques or, in some cases, back into mosques.
That makes the question of church property an explosive one and the seizures of churches by the Islamist AKP Erdogan regime more troubling.
After 10 months of urban conflict in Turkey’s war-torn southeast, the government has expropriated huge sections of property, apparently to rebuild and restore the historical centre of the region’s largest city, Diyarbakir.
But to the dismay of the city’s handful of Christian congregations, this includes all its Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant churches. Unlike the state-funded mosques, Turkey’s ancient church buildings – some of which pre-date Islam – have been managed, historically, by church foundations.
The Erdogan regime has a history of using this brand of eminent domain and accompanying "reconstruction" to eliminate problem areas. Tear down a place that serves as a gathering for people you don't like and replace it with a shopping mall. The Europeans won't complain. They'll float you a loan to do it.
While Obama welcomes Erdogan's megamosque in America, Christians have trouble with churches in Turkey. But Obama instead lobbies Greece to make more space for Islamic services.
On April 2, a gigantic Ottoman style of mosque was opened in Lanham, Maryland by the president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The mosque, according to Turkish officials, is "one of the largest Turkish mosques built outside Turkey."
Funds to build it, as reported by the Turkish pro-government newspaper, Sabah, came from Turkey's state-run Presidency of Religious Affairs, known as the Diyanet, as well as Turkish-American non-profit organizations.
The mosque is actually part of a larger complex, commonly referred to as "Maryland kulliye." Akulliye, as such Islamic compounds were called in Ottoman times, is a complex of buildings, centered on a mosque and composed of various facilities including a madrassa (Islamic religious school).
Erdogan recited verses from the Quran inside the mosque after the mosque was opened.
Meanwhile, thousands of miles away from the American soil, in Turkey, Christians have for decades been deprived of the right to build their places of worship.
It's not just that the left insists on welcoming Muslims. But it shows its double standards when it refuses to stand up for the rights of Christians. It doesn't believe in freedom of worship. It believes in empowering Islamists to oppress Christians and Jews, not to mention Hindus and Buddhists, all over the world.

Turkey Builds Mega-Mosque in U.S., Blocks Churches in Turkey

  • As yet another enormous mosque has opened in the U.S. (funded by the Turkish government), Christians in Turkey are waiting for the day when Turkish state authorities will allow them freely to build or use their churches and safely pray inside them.
  • In Turkey, some churches have been converted to stables or used as storehouses. Others have been completely destroyed. Sales of churches on the internet are a common practice.
  • Meanwhile, Turkish President Erdogan said during the opening ceremony of the Maryland mosque that the center was important at a time of an "unfortunate rise in intolerance towards Muslims in the United States and the world."
  • How would Muslims feel if mosques in Mecca were put up for sale on the internet, turned into stables, or razed to the ground? How would they feel if a Muslim child were beaten in the classroom by his teacher for not saying "Jesus is my Lord and Savior?" How would they feel if they continually received violent threats or insults for just attempting peacefully to worship in their mosques?

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Turkey Seizes Six Churches as State Property in Volatile Southeast

After 10 months of urban conflict in Turkey's war-torn southeast, the government has expropriated huge sections of property, apparently to rebuild and restore the historical centre of the region's largest city, Diyarbakir.

But to the dismay of the city's handful of Christian congregations, this includes all its Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant churches. Unlike the state-funded mosques, Turkey's ancient church buildings - some of which pre-date Islam - have been managed, historically, by church foundations.

The new decision has effectively made the Diyarbakir churches - one 1,700 years old, another built only in 2003 - state property of Turkey, an Islamic country of 75 million.

Reacting to the News from Turkey

In recent days, the news from Turkey seems to be producing the wrong kind of headlines.
  • Bombings in Ankara, Istanbul, and Diyarbakir
  • Attacks on personal freedoms and freedom of the press
  • Threats against minorities and their properties
  • Dark tales of loss of refugee life and abuse of displaced peoples
In light of news like this, what should our response be? Many countries have begun issuing travel advisories, telling their citizens to stay home. Parts of the city, which were once crowded with tourists are now empty except for small groups and a high police presence. Sharp declines have occurred in visitors from Europe, Russia and the United States. Many cruise lines have cancelled their stops in the ports of Turkey.


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

How Istanbul's districts got their names?

There are various rumors and stories on how Istanbul's popular districts got their names. These stories are not only worth-reading but also relect the city's multi-cultural history


Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Fierce battles in southeast Turkey hedge in Christians

One of the oldest churches in the world sustained damage last week in the intensified fighting between the Turkish government and Kurdish separatists.
Rocket-propelled grenades destroyed a portion of the wall surrounding the Virgin Mary Church in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir on 28 Jan. The Syriac Orthodox church is 1,700 years old.

Fr. Yusuf Akbulut, the priest of the church, was sheltered with his family at his home located on church grounds during the attack.
Violence has engulfed Diyarbakir's Sur district, the location of the church, since early December. The government issued an evacuation order 26 Jan. due to pitched street battles between armed militants from the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and Turkish forces.
Akbulut, who has overseen the church for 23 years, initially refused to evacuate. He and his wife remained in the building until 28 Jan., saying he feared the church would be leveled in an aerial bombardment if left empty.
“We wouldn't have left the church. But when we looked [on the street] and saw that land mines and rockets were exploding non-stop, we knew that we couldn't stay,” he told World Watch Monitor. “Our house was shaking and we thought it would collapse.”
The power, electricity, and water were cut off. It was time to flee.
Akbulut dialed 155, the police emergency line. He was told that his neighborhood was a no-go area, barricaded off to civil authorities. The operator gave him instructions on how to escape. They stepped out on the street cautiously, with Akbulut waving a white flag. Nobody was there.
Whole buildings were collapsed, reduced to piles of rubble. "It was like a war zone,” he said.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Turkish textbooks encourage intolerance

A report by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has found that Turkey's textbooks encourage intolerance towards non-Islamic religions while reinforcing negative stereotypes.
According to Barnabas Aid, the report reveals that Turkey's religious ed textbooks teach students only what Islam believes about Judaism and Christianity and not what Jews and Christians themselves believe.
(Worthy News) - Theoretically, Turkey allows non-Muslims to be exempted from compulsory religious education if their religion is on record with the state. But parents have complained that some schools have refused to allow their children to be exempted.

Turkey: Christian Refugees Live in Fear

Around 45,000 Armenian and Assyrian Christians (also known as Syriac and Chaldean) who fled Syria and Iraq and have settled in small Anatolian cities in Turkey, are forced to hide their religious identity, according to the Hurriyet daily newspaper.

Since the Islamic State (ISIS) invaded Iraqi and Syrian cities, Christians and Yazidis have become the group's main target, facing another possible genocide at the hands of Muslims.

Anonis Alis Salciyan, an Armenian who fled Iraq for Turkey, told Hurriyet that in public, they pretend to be Muslim.

"My husband and I fled [Iraq] with our two children one year ago with around 20 other families. There was pressure on us in Iraq," Salciyan said, recalling that her husband, who ran a jewelry shop in Iraq, is now unemployed. "We have relatives in Europe. Only thanks to their support are we getting by. Our children cannot go to school here; they cannot speak Turkish."

What makes the plight of Christian refugees in Turkey even more tragic is that the ancestors of some of those refugees were driven out of Anatolia by the Ottoman authorities and local Muslims a century ago, during what are known as the Armenian Genocide and Assyrian Genocide of 1915.

Another family, Linda and Vahan Markaryan, also fled to Turkey with their two children. Their home in Baghdad had been raided by ISIS jihadists.

"My daughter, Nuşik, seven, stopped talking that day. She has not spoken since. We are working hard to provide her treatment, but she still will not speak," Linda Markaryan said, adding that it was hard for them to practice their religion. "We have to conduct our prayers at home."

Islamic jihadist armies invaded Middle Eastern and North African lands starting in the 7th century. The indigenous, non-Muslim, peoples of those lands have doubtless forgotten what safety, security and religious freedom mean.

In every country that is now majority-Muslim, there are horror stories of violent subjugation, rapes, slavery and murder of the non-Muslim people at the hands of jihadists.

Christians have existed in Syria since the earliest days of Christianity; today, after the raids of ISIS, they are fleeing for their lives.

Turkish Court Rules Government Failed to Protect Christians Killed in Malatya

A Turkish court ruled on Tuesday (Jan. 26) that the government was negligent in its duty to protect three Christians who were tortured and killed in 2007 and ordered it to pay damages to the victims’ families.
The Malatya Administrative Court ruled that, nearly nine years ago, the Interior Ministry and the Malatya Governor’s Office ignored reliable intelligence that Turkish nationalists were targeting the three Christians days prior to the April 2007 killings.
Five young men with alleged links to Turkish nationalists killed three Christians on April 18, 2007, in the office of the Zirve Publishing House in Malatya in southeastern Turkey. Ugur Yüksel, 32, and Necati Aydin, 36, both Turkish converts from Islam, and Tilmann Geske, 45, a German national, were bound, interrogated about their Christian activities and then mutilated and killed with knives, according to court evidence.
According to several Christians close to the victims, one or more of those accused of the killings cultivated relationships with the three Christians, one even going so far as to pose as a new convert to the Christian faith.
The court also ordered the Interior Ministry to pay the families close to 1 million Turkish lira ($333,980) in damages.

Susanne Geske, Tilmann’s widow, and her three children were awarded $105,000 for emotional distress and $5,500 for physical harm. The remainder of the damages were awarded to Aydin’s wife and Yüksel’s father.
Geske said Wednesday that the concept of a monetary award for the death of her husband and her children’s father is lost on her, as no amount of money will bring him back or fill their loss.
“Four-hundred thousand lira for someone being killed is baffling, funny,” she said. “And anyway, although the money is welcome, we’re not yet believing we will see the money.”
Geske said government appeals to the court-ordered award, if filed, could take years to settle. After taxes, civil fees and lawyer’s fees are assigned, the amount her family receives could be greatly reduced.
The Geske family filed its civil case with others in 2008, around the same time criminal proceedings began against the five men accused in the killing. The civil ruling offers some resolution, but the criminal case grinds on with little hope of resolution.