Turkey’s president suggested this week that his country might be willing to free a Christian pastor from North Carolina who has been imprisoned for nearly a year.
Releasing Andrew Brunson, a Presbyterian pastor from Black Mountain who has preached in Turkey for 23 years, comes with one big “if.”
President Recep Erdoğan would consider swapping Brunson for a cleric who is blamed for a 2016 coup attempt, multiple national media outlets reported on Friday.
The Trump administration cast doubt on Erdogan’s offer, The Wall Street Journal reported. The newspaper quoted a State Department spokeswoman as saying the U.S. continues to evaluate Turkey’s request to extradite cleric Fethullah Gülen and that the U.S. believes Brunson was wrongly imprisoned.
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Brunson was originally jailed on Dec. 9 on a false terrorism charge, according to the American Center for Law and Justice, a not-for-profit religious corporation based in Washington, D.C. He was held without charges since Oct. 7.
Turkish authorities recently leveled more “false and ridiculous” charges against the preacher, according to the center.
In a Facebook post on Thursday, Brunson’s wife, Norine, noted that Oct. 7 marks a year since her husband’s imprisonment. She did not address Erdogan’s latest remarks. She said she was grateful to the Evangelical Presbyterian Church for issuing a call to prayer and fasting Oct. 7-8.
“I know some of you have done quite a bit of fasting, and we are so very grateful,” Norine Brunson said. “Maybe others would be willing to join this Oct 7-8 time.”
She said she recently heard of someone who is fasting coffee until her husband is released. “It has reminded him to pray for Andrew frequently, but has also provided many opportunities to get more prayer for Andrew when he turns down coffee and explains why!” she said. “All of this is so precious to us.”
Her post drew 334 likes by Friday afternoon.
“Will pray further!” one person said.
“Praying, you are all in my heart❤️” said another.