The Pastor behind the Turkey-US Dispute

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The Singapore Dollar, together with most currencies, has been losing value against the US Dollar. Whenever any country is in dispute with America, that country’s currency loses value. Trump’s latest quarrel is with Turkey. Their currency crashed and we are affected. Today, my curiosity got the better of me and I decided to read up on this.

To my surprise, this is about an American missionary pastor in Turkey, who was arrested two years ago on an espionage charge. (It is possible that Turkey did this as a ransom so America will extradite a Turk living in the US.) Trump warned that if Turkey will not release the pastor, the US will impose sanctions, and it has come in the form of tariffs.

This American pastor has been a missionary in Turkey for some 20 years with a small congregation of around 25 people. The Turkish president Erdogan is pro-Islamist, and had purged his political opponents in a massive crackdown that continues to this day. “OK,” I thought, “it is possible that a missionary might be in favor of a secular government rather than a pro-Islamist government. But it is unlikely that a pastor actually engages in espionage.”(We pastors are not that useful to governments!)

I read the pastor at the center of the controversy is Pastor Andrew Brunson. That name sounds familiar to me. I then look for his face and see an arrest picture. Yes, I think I know that face. Let me find a “non-arrest” picture. Yes, I almost certainly know him. I also remember the conversation I had with Andrew. I need one more confirmation. I search and true enough, I do know him. We met in Aberdeen Scotland around 20 years ago. There were three of us graduates from American Seminaries who hung out from time to time.

At that time, Andrew had served a stint in Turkey and was going to return to Turkey after his PhD. I knew nothing about present day Turkey, so I got an education from Andrew. Turkey transitioned from the distinctly Muslim Ottoman Empire to the modern day secular government even though it has a Muslim majority.(Something like Indonesia.).

What really impressed me was Andrew’s love for the Turkish people, and for Turkey as a country. He praised the warmth and openness of the people. He spoke glowingly of the Turkish government. He doesn’t wear rose-tinted glasses and understood the issues well. But God has clearly placed in his heart a love for the people of Turkey.

This is ironic. I was the one most interested in the theology of politics when we talked, but he is the one arrested on a political charge. Andrew is not a political creature. He made a commitment to a live a life of simplicity and to use his considerable capabilities to serve the people of Turkey as God’s call to him. He is not motivated by money, fame, success as the world sees it, or any sort of political activism. He is focused on bringing the Good News to the people he loves – the people of Turkey.

It is impossible for me to imagine how a person of this passion and clarity of heart and mind can get engaged in espionage. It is far more likely that the politicians are using him as a pawn towards their political end. This is my personal assessment.

Regardless, I am praying for him, and I invite you to pray with me and to open your heart to God’s servant who lives for the Kingdom of God. There is a report that he will be released tomorrow (15 Aug). Keep him in your prayer!

Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

He will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.

(Matthew 25:44-45)

 

Pastor Peter Eng

 

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