Faces of Religious Persecution: Andrew Brunson, Pastor

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[TEXT: Pastor Andrew Brunson and his family lived in Turkey for over
20 years, during which time he started a Protestant church and also
provided aid to refugees.] Andrew Brunson: The first years that we were there, we really
developed a love for the place. Over the years, there were a number of threats, death threats or
threats against the church or threats to bomb or things like that. What I did not expect was that the Turkish government would put me
in prison. [TEXT: In October 2016, Andrew and his wife, Norine, were arrested
and held in jail for 13 days.] After they released Norine, they held me. There’s supposed to be freedom of religion there. But all of the evidence that they gave to accuse me of terrorism or
the various crimes was actually my religious activity, my church activity. I was very broken in prison, and I was in solitary confinement for 50 days in a detention
center. That was very difficult. Then when they put me in prison, high-security prison, I was in
a cell built for eight people but there were over 20 of us, so it was very intense conditions. I lost 50 pounds in the first few months, I was suicidal at times, and it was very difficult for me. [TEXT: After intense pressure from the United States, Andrew Brunson
was finally allowed to return to the U.S. He had been held for over
two years.] Religious freedom, I think, in the United States, we take for
granted
to a large degree because this is what we’re used to. Throughout history, it’s been very rare to have genuine religious freedom, and even in the
world today, most places
don’t. That’s very important and it can be lost very easily because it’s a cultural value and culture is passed down as learned,
it’s not innate, and so if we don’t pass those down, if we
don’t emphasize it, then within a
generation, you can lose it. [TEXT: It is estimated that 83% of the world’s population lives in a
religiously restricted environment.] If you have religious freedom, many other
things, many other freedoms, fall into
place. It just, it seems like the most
basic, fundamental thing, to be able to
have freedom of thought and freedom
of belief is so very basic, and where you don’t have that, you usually see that the
other freedoms are also curtailed. [TEXT: To learn more and to join the movement for religious freedom
go to: state.gov/religiousfreedom] [GRAPHIC: Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom]
[TEXT: Produced by the U.S. Department of State]

 

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