The American Center of Law and Justice (ACLJ) has launched an international campaign to free an American pastor imprisoned for his Christian faith in Turkey.
Pastor Andrew Brunson and his wife Norine led a church in the city of Izmire, Turkey. Both were arrested in October for preaching the gospel. Turkey is a largely Muslim nation and the government does not allow protestants to build churches on Turkish soil.
Mrs. Brunson has since been released but her husband is still in prison for what the government calls a "threat to national security."
The ACLJ is championing the fight against his imprisonment until he is released.
"We are representing the family of an American Pastor who is facing grave danger in a Turkish prison where he is being held simply because of his Christian beliefs," said Jordan Sekulow, Executive Director of the ACLJ. "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. We are launching a global campaign to call attention to his plight demanding that Turkey – a NATO member – release Pastor Andrew without delay."
Activists are condemning Turkey for violating international law by imprisoning Brunson for his faith.
Selina Dogan, a Turkish Parliament member from the Republican People's Party, Turkey's main opposition party, is working hard to release Brunson.
"According to the international treaties Turkey has signed, religious liberty covers not believing in any religion as well as sharing any religion without resorting to violence or coercion," Dogan told VOA News.
"The pastors do have the right to share their faith with people," Dogan added. "And what the Turkish authorities mean when they accuse the pastors of being a threat to national security does require some explanation."
Pastor Andrew remains in prison where he is awaiting trial and, if convicted, could face years of imprisonment.
Pastor Andrew's daughter, Jacqueline Brunson, an 18-year-old college student in North Carolina is speaking out about her father's imprisonment.
"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 love and concern for the people of Turkey is unmistakable, as he has dedicated 23 years of his life serving them," she said. "We're grateful for the support of the ACLJ and others who are working to demand that Turkey release Andrew without delay."