TURKEY: Pastor Detained After Helping Refugees

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Rev. Andrew Brunson
Photo: aclj.org

On October 7th of last year, Rev. (Dr.) Andrew Brunson and his wife Norine were arrested in Izmir, Turkey, where they have been residents for 23 years. The pastoring couple were held as a threat to national security, although it is believed that the real reason for the arrest is related to their Christian relief work with refugees from Syria (including Kurds). They were denied access to either lawyers or consular assistance for over four weeks.

Following some publicity in the Turkish national press, and action on the part of the United States Embassy, Norine was released on October 19th. However, to date, Rev. Brunson remains in detention. Turkish officials have since tried to impose on him the signing of a waiver falsely attesting that he did not request consular assistance.

Negotiations between the U.S. Embassy and the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs resulted in a consular official finally being allowed to meet with Rev. Brunson on November 5th, and again on November 30th.

The ministering couple had previously signed papers agreeing to comply with a deportation order. However, the official in charge marked a box on the document to indicate that this agreement applied to a "leader, member, or supporter of a terrorist organization." (This accusation was based on the testimony of a secret informant whose claim has also been used to prevent the pastor's lawyer from accessing the case file.)

On December 9th, the accused pastor was moved to the Counter Terrorism Department, and from there taken to the court for questioning. The lawyer, having just met his client for the first time, was also in attendance. Following the court appearance, Rev. Brunson was transferred to Izmir Aliaga Prison. A previously posted prayer alert report on this case is available here.

Please uphold Rev. Andrew Brunson in prayer, asking that the slanderous accusations and falsified documents against him will hold no credence in court, and that all charges against him will be quickly dismissed. May God's presence and peace surround the faithful Christian leader, serving as his strength and refuge during this time of uncertainty and need. Additionally, pray for his wife Norine, their children, and fellow believers in Turkey who are also in need of strength and the ongoing assurance that the Lord is indeed working all things together for good to those who love Him...and for His ultimate glory.

If you wish to participate in a letter-writing campaign on behalf of the imprisoned pastor, more information is available here.

UGANDA: Convert Coerced into Taking Poison

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Sandra Summaya, photo
altered for security reasons.
Photo: Morning Star News

A young woman in eastern Uganda, who put her faith in Christ at a Christmas service held in December, was coerced by militant Muslim relatives into taking poison at a New Year's celebration earlier this year. Sandra Summaya, 24, of Bugayi village in Pallisa District, acknowledges that she converted to Christianity at a worship service on Christmas Day.

"I had great peace when the pastor prayed for me to take Jesus as my Saviour," she explains. "I later shared my testimony with my brother who outright accused me of being an infidel and an outcast from the family and Muslim community. I felt great pain inside me because of the insults."

On January 1st, Summaya's immediate family and a few other relatives gathered in a village within Kamuge County to celebrate the New Year with a meal. At the high point of the gathering, a paternal uncle read to her a Bible verse and suggested it meant God would protect her from harm, including illness from ingesting poison. "Immediately, I was forced to take the poison to confirm my faith in the Bible."

Soon the young woman became seriously ill. "I was taken away from the homestead to a nearby bush...tied with a rope to a tree and left to die." Her loud cries woke a Christian neighbour who rushed to the site. "I found Summaya unconscious," recalls the neighbour. "We rushed her to a Kamuge nursing home where the doctor saved her life."

An attending nurse announced the good news that Summaya's condition has been stabilized but that the medical team wanted to ensure their patient's well-being prior to releasing her from the hospital. For other reports on persecution in Uganda, visit this page.

While we can praise God for His intervention in Summaya's life through the immediate response of the concerned Christian neighbour and the doctor who administered treatment, the young woman's life is possibly still in danger. Please join us in praying that this new believer will not only experience improved health and physical strength but also protection from any impending threats or harm. May she instead be surrounded by caring community members who will reach out to her with God's compassion as she grows in her relationship and understanding of His Son Jesus who expresses such great love, mercy and grace toward her -- and all others who earnestly seek Him as their Saviour and Lord.

IRAN: Women "Central" to Spread of Christianity

iranWomen are playing a central role in the underground churches of Iran, despite the risk of rejection by members of their families and imprisonment by police. A 17-page report published by VOMC's ministry partner Open Doors titled, Women Rebuilding the Future of the Church, reveals that more women in Iran are involved in ministry than in many Western countries, even though women do not have equal standing in Iranian law.

Christianity is suppressed in Iran, and conversion from Islam is illegal, yet there are an estimated 800,000 covert believers, many of them from Islamic backgrounds. At least 193 of these Christians were arrested or imprisoned for their faith in the country last year.

Azada, a woman who runs a church, is in contact with Iranian women converts on a daily basis. She explains that through their relationship with Jesus, Iranian women gain confidence -- something not acquired from the honour-based culture in which they were raised. Women who become Christians discover that they "are loved, they are wanted, and they can come to God just as they are, without any shame."

"Many women risk imprisonment and torture by being active evangelists," Azada continues. "And because God gives them the strength to take this risk, each day new people -- men and women -- get to know the love of Christ and their true identity as beloved children of God."