The standoff between the United States and Turkey continues unresolved after the latter declined to return a Christian pastor who has been detained in the country over allegations of anti-national activities, a claim that the pastor vehemently denies.
The dispute over the pastor
The pastor, Andrew Brunson, hails from North Carolina and has been living in Turkey for over 20 years. The Turkish government has charged him with abetting a coup in 2016 against President Erdogan. He is also said to have supported Kurdish militants in activities against Turkey. But Brunson has denied such charges and said that he is in Turkey solely to spread the message of Christianity.
“It is really hard to stay in jail and be separated from my wife and children. There is no concrete evidence against me. The disciples of Jesus suffered in his name; now, it is my turn. I am an innocent man on all these charges. I reject them. I know why I am here. I am here to suffer in Jesus’s name,” The Epoch Times quotes the pastor.
U.S. President Trump took up the cause of getting the pastor justice and asked Turkey to release Brunson immediately. He also said that the U.S. will pay nothing to Turkey for the release of the pastor.
“Turkey has taken advantage of the United States for many years. They are now holding our wonderful Christian Pastor, who I must now ask to represent our Country as a great patriot hostage. We will pay nothing for the release of an innocent man, but we are cutting back on Turkey!” President Trump had tweeted.
Furious over Turkey’s ill-treatment of the pastor, Trump has initiated several trade sanctions against the country. And although Turkey has retaliated against the U.S. by imposing sanctions of its own, it has not had much effect on the United States. In addition, Turkey’s sanctions are mostly a retaliation against a fair claim of releasing an innocent pastor and therefore carry less moral weight.
“President Trump’s imposition of tariffs on steel and aluminum is about protecting American national security. But one could hardly say the same about Turkey’s announced tariffs on American cars, alcohol, and tobacco. This is regrettable and a step in the wrong direction,” The Epoch Times quotes a U.S. National Security Council spokesperson.
U.S. sanctions on Turkey have hit the country’s economy very hard. Its national currency, the Lira, has been on a downward spiral ever since the sanctions. Rating agency Standard & Poor has downgraded the country’s credit rating very near to junk status and has also warned that Turkey could suffer through a recession next year.
A lesson for China
The main reason why U.S. President Trump is supporting the pastor is that like any other American, he believes in a secular democracy and freedom of religion. And this is something that the Chinese can learn from. Christian missionaries in China have long faced persecution for spreading the message of Christ, since the Chinese government is vehemently against any religious activity that it deems as dangerous.
Several churches have also been brought down by the Chinese government in a bid to control the expansion of the Christian religion. In addition, Muslims, Buddhists, and several other religious and spiritual followers, especially Falun Gong adherents, have faced intense questioning, and jail time, and even torture and murder for their beliefs.
And although China dreams of being a superpower, until and unless they achieve the level of religious tolerance and secular values as espoused by the U.S., there is very little chance of their dream ever becoming a reality.