(Colorado Springs, Colorado) — As I finish several weeks of speeches and meetings in the U.S. and prepare to return to Israel, I’ve been following two very different and yet strangely linked stories. Both are drawing global media attention. Both involve Turkey and the regime of Turkish President Recep Erdogan. And both deserve your attention and prayer. Let me explain.
Story #1: Andrew Brunson, the American Evangelical Christian pastor that the Turkish government arrested and kept in prison for more than two years, was finally set free today. The latest reports are that Brunson is on his way out of Turkey back to freedom in the United States.
Evangelicals have been praying for years for Brunson’s protection and release. I thank the Lord those prayers have been answered, and am grateful for all the White House, State Department and other senior U.S. officials have done to secure the pastor’s release.
Story #2: Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist at times close to the royal family in Riyadh and more recently quite critical, has disappeared in Turkey. It seems clear from closed circuit TV evidence that Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last week. It is not clear, however, that he ever left. The Saudis say he did. The Turks say he didn’t. The Saudis have not yet offered video proof that he left. The Turks have not yet offered any evidence that something sinister actually occurred. I am praying for Khashoggi’s safety, protection and freedom, and ask you to join me in those prayers.
That said, let’s be clear: the Turkish media is filled with macabre tales that the Saudis have either arrested Khoshoggi and secreted him out of the consulate back to the Kingdom, or even murdered and dismembered him with a bone saw. Global media — including the U.S. media — has run with the wildest leaks and unnamed, unsourced quotes from Turkish officials. Such officials anonymously say they have all kinds of hard, factual, intelligence proving the most sinister of actions by the Saudis, yet they have released nothing concrete or compelling so far.
Indeed, as I write this, all we actually know for certain is that the Saudi journalist is missing. Nearly everything else is conjecture.
If the Turkish allegations are true, this would be a very serious and disturbing turn of events. And the consequences could lead into uncharted waters for the Saudis.
President Trump, Vice President Pence and Secretary of State Pompeo — along with many House and Senate members — have rightly called for a full and transparent investigation by both countries. If Khashoggi is alive, where is he? If not, what happened?
We need answers. We need facts. Then we can assess such information and draw conclusions and implications. Someone is lying. But whom?
What we don’t need are wild, unsourced allegations by one U.S. ally in the Middle East against another, both of whom deeply distrust, even despise, each other.
We should certainly be cautious about accepting unproven allegations from the government of Erdogan, which is steadily turning against the United States, Israel and the Sunni Arab world and allying itself with Russia, Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.
Keep in mind: for more than two years, Erdogan’s government has made the most brutal, heinous, and slanderous allegations against this innocent American Evangelical pastor, Andrew Brunson. Yet the allegations were all false. Several so-called “witnesses” have now recanted. The charges were ultimately thrown out. Thank God, Brunson is now a free man. But in the process we have learned just how horrible the Turkish government can be.
Is Turkey telling the truth this time about Khashoggi? Maybe yes. Maybe no. Until we see hard facts, we should be slow to make any judgments. Let’s take a breath. Let’s let the investigation play out. And let’s not stop praying for Mr. Khashoggi and his family.
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