Turkey’s release of American pastor Andrew Brunson and his immediate departure to the United States last week was followed almost as a “rescue operation” by the international public. The evangelical missionary, whose case was a flashpoint in worsening Turkish-US ties, had lived for two decades in the western Turkish city of Izmir, running a small Protestant church, when he landed behind bars in 2016 on charges of espionage and links to terrorist groups. Diplomats breathed a sigh of relief as the pastor boarded the special plane that took him home, but what about Turkey’s tiny Protestant minority that he left behind? How did the saga affect the community, which numbers only about 7,000 people, mostly converts from Islam?
In an interview with Al-Monitor, Soner Tufan, board member and spokesman of the Association of Protestant Churches in Turkey, said the community has emerged stronger from the trauma, much to the surprise of some observers who had expected to find a mood of distress, apprehension and even fear.