Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been slammed for delivering a Christmas message praising the country's "culture of tolerance" while an American pastor is still imprisoned in the country over false charges.
On Saturday, President Erdogan released his Christmas greetings to Turkish Christian citizens and to Christians everywhere. He said the country's culture of tolerance has allowed various traditions and beliefs to co-exist peacefully, Andalou Agency details.
"We, the members of this deep-rooted tradition, continue to embrace all the oppressed who have escaped war, oppression, and pressure," said Erdogan in his Christmas message. "The centuries-old tolerant environment in our country which has hosted different civilizations, different beliefs, and ideas throughout history, continues its existence today despite the various assaults against our nation's unity and peace."
However, The Blaze criticized Erdogan for speaking about hope and tolerance while North Carolina pastor Andrew Brunson is still jailed in Turkey over trumped-up charges. For the publication, the Turkish president's Christmas message is a clear contrast to the situation of persecuted and imprisoned pastors in the Middle Eastern country.
Earlier this month, Brunson, an Izmir Resurrection Church pastor, was jailed for being an alleged follower of cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is in Pennsylvania. President Erdogan blames the group for the failed coup attempt in July and for the death of the Russian ambassador in Ankara. He has also demanded for the extradition of the cleric but U.S. authorities have refused to do so.
Armenian members of the Turkish parliament think that Turkey has started targeting American missionaries as a move of retaliation after the failed coup. Aykan Erdemir, a former member of the Turkish parliament, explained that the government sees Protestant and Christian churches as American influence, so now they are targeted in crackdowns.
As of now, the American Center for Law and Justice is representing Brunson in his case and is working to have him freed. In a statement, the organization's chief counsel Jay Sekulow urged people to be the pastor's voice and to help fight for his release.