Special to The Herald
A major international news story that has recently captured the attention of people all over the world has been that of Andrew Brunson, a U.S. pastor held captive in Turkey.
Pastor Brunson had first been held in a Turkish prison and then detained under house arrest. He was arrested after a failed coup attempt against now Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2016, despite all indications that the pastor had been engaged only in humanitarian efforts in Turkey. Following the coup attempt, thousands have been jailed as alleged terrorists. Turkey has turned a deaf ear to the United States’ denunciation of Pastor Brunson’s incarceration and numerous demands for his release.
Indeed, Turkey’s failure to release Brunson brought U.S.-Turkish relations to the lowest point in decades. Throughout August, President Trump and members of Congress vowed to ratchet up sanctions against Turkey until his release.
Following the imposition of economic sanctions by the United States and threats of boycotts of American products by Turkey, relationships between the two countries continued to deteriorate amid a currency slide in Turkey, with international ramifications.
Even with the enormous national and international implications and widespread news coverage of the Pastor Brunson incident, it does seem somewhat remote from New Britain and Central Connecticut.
The story, however, does bear a number of somber similarities to an older but similar story involving the sad fate of another minister in a comparable situation more than 100 years ago. The older story indeed had very local roots.
The story, which took place in 1909, also involved a pastor who was committed to humanitarian pursuits and also involved the same part of the world, the former Ottoman Empire. Moreover, it involved misfortune coming to someone whose principal goal was to bring comfort to others.
The pastor in 1909 was Daniel Miner Rogers and he was from New Britain. After graduating from Princeton University and the Hartford Theological Seminary, he committed himself to working in a mission in Turkey along with his wife Mary, who also attended the Hartford Theological Seminary.
In April 1909, in a precursor to the Genocide of 1915, in which more than a million and a half Armenians died, a number of Turkish nationalists began attacking local Armenians in Adana and setting their homes on fire. Pastor Rogers was in Adana at the time attending a meeting with a number of other ministers serving in Turkey.
Amid the burning, looting, and killings, many local Armenians sought refuge in the Christian missions. Pastor Rogers and a number of his fellow clergymen sought to protect first the dispensary and then to extinguish the fires set by the attackers. The New Britain native hurled himself into the rescue efforts by transporting buckets of water in an effort to put out or at least diminish the inferno.
Eyewitness accounts reported him abandoning his own safety as he tried to protect others. Tragically, he and another minister were shot and killed by the Ottoman aggressors as the clergymen tried to protect the innocent local Armenians. Thousands of Armenians were ultimately killed in the brutal assault. The atrocities and Pastor Rogers’ heroic efforts were widely reported in newspapers such as the New York Times.
Pastor Rogers hailed from a prominent New Britain family and the Rogerses were and have been involved in numerous civic, philanthropic and commercial activities in New Britain. His grandfather was David Nelson Camp, a noted scholar, pioneering educator and former New Britain mayor.
Several plaques memorialize Pastor Rogers’ death, including one in South Church in New Britain.