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Sunday, 16 September 2012

Reporting NOW - Iran

When the Holy Spirit was poured out at Pentecost, 'E la mites' hear `the wonders of God' being declared supernaturally in their own language. Please join our new campaign and pray throughout September for persecuted Christians in Iran as they continue to share the gospel of Jesus.

 

The church in Iran - one of the fastest-growing in the Muslim world - is undergoing intense persecution. Iranian Christians are desperately in need of prayer as the authorities carry out their campaign of intimidation, arresting and detaining mainly leaders in the church.
Both the small number of officially-recognised Protestant congregations and the house church movement are being targeted nationwide along with other religious minorities and anyone else perceived to be working against the interests of the state.
As an Islamic republic, Iran views Christians - and especially Christian converts - as enemies of the state, despite the fact that the constitution recognises Christian (as well as Jewish and Zoroastrian) communities as religious minorities, with three parliamentary seats reserved for Christians (two Armenian; one Assyrian).In recent months Iranian leaders, including Intelligence Minister Heyday Moslehi, have spoken out against the evangelical churches, expressing their concerns about the growing interest in Christianity particularly among young people. Authorities are increasingly cracking down on indigenous Farsi­speaking churches. Since February two legally-recognised churches in the capital Tehran have been ordered to stop holding Farsi-language services on Fridays (the day when Muslims go to the mosque).

 
In May leaders of the Assemblies of God (AoG) Central Church of Tehran were ordered by the Ministry of Intelligence to submit names and identity numbers of all members. According to our partner Middle East Concern (MEC), the church has long been under surveillance, with the latest order making it even more difficult for those from a Muslim background to attend meetings. In June an AoG church in Tehran's Janat-Abad suburb was told to cease all activities and threatened with the confiscation of its building.
At the same time at least 20 believers (mostly from a Muslim background) remain detained across Iran because of their Christian faith and activities.
Most Christians arrested are held for less than a month, although ;h bail demands can be very high (up to f 160,000). According to our partner 222 Ministries, the arrests have created a climate of intimidation, while
MEC says many leave the country after being released from detention. Prisoners can be subjected to torture and rape.
One of the most high-profile prisoners, Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, has been detained since October 2009 and remains under a death sentence for apostasy (converting from Islam). Farshid Fathi has had his six-year prison sentence for acting against national security' and religious propagation' upheld at an appeal court. Pastor Behnam Irani, who has been serving jail term in Karaj since May for anti-government activity, continues to suffer ill health.
In a recent MEC report among those in detention is Maryam Jalili, a Muslim-background believer who was sentenced to two and a half years after being convicted of "membership of an illegal group".
She is understood to be in Evin prison.
Massoud Delijani, who was charged with holding illegal house church gatherings, evangelising Muslims and action against national security, was given a three-year sentence in February. According to MEC he was denied the right to choose his own advocate and was not given the chance to defend himself against the charges.

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MARTYRDOM
Rashin's father was born aMuslim, but became a Christian in the early 1960s. Such was his love for the Lord Jesus in that he became the leader ofthe Assemblies of God churches in Mashad - a fiercely fanatical Muslim city in the west of Iran.
'When I was just 13 years old my father was executed in Mashad prison in December 1990 on the orders of a Muslim ombudsman who was investigating my fathers activities,' said Rashin. 'He was then buried in a part of the graveyard where we were not even allowed to put a headstone.
'After such a tragedy, I could have become full of self-pity, but in a strange way my father's martyrdom strengthened my faith, as I knew he had died as a soldier in God's army'.

extract from Release International magazine Sep/Oct 2012



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