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Iran

Hassan Rouhani became President of Iran in June 2013 promising to release political prisoners and uphold the rights of religious minorities. There were some early signs of encouragement. Two Christian women, Maryam Jalili and Mitra Rahmati, were among at least 80 prisoners of conscience and political prisoners freed in September; while on 30 October, an appeals court overturned the ten-year jail term given to Mostafa Bordbar for his Christian activities.

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Saeed Abedini was jailed for eight years for planting house churches in Iran 
Image source: ACLJ

But the harassment and imprisonment of Christians, mainly converts from Islam, continues. On 20 October, four Christians were sentenced to 80 lashes each for drinking communion wine, and in a particularly high-profile case, Iranian-American pastor Saeed Abedini’s eight-year jail term was upheld on appeal in August. On 3 November, he was transferred to one of the deadliest prisons in the world. Prisoners of conscience are said to be sent there to disappear; murders or unexplained deaths are a regular occurrence.

Church services continue to be raided, and even the historic Christian groups recognised under Iran’s constitution face discrimination and harassment. A church in Tehran was closed in May over its refusal to stop holding services in Farsi, the Iranian national language spoken by the Muslim majority. The Iranian Church comprises historically Christian non-Persian groups, such as the Armenians and Assyrians, who have their own languages, plus a large number of recent converts from Islam and their children. The latter suffer the worst persecution. 

Hundreds of Christians, mainly converts from Islam, have been arrested and detained throughout the country in the past few years. Some are subjected to intense interrogation and verbal and physical abuse. Some are eventually prosecuted on pretexts such as “threatening national security”, while others have to pay exorbitant sums for bail.

The authorities’ brutal anti-Christian campaign is an attempt to quash the revival that has seen large numbers of Iranians turning to Christ in recent years. Persecution against Christians has increased to a point not seen since the early days of the 1979 Islamic revolution. 

Although there is no official law against apostasy, leaving Islam, on the Iranian statute book, the constitution allows judges to draw on Islamic law and fatwas for their rulings in such cases, so a number of converts to Christianity have been charged with this offence. While sharia requires that an adult Muslim male apostate be put to death, the last time a Christian was officially sentenced and executed for apostasy was in 1990. However, several Christian converts from Islam who had been charged with apostasy were found murdered after their release.

Christianity began to spread in Iran (formerly Persia) shortly after Jesus’ death and resurrection. By 642 AD, when Arab Muslims overran the country, 25% of the population were Christian. Today, the number is estimated at less than 1%. Shia Islam is the state religion.

Christians are treated as second-class citizens and are subject to discrimination in many areas, such as education and government jobs and services.

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    • “It is not typical for a man to show or talk about his weaknesses and admit them. These days the fear and pressure from the authorities and the Muslim world reveal the condition of my heart.” A Christian leader in Central Asia shared frankly in a letter the way in which the constant pressure he faced was wearing him down. He wrote how, having finally recognised his fears and defeats, he had then received encouragement from the Lord through the words of 2 Corinthians 1:1-10. Pray for our brother “M.T.” and the countless other Christians around the world living with ongoing opposition that the Father of compassion and God of all comfort will draw close and comfort them in all their troubles. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed 21 hours ago

    • Thank the Lord that, with the help of Barnabas Fund, two house churches in a strict Central Asian country were able to purchase coal-powered generators. Winters there are harsh, and the power supply can Barnabas is helping 30,000 displaced Iraqi Christians be erratic. This particular congregation used to meet in a church building, but in 2009 their permit to assemble was revoked and seven of their members were questioned at the police station. Since then the church has had to meet in members’ homes. Pray that the Lord will continue to bless their ministry and that the generators will allow the church to continue to expand despite opposition from the government. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sat, Nov 2014 00:00

    • An Uzbek Christian who had converted from Islam died earlier this year and was buried. The local Muslim leaders banned any Muslim from attending the man’s funeral. But one of his work colleagues, a radical Muslim who had been struck by the Christian’s words and way of life, attended the funeral anyway, ignoring all the threats and warnings. She was puzzled by such a hostile reaction to a man she knew to be “God-fearing”. At the funeral she heard the Gospel and decided to give her life to Christ. Pray for “F.” as she is now being disciple and growing in her new faith, that she will be strong in the face of opposition from the Muslim community. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Fri, Nov 2014 00:00

    • Pray for hundreds of Christian, Yazidi and Turkmen women held in Badush Prison in Mosul, Iraq by ISIS militants. The women are reported to be raped daily unless they agree to convert to ISIS’s brand of Sunni Islam. The UN estimates that there have been roughly 1,500 Iraqi women and children from the Christian and Yazidi communities abducted by ISIS and then forced into sexual slavery. Ask our Heavenly Father to have mercy on each one of these women and children and to deliver them from evil. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Thu, Nov 2014 00:00

    • Give thanks to the Lord that, through the generosity of Barnabas Fund supporters, over 30,000 displaced Christians in northern Iraq are being assisted through four local partner organisations on the ground. By funding the distribution of food, blankets, hygiene items and other basic needs, Barnabas has enabled them to survive their first months of displacement. But their needs will be greater now, as the Iraqi winter has set in. Pray that God will provide. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Wed, Nov 2014 00:00

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