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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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    • Almighty God, we call to You for relief for Christians in the Gwoza area of Borno state in Northern Nigeria, as they face repeated violent attacks by Boko Haram militants. We pray for comfort for the relatives and friends of the hundreds who have been killed, and for the thousands who have been forced from their homes and seen them torched. We ask for Your special protection on Christians as they gather to worship You. We pray for the Nigerian authorities to re-establish control of the area, so that the displaced Christians may be safe from further attacks and free to rebuild their shattered communities. We pray too for their persecutors to come to repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed 5 hours ago

    • “This is a war against Christians and democracy and their constitution. Allah says we should finish them when we get them.” The leader of the Nigerian Islamist militant group Boko Haram was speaking in a video that reasserted their agenda and addressed “the people of the world”, saying, “Either you are with us Mujahedeen or you are with the Christians.” The translation of the video was released as scores of people were killed in suicide bombings in May, including at least 118 in a double attack in Jos, Plateau state on 20 May. Pray that Boko Haram’s murderous campaign to establish an Islamic state in Northern Nigeria will not succeed. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Mon, Sep 2014 00:00

    • Pray for Bible school students in Vietnam who were subjected to a terrifying night-time raid by police and hired thugs. On 9 June, officers swooped from adjacent rooftops into the church compound that houses the school, while vehicle-loads of people were brought to the site to vandalise the building with bricks, stones and sticks. The students were beaten, punched and kicked before being taken away for interrogation; 20 were left in need of medical attention but were prevented from leaving to find it. Thugs continued to attack the compound over the next ten nights. Pray for the students as they recover from this brutal assault and that they will stand firm in their faith in the face of intimidation. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sun, Aug 2014 00:00

    • In an earlier incident in Saisomboon village, three teenage Christian girls were disqualified from taking their final school examinations because of their faith. The village chief said that in following Christianity, Noi (15), Net (15) and Nut (14) had forfeited their right to education. Five families from the village have now converted to Christianity. A spokesman for Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom expressed the view that the authorities were trying to find every possible way “to stop the spread of Christian religious freedom in the area”. Pray that the girls will be allowed to complete their education and that opposition to the Christians in the village will cease. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sat, Aug 2014 00:00

    • Five Christians have been charged with murder in Laos after a sick woman sought prayer at her local church, converted to Christianity and later died. Mrs Chan, from Saisomboon village in Savannakhet province, had been ill for two years when she approached the church. Her health improved for a short time, and she and her eight grown-up children came to faith in Christ. The sons and daughters wanted a Christian burial ceremony, but the authorities forbade this unless they renounced their faith, which they refused to do. When Christians in the area protested, five were arrested and subsequently charged with Mrs Chan’s murder. Pray that the God of justice will have compassion on His people (Isaiah 30:18) and ensure their acquittal from this false accusation. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Fri, Aug 2014 00:00

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