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House church group cleared by Iranian co...

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House church group cleared by Iranian court

Country/Region: Iran, Middle East and North Africa

Eleven Iranian Christians who were taken to court because of their involvement in a house church meeting and for taking communion wine have been cleared.

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They were charged with "action against the [Islamic] order of the country" and drinking alcohol following their arrests in April. The group was brought before the Revolutionary Tribunal in Bandar-Anzali on 1 May, where their lawyer made a statement in their defence.

The court's written verdict, issued in mid-May, ruled that since the eleven accused claimed to be conducting a Christian ceremony, their activities were covered by Article 13 of the Iranian Constitution, which allows Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians to "perform their religious rites and ceremonies, and to act according to their own canon in matters of personal affairs and religious education".

The judge upheld their defence that they were involved a religious ceremony, and so found no evidence to support the charge that they had been acting against national security or the order of the country.

The constitutional rights of Iran's harassed and persecuted Christian community are often not upheld.

The acquittals follow the release on 30 April of three Christians, Sonia Keshish-Avanesian, Arash Kermanjani and his wife Arezo Teymouri, after 239 days behind bars. Sonia's husband, Pastor Vahik Abrahamian, remains in custody.

Six Christians whose blasphemy trial has twice been adjourned are still awaiting the outcome of a consultation on their case. Prosecutors have been given more time to seek the opinion of Iran's traditional churches concerning the validity of the charge.

Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani is also still awaiting a date for his appeal against a death sentence, issued formally last November, for apostasy.

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  • Cry out to the Lord for Christians in the Central African Republic (CAR) who have been driven from their homes by the violence that has engulfed their country. Attacks by Islamist Séléka militants and retaliation from “anti-balaka” militias has generated a huge humanitarian crisis in which around two million people, many of them Christians, are in need of emergency assistance. Give thanks for the work of Barnabas partners who have been providing food rations to hundreds of displaced believers in the capital, Bangui, and distributing food, medicines, clothing and seeds to thousands in various regions. Pray that the aid will reach those who need it most, and that the Lord will comfort the relatives and friends of the thousands who have been killed in the fighting. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed 2 hours ago

  • “Jesus Christ performed tremendous miracles in all our lives through this Shalom Camp.” A pastor spoke of how God had worked through a Barnabas-sponsored weekend Bible camp for persecuted Christians in Sri Lanka. The camp was attended by believers from five different churches that had been the target of threats or attacks by Buddhist or Hindu extremists. The participants heard teaching on the Biblical basis for persecution and took part in group discussions; they came away refreshed and encouraged, and for many the camp was a time of great spiritual renewal. Give thanks to the Lord for the peace He has brought to these persecuted believers, and ask that the weekend will continue to bear much fruit in their lives. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Wed, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Pray for a church leader in Sri Lanka, S.S. Johnpillai, who was threatened at gunpoint by attackers who claimed to be Special Forces officers. The minister was in a hut next to his church building in Guadalupe, Trincomolee when, he said, the men “appeared out of nowhere”. The intruders put a gun to Johnpillai’s head and accused him of holding a Communion service in honour of the founder of the Tamil Tigers, the government’s opponents in the country’s long and bloody civil war. The government had that day made it a criminal offence to commemorate the group. The gunmen ignored Johnpillai’s protests that he had not dedicated Communion to the group’s founder, and they threatened to shoot him. Ask the Lord to support and strengthen Johnpillai as he recovers from this terrifying ordeal. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Tue, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Lift up to the Lord persecuted Christians in Sri Lanka, where at least 65 anti-Christian incidents took place during 2013, including repeat attacks on several believers and their property in October 2013. However, a Sri Lankan government minister from a Buddhist nationalist party denied the accounts, saying that they might be “made up”. The minister claimed that Sri Lankans are “one family … trying to live together after a long civil war”. Pray that the Sri Lankan government will recognise the danger that our brothers and sisters face from militant Buddhists and that the authorities will provide effective protection for vulnerable Christians. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Mon, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Condemned Christian mother Aasia Bibi’s final appeal hearing is scheduled to take place tomorrow (14 April) having been deferred twice. She was sentenced to death for blasphemy in November 2010 having been falsely accused of insulting Muhammad following an argument with Muslim co-workers. Aasia has been languishing in jail since the accusation was made in June 2009. Pray that her appeal will finally go ahead and that the judges will have the courage to acquit and release Aasia; there are concerns that they may give in to pressure from hardline Islamists who have been calling for her execution. Pray that Aasia, her husband and children will know the Lord’s peace as they await the verdict. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sun, Apr 2014 00:00

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