40 posts categorized “Iran”

April 16, 2014

IRAN: A Light in the Darkness

Pastor Behnam Irani has endured a number of trials and suffered during his imprisonment at Ghezel Hesar Prison located in Iran. After nearly two years of suffering from an intestinal disorder and being very ill, Pastor Behnam was finally taken for surgery on Feb. 22 and he is reported to be doing well as he continues to recuperate in his prison cell — where he was taken about four days after the operation. And as he has been in recovery, secret police seized his only Bible as well as other Christian books.

BehnamOne wonders if the police are trying to seize his hope.

Just a few days ago, we also heard from readers who have reported that the letters they have sent to Pastor Behnam are being returned. Although marked “insufficient address,” our contacts assure us that the address is correct. They implore you to continue to write to the pastor.

But why write if my letters aren’t going to get there?

Even while your letters may be returned, we know from other prisoners like Maryam and Marziyeh, who were held in the women’s ward of Evin Prison, that the guards may report the volume of letters to Pastor Behnam. Though he may not be able to hold the letter and read it for himself, news of your love will encourage him.

The letters also tell officials that Christians are watching how the pastor is being treated. The letters and your prayers may have helped to convince authorities to ensure that Pastor Behnam was treated for his abdominal problems, where medical problems are often overlooked. Prisoners, especially Christians, are treated poorly.  

The pastor has a wife and two young children. His daughter and son both miss their father, who has been in prison since May, 2011. Prisons in Iran are dark places. In a letter to the church dated October 2012, Pastor Behnam wrote, “Here in the jail, most of the prisoners are addicted to many types of illegal drugs, especially crystal meth.”  Very few have hope of any kind.

He goes on in his letter and exhorts the church to remember, “No matter how dark it is around you, it is important for you to keep shining, and to let the light of your love be generously offered.” This light, he says is truly found in Jesus.

Pray that although Pastor Benham’s Bible has been taken he will continue to be a light to those in a very dark place, both his fellow prisoners as well as the guards. Pray that guards would report to him the letters he is getting and would take notice that Christians are watching.

Write a letter today at prisoneralert.com in hopes that he is able to receive encouraging words from you.

“Ann Kay” is a writer for VOM. She learned about VOM five years ago when she read Tortured for Christ and began receiving the newsletter. She is passionate about reaching the world for Christ and sharing stories of the persecuted church.


January 17, 2014

Iran: Christian released from prison

Good news from Iran: Mohabat News is reporting that Davoud Alijani, arrested in Ahvaz, Iran, during  a Christmas service in 2011, has been released from prison, 20 days prior to his sentence being complete.

Davoud_AlijaniAlijani was a part of the leadership of the Assemblies of God church in Ahvaz. When authorities raided a Christmas celebration on Decmeber 23, 2011, they initially arrested everyone present, including the children. Most of the believers were released within a few hours, but the pastor and his wife and two other ministers, including Alijani, were transferred to a detention center for further interrogation.

All four were subsequently sentenced to one year in prison after being found guilty of "converting to Christianity, inviting Muslims to convert and acting against state security through evangelistic activities."

Two of them have been released previously, and only the pastor's wife, Shahnaz Jayzan, remains in prison as of the latest reports. However, Mohabat News says there are unconfirmed reports that she will also be released in the coming days.

The Assemblies of God Church in Ahvaz was a registered church with legal standing to hold church meetings, yet in recent months even churches that have legal standing in Iran have been raided by authorities and their leaders subjected to arrest and interrogation.

Praise the Lord for the release of our brother, Davoud! Please continue to pray for Shahnaz Jayzan and other believers in Iran.


January 9, 2014

Most-Viewed Posts in 2013: #2

This week on the Persecution Blog we are reposting the most-viewed posts of 2013, starting with #5 on Monday and counting down to 2013's most-viewed post tomorrow.

The #2 most-viewed post was a good-news post sharing the news of a pastor's release from prison in Iran:

Iranian Pastor Released from Prison

There was good news from Iran last week as Pastor Robert Asseriyan, one of the leaders of the Assembly of God Church in Tehran, was released from prison. He had been arrested during a worship service at the church on May 21.

Roubert-Asserian-free
Image courtesy of Mohabat News.

The Farsi services at the church—one of the last “building churches” that remained open in Iran—have been forcibly closed down by the police, according to Mohabat News.

It seems one of the conditions for Pastor Asseriyan’s release was his silence, as authorities instructed him and his family not to be interviewed by the media or to make public statements about his arrest, his 43 days in prison or conditions for his release. It is unclear what the status of the charges against him is at this time.

Often in Iran Christians are released from jail after making substantial bail payments, but the charges against them are never dropped. In this way, police can pick them up at any time in the future and can use the unresolved case against them to pressure them to cease Christian activities.

Please continue to pray for Pastor Asseriyan and his family. Pray also for other Christians who remain imprisoned in Iran. You can write letters of encouragement to several of them through the Prisoner Alert web site.

Come back tomorrow to see the most-viewed post of last year.


November 21, 2013

A Look Inside Iran

As you look at this graphic from the BBC, about media usage inside Iran, take time to pray for Christian ministries--including VOM--that are using different media to reach inside Iran with the gospel message.

Media In Numbers

Among the ways VOM supports persecuted Christians in Iran is support for Christian satellite broadcasts carrying the gospel message and discipling believers inside that nation. As you can see from the graphic, 60% of Iranians watch satellite TV…even though owning a satellite dish is illegal. In fact, one of our partners jokes that the satellite dish is the national flower of Iran!

Image credit: BBC


November 5, 2013

Appeal Granted; Christian in Iran Released from Prison

After serving ten months in Iran’s Evin prison for Christian activities, we rejoice that Mostafa Mohammad Bordbar was released on Nov. 3, 2013 and acquitted of all charges. We celebrate and

Bordbar
Set free!
are so thankful for the consistent prayers of our members and the many letters sent. Prisoner Alert recorded that government officials were emailed 108 times and 855 encouraging letters were written. Mostafa was arrested on Dec. 27, 2012 for “attending an illegal gathering and participating in a house church.” He was sentenced to ten years imprisonment in July. Mostafa’s lawyer appealed and in a scheduled hearing on Oct. 30, the court decided to withdraw all charges.

Praise the Lord for this answer to prayer. Feel free to go to Mostafa's profile on PrisonerAlert and write an email of thanks to Iran's President or Supreme Leader (click on the link to "Petition Official").

There are still more than 40 Christians in prison in Iran, with several more on PrisonerAlert that you can write letters of encouragement to.


October 31, 2013

UN Report Critical of Iran

VOM's Todd Nettleton was interviewed earlier this week by Mission Network News after the release of a UN report last week criticizing Iran's human rights record, including repeated abuses of religious freedom. Here is the resulting story from MNN:

Iran (MNN) ―  Iran's regime has made stopping the spread of Christianity a cornerstone of its crackdown on religious freedom.

It's those actions and others like them that have drawn closer scrutiny from the United Nations. The UN's special rapporteur for human rights in Iran has said the country has shown "no sign of improvement" in human rights and "continues to warrant serious concern."

Spokesman for the The Voice of the Martyrs-USA Todd Nettleton says Iran dismissed the findings. "Their instant response was, ‘Well, this is biased. He doesn't know what he's talking about.' But the reality is: this is what we see happening inside Iran." 

There are estimated to be as many as 370,000 Christians in Iran, according to the most recent U.S. State Department report. The UN report noted Iran's "authorities continue to compel licensed Protestant churches to restrict Persian-speaking and Muslim-born Iranians from participating in services, and raids and forced closures of house churches are ongoing.... More than 300 Christians have been arrested since 2010, and dozens of church leaders and active community members have reportedly been convicted of national security crimes in connection with church activities, such as organizing prayer groups, proselytizing, and attending Christian seminars abroad."

Recent attempts to show a more moderate face aren't really convincing, adds Nettleton. "They're not going to fool the people inside Iran who know this is going on, and they're not going to fool the international community because the stories are just too consistent. Even though they would like for the information to stay locked in Iran, it does get out, and groups like The Voice of the Martyrs and others are able to say, ‘This is what's really happening behind the scenes.'"

In fact, a Voice of the Martyrs Canada report indicates Iranian Christians are requesting prayer following a series of arrests that took place about the time the government released some prisoners in an effort to appear more liberal.  Iran_Map

At least 20 Christians, mainly from Muslim backgrounds, were detained in Tehran, Karaj, Isfahan, and Tabriz. As a sign of being politically progressive, the government of newly-appointed President Hassan Rouhani pardoned and then released 11 prisoners of conscience on September 20. Two of them were Christians.

Meanwhile, Christian Solidarity Worldwide released a report that documented the sentencing of four Christian men to 80 lashes on Oct. 6.  The men were arrested in a house church after a communion service last December and charged with consuming alcohol in violation of the theocracy's strict laws. The group has ten days to appeal.

How does the new regime respond to international concerns? It's not really up to the administration, explains Nettleton. "Presidents will come and go. The Supreme Council is really where the power's at in Iran. They will decide what the human rights situation is in Iran, and as I said, they're Islamic mullahs, so they're going to go according to Islamic law which teaches that if you leave Islam to follow another religion like Christianity, you're an apostate. The call for that is the death penalty."

Young Iranians, who make up a majority of the population, are dissatisfied with both their religion and government. Why? "One of the real side effects of the human rights situation and the abuse of people in Iran is that it's being done in the name of the government, which is an Islamic government. The people identify that as being done by Islam, so they see the failure of Islam in their country, and they are very open to the Gospel."

That's resulted in a rapidly-growing Church in Iran, which cycles back around again to clerical rulers who see Christianity as a threat to Iran's majority ultra-orthodox Shiite Islamic religion, a crackdown, disillusionment, and more growth.

Persecution has intensified since 2005, with marked increases in 2011 and 2012. Authorities raid house church services, detain worshipers and threaten church members. The publishing, importation, or reprinting of Bibles or Christian literature is illegal.

VOM supports satellite TV and radio broadcasts that are instrumental in sharing the Gospel and teaching the growing church. Nettleton observes, "[The growth of the church] is the good news. It is coming with persecution; we believe there are 42 publicly known cases of Christians who are currently in prison in Iran, so that growth is coming with a price."

It's very difficult for us to truly understand the tremendous pressures Muslim converts face in a society that harshly opposes the Christian faith. The Voice of the Martyrs comes alongside this remnant. "One of the very significant ways that we're involved in Iran is to produce Bibles for the Iranian church and deliver them--get them into the hands of the Christians inside Iran," Nettleton explains. "Another thing that we're involved in is helping people to advocate and encourage some of those Christians who are in prison."

Letter writing campaigns DO work. The knowledge that believers haven't been forgotten goes a long way to hope. Please pray for God's protection, strength and peace for those who are imprisoned in Iran for their faith--those who've bravely spread the Gospel message of Jesus Christ despite the great dangers posed to them. If you want to write notes of encouragement to imprisoned believers in Iran, click here.


October 30, 2013

Which One Is Bad?

“Hussein**” has seen God work miracle after miracle as an evangelist and house church leader in Iran. Miracles like Iranian secret police raiding a house church meeting that had just received a shipment of 500 Bibles in three large boxes, which were still sitting on the floor. Police pulled pictures off of the walls and searched the apartment so thoroughly they literally picked up a needle that had fallen into a crack between the floorboards. But they missed the 500 Bibles!

Or the miracle of being sent to death row and being made a part of the leadership core of the gang that ran everything in that section of the prison. Some prisoners who’d been there five years were still sleeping on the floor, but Hussein slept on a top bunk from his first night there.

Or the miracle of having the radical Islamic judge fill out Hussein’s court documents for him, then tell him exactly where to go to file them and who to talk to. The judge even gave Hussein his personal cel-phone number and told him to call if there were any difficulties with the case.

So when a VOM worker asked Hussein if he worried about more encounters with the police because of his Christian work, Hussein was confident: “I think one of two things will happen. [The police] will either kill me or there will be more miraculous events like these.”

Then he smiled and asked, “Which one of those is bad?”

YOUR TURN: Hussein isn’t the first Jesus-follower to have that attitude. Paul wrote to the Philippian church that, “…Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Is it bad if I continue to live and serve the Lord and see Him work miracles in my life and ministry? No. Is it bad if I die—even at the hands of the police or radical Muslims—and go to heaven? No. True followers of Christ cannot lose. To live is Christ, and to die is gain. Which one of those is bad?

**Name changed for security reasons.


October 29, 2013

Confirming the Call

Christ dramatically changed the life of “Hussein**,” a former Muslim in Iran. Once he had been a drug addict planning his own death, but now he was an on-fire believer in Christ who quit his job to pursue full-time ministry in the underground church. He was assigned to “shadow” a Christian couple in their ministry work as he learned and grew in his calling.

At one of the first houses they visited, the daughter in the house began to weep as soon as she saw the three Christians standing outside her door. They couldn’t understand her response, wondering if she’d just suffered some great tragedy or if in some way they had offended her.

Through tears she explained: she had wanted to see Jesus in her dreams. And just that week she finally had a dream in which Christ appeared to her. And in the dream Christ led her to a table and invited her to sit down with the three people at the table. And now, only hours later, those same three people—whom she had never met before—were knocking on her door!

She invited them in, and before they left she had committed her heart and life to following Jesus. Hussein was confident that God had called him into ministry work. But by the time he left that young woman’s house God’s amazing work had obliterated any shred of doubt left in his mind, and it wouldn’t return even when he was arrested and went to prison for his faith.

YOUR TURN: Sometimes God makes His will so plain it’s as if he’s written it on the sky with a neon magic marker. Other times, we “see through a glass darkly,” as Paul wrote to the Corinthian church. Raymond Edman, former president of Wheaton College, advised students to “Never doubt in the dark what God told you in the light.” Hussein saw clearly God’s call on his life, confirmed in neon obviousness by the girl’s dream. He hung on to that clarity, and remained faithful to Christ, even in police stations, solitary confinement cells and Iranian court rooms.

What truths has God revealed to you that you need to hold onto more tightly today?

**Name changed for security reasons.

Todd Nettleton has served the persecuted church and VOM 15 years. He has been interviewed more than 1950 times by various media outlets. He's the author of Restricted Nations: North Korea, and served on the writing team for FOXE, Extreme Devotion, Hearts of Fire and other VOM books.


October 23, 2013

"Because of His Grace and Your Prayers"

In yesterday’s post, we told you about two former prisoners in Evin Prison in Tehran, Iran. Today we bring word from a current Evin prisoner: Farshid Fathi.

Earlier this week our friends at Elam Ministries released a new letter written by Farshid in prison. The letter was written after he heard of an internet story that he'd written a letter complaining about the “agony” of his suffering in prison. In fact, Farshid has never complained about the persecution and suffering he has endured, even to friends and family. He wrote this new letter to set the record straight:

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, Farshid

Recently I heard about a letter which was published on the Internet on behalf of me about a part of my suffering that I went through during the time since I was imprisoned in December 2010. Although I did not write the letter, it tells the truth. But I would like to tell you that after all the things that have happened to me it would be a shame for me to speak about my suffering.

How can I complain about my suffering when my brothers and sisters are paying a high price for their faith all over the world? I recently heard about many people killed in front of a church in Pakistan. I also heard a young sister in Christ sharing about how she lost her family for the sake of the Gospel and still she is willing to return to share the good news.

How can I complain about my suffering when our dear brother Haik gave his life and was killed with more than 20 knife-stabs to preach to sinners like me? And what about our dear brother Dibaj who spent 9 years and 27 days in prison and was finally martyred after that much suffering?

How can I complain about my suffering when I think of our lovely brother Soodmand who had four precious children (and was martyred)? And dear brother Michaelian and Ravanbaksh, whose blood is still crying out from the land of Iran to heaven? And finally what about the apostle Paul who was many times in prison, suffered countless beatings, was stoned, and often near death, but served the Lord with all of his heart? But after all this Paul says: ‘This light and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.’

So when I look at all these heroes of faith, how can I complain about my suffering?

Thank you so much for your prayers and for your support and for your love.

And I am sure I have this joy in my heart here because of His grace and your prayers.

Your brother in Christ,

Farshid

Praise the Lord for His sustaining grace for Farshid. Please continue to pray for him and other Christians imprisoned in Iran. You can write letters of encouragement to Farshid and others through www.PrisonerAlert.com.

Source: Elam Ministries


October 22, 2013

Iran: Overcoming Fear

“[We were] trying to appear confident on the outside but [were] petrified with fright on the inside.”

Imagine coming home from a dental appointment on an ordinary day in March. You have the apartment to yourself since your good friend, who is also your roommate, has been asked to go down to the police station about a problem with her car’s registration. You feel tired from the medication you were given and your mouth is still feeling numb from the dentist office, so you turn on the TV and start to doze on the couch. A knock at the door startles you. As you answer the door, you realize that it is your roommate, but she is outside with three others — police officers.

Captive-In-Iran-coverOn Mar. 5, 2009, this is the way that Maryam Rostampour and Marziyeh Amirzedeh started their afternoon. It was a day like most others for the young women, though the women are not like most Iranian women. These women shared their faith in Christ boldly in a highly restrictive Islamic society. While Iran’s constitution says Christians and other religious minorities are allowed to practice their faith and meet, it is illegal to convert from Islam or promote one’s faith. 

As the officers dragged them to the police station to be interrogated, Maryam and Marziyeh wondered if they would face torture, a lifetime in prison or even death. They prayed that they might be given strength to continue to stand for Christ and not to reveal the names of other believers
under pressure.

In their book, Captive in Iran, Maryam and Mariziyeh recount their 259 days in prison. Most of their time was spent in Evin Prison, a place equally notorious for holding political prisoners and its squalid conditions. The women endured severe illnesses without proper medical care. Food was scarce, often inedible or laced with formaldehyde. Guards mistreated them, prisoners shouted at them.

Even as abuses were piled on, both Maryam and Marziyeh took opportunities to befriend those that seemed unapproachable. They used it as a chance to listen to the stories of both inmates and guards and took every chance they had to offer prayer and then pray with those that wanted prayers. They shared their reason for believing in Christ.

The women acknowledge being scared and frightened by the situation beyond what they even expected. Yet, Marziyeh said of the experience, “The power the Lord gave us helped us to overcome these fears; just as when we prayed in the police station, God banished our fear and renewed our strength.”

Today, it is reported that at least 42 Christians are being held in Iranian prisons and 45 are awaiting trial.  They need encouragement to stand strong for their faith.  To send a letter to a Christian in prison for his or her faith, go to www.prisoneralert.com.

YOUR TURN: When has God helped you overcome fear to remain confident in Christ?

“Ann Kay” is a writer for VOM. She learned about VOM five years ago when she read Tortured for Christ and began receiving the newsletter. She is passionate about reaching the world for Christ and sharing stories of the persecuted church.