109 posts categorized “Prisoner Alert”

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.


February 27, 2014

Australian Detained in North Korea Added to PrisonerAlert.com

The following information has been added to www.PrisonerAlert.com allowing people around the world to send letters of encouragement to the wife of a detained Christian worker, as well as sending letters of protest to North Korean officials.

You can also, on the profile page for Mr. Short, listen to an interview with Mrs. Short. The PrisonerAlert profile includes the following information:

John Short, a 75-year-old Australian missionary who lives in Hong Kong with his wife, was questioned and detained by North Korean police while visiting Pyongyang as part of a tour group. Officials detained him reportedly for being in possession of gospel tracts.

Short traveled to Pyongyang on Feb. 15 with the tour group, and police questioned him at his hotel the next day about the Korean-language gospel tracts that he was carrying. Officials reportedly asked him who translated the material into Korean, who sent him and to what organization he belongs. John-short

Short’s wife was informed of his detention by a member of the tour group who was allowed to leave on Feb. 18. This was Short’s second visit to North Korea. His wife said that on his first tour he was very outspoken about his faith and even read the Bible in the presence of North Korean officials who accompanied him.

The tour company has made repeated calls to North Korea, but officials have refused to provide any information. The Australian government is working on Short’s behalf through its embassy in South Korea and has also requested help from Sweden, which has an embassy in Pyongyang.

As a missionary to mainland China since 1964, Short has been arrested on several occasions by Chinese officials. In May 1996, he was arrested and his entry visa to the mainland was revoked. While he was allowed to stay in Hong Kong, he was prevented from helping spread the gospel to inland China for the next two years, until communist authorities determined he was no longer a threat.

You can mail a letter of encouragement to Karen Short at:
Mrs. Karen Short
P.O. Box 162
Tsuen Wan NT
Hong Kong
SAR CHINA

 


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.


December 18, 2013

Christmas Prayers for Iran

On Dec. 2, Rasoul Abdollahi, a Christian convert from Islam, was moved to Ward 350 of Evin prison in Iran. While it is unclear whether he was held elsewhere immediately before this or whether he was at home on temporary bail, he is now in Evin serving a three-year sentence for “collusion against the government and evangelism.” 

Rasoul’s prison sentence stems from a raid conducted by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard in December, 2010. In an organized attempt to stop Christians from meeting together, authorities stormed a Christmas celebration on Dec. 26 and arrested 22 Christians, including Rasoul and the group’s pastor, Farshid Fathi, whose story is featured on The Voice of the Martyr’s Prisoner Alert Web site.

After ten of the Christians were intensely questioned and forced to sign an agreement stating that they would refrain from Christian activities, they were finally released. With the exception of Farshid, the other 11 people arrested, including Rasoul, were released by April, 2011.

In Iran authorities use temporary bail as a tactic to keep those previously arrested in a constant state of uncertainty. Those on bail can be recalled to face further interrogation or longer prison sentences. Prisoners can also be held without being charged or sentenced and many wait months before knowing what the official charges are or how long they will face in prison.

Pastor Farshid was never released, even though authorities took a large sum of bail money from his family, who were hoping to have him return home. Instead, he was held in solitary confinement for over a year. On March 5, 2012, Farshid was charged with “acting against national security through membership of a Christian organization, collection of funds, propaganda against the Islamic Regime by helping spread Christianity in the country,” and sentenced to six years in prison. He is also currently being held in Ward 350 of Evin prison.  

IMG_3345
Pastor Farhad Sabokrouh and his wife, Shahnaz Jayzan.

A year after the raids of December, 2010, authorities raided another Christmas celebration on Dec. 23, 2011. This time, it was an Assemblies of God church in Ahvaz. Everyone at the service was arrested, including children. Several hours later, authorities released all but four Christians, including Pastor Farhad Sabokrouh, his wife, Shahnaz Jayzan and two church ministers, Davoud Alijani and Naser Zamen-Dezfuli. Each of their stories are also included on Prisoner Alert.

After being released on bail by Feb. 21, 2012, the four were sentenced to one year in prison in October, 2012. They were called to a court hearing in May, 2013 when each was arrested. Davoud was sent to Karoon prison in Ahvaz, and the other three were sent to Sepidar prison, located in Ahwaz.

On Dec. 4, 2013, just two weeks prior to the end of their year term, the pastor, Farhad, and church minister, Naser, were released. Farhad’s wife and Davoud are still serving their terms and have been in jail over 220 days. It is hoped that they will also be released in the coming weeks.

At least 40 Christians are currently being held in prisons throughout Iran, many of them arrested  during Christmas services in 2010 and 2011.

Knowing that Iranian believers who celebrate Christmas are at risk of having their churches raided, how will you pray for Christians this Christmas season?

“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.


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 24, 2013

Weng Walking (video)

Weng Goodluck Tshua was three weeks old in March 2010 when Fulani Muslims attacked his village of Dogo Nahawa and slaughtered 501 Christians. All nine members of his family, including his father and mother, were killed. He was rescued from his burning house, but not before the fire had consumed his feet. As Weng has grown over the past few years, he has been unable to run around or even walk. But a VOM prosthetics team is helping change that.

After studying his feet, the prosthetics team fashioned special shoes for both of his misshapen limbs. They returned several months later with specially fitted shoes that can be adjusted as three-year-old Weng continues to grow. Each shoe is made of three layers. As Weng grows, the inner layers can be removed as needed, to allow more room in the shoes. The team plans to provide new shoes for Weng before he grows out of the final layer of these shoes.

Recently VOM received new video of Weng, proudly walking around in is new, custom-made shoes. May it bless all who see it and encourage more prayer for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Northern Nigeria.

 

You can give online to support blessings like this one to Weng and help provide for other Christians in need of medical care due to persecution by giving to support VOMedical.

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.


September 6, 2013

REPOST: Letters to Prisoners DO Make a Difference

One of the things The Voice of the Martyrs has consistently encouraged readers to do is to write letters to Christians in prison. In the museum space in our headquarters building is a list of prisoners in Soviet prisons in the early 1970s, as well as a poster of prisoners from that era that was sent out to US readers and churches to encourage them to write letters. Today VOM offers a letter writing kit for people who prefer writing with pen and paper and an online tool for those who prefer electronic tools in their communication.

But do the letters make a difference? Captive In Iran cover

Who better to answer that question than formerly-imprisoned Christians? Maryam Rostampour and Marziyeh Amirizadeh spent 259 days in Evin Prison in Iran because of their Christian faith and activities. During their time in prison VOM featured the pair on www.PrisonerAlert.com and encouraged American Christians to write letters of encouragement to them.

Now, with the release of their book, Captive in Iran, we can see what the letters meant to them. Maryam writes this section of their story:

One of the visitors, a middle-aged man with a round face, looked at me. “Are you Miss Rostampour?”

“Yes, I am.”

“Do you have any idea how long we have been waiting for you?” I was too surprised to speak. “You have caused a great deal of trouble for us with these letters of yours. Every day, we have to open and read letters about you and your case.”

“You have to read letters about me?”

“Yes! At least forty or fifty letters a day that have been sent to you from all over the world.”

“If the letters are sent to me, why should you be reading them? Perhaps this is another example of the abuse of human rights in this country—that you open and read other people’s mail.”

“Did you really expect us to give them to you so you could get more encouragement to defy us?”

We don’t need to read the letters to be encouraged by them, I thought, my heart filled with joy. The world is watching you. We have a family of faith that loves us and cares for us. We are not alone!

Letters to Christians in prison DO make a difference! Order your Prisoner Letter Writing Kit or log on to www.PrisonerAlert.com and write a letter to a currently-imprisoned Christian today! You may also want to order a copy of Captive In Iran and read Maryam and Marziyeh's amazing story.

You can also WATCH A VIDEO of them speaking to VOM's staff.