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Latest Requests

  • Iran: pastor charged with action against national security

    Posted on 26th July

    Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, sentenced to death for apostasy and later acquitted in 2012, has now been charged with “acting against national security”.
     
    On 24th July Yousef Nadarkhani was summoned to the 13th Branch of the Revolutionary Court in Rasht. He was formerly charged with “acting against national security” – a common charge brought against church leaders in Iran – and accused of Zionist activities and evangelism.
     
    Yousef has been given until 31st July to raise 100 million Toman (US$33,000) bail or face arrest.
     
    Yousef, of the self-styled “Church of Iran”, was first imprisoned in 2006 on charges of evangelising Muslims and apostasy from Islam. He was released two weeks later without being formally charged.
     
    In 2009 Yousef questioned the Iranian government’s policy of enforcing study of the Qur’an in schools, claiming that it was against the freedom to practise religion enshrined in the Iranian constitution. He was then arrested on 12th October 2009 on charges related to his protest. The charges were later changed to apostasy and evangelism and in September 2010 Yousef accordingly received a death sentence.
     
    During his time in prison Yousef was put under pressure to convert back to Islam and a written verdict upholding the death sentence was issued dated 12th June 2011 with a provision for annulment of the sentence should he recant his Christian faith.
     
    Following international outrage at the death sentence, a retrial on 8th September 2012 resulted in an acquittal for the charge of apostasy but upheld the charge of evangelism and a sentence of three years’ imprisonment, which Yousef had already completed by then.
     
    On 13th May 2016 Yousef and his wife Tina were arrested along with Mohammadreza Omidi, Yasser Mossayebzadeh and Saheb Fadaie. Yousef and Tina were released soon after but Yasser, Saheb and Mohammedreza were detained for varying periods over the next two weeks and released after posting bail of 100 million Toman (US$33,000) each.
     
    Those close to Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani request prayer that:
    a. the oppressive actions against Yousef will stop and the new charges of “acting against national security” will be dropped
    b. God will give His peace to Yousef and his family, and that they will not be anxious
    c. there will be no further action taken against Yasser, Saheb and Mohammedreza
    d. all officials involved will love mercy, act justly, learn about Jesus and choose to follow Him
     
    May be circulated to general mailing lists, outside organisations, and quoted from freely in reports citing "Middle East Concern" as the source of the information.

     

     
  • Iran: Christian prisoner denied release

    Posted on 25th July
     
    Christian prisoner Maryam Naghash Zargaran has been denied unconditional release by an Iranian court at the request of the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence (MOIS).
     
    Maryam, who was granted medical furlough for a range of health issues in June 2016, returned to Evin Prison, Tehran on 27th June to continue serving a four-year prison sentence on charges of "acting against national security".
     
    Maryam had previously been arrested in January 2013 in connection with her work on an orphanage with the Christian ex-prisoner Saeed Abedini.
     
    On 5th July 2016 Maryam started a hunger strike to demand her “immediate and unconditional release” in view of the inadequate treatment of her health issues. Prison officials examined Maryam on 20th July and provided a medical report confirming the seriousness of her condition.
     
    It is reported that Maryam’s request was considered and denied by an Iranian court and the reason given for rejecting her demand was that MOIS did not want her to be freed.
     
    Twenty days into her hunger strike Maryam‘s health continues to deteriorate, to the concern of her family and friends. Prison medical staff say that her blood pressure is very low, she has pains and numbness in her feet – possibly early signs of Multiple Sclerosis - and that she is suffering psychologically as a consequence of her imprisonment.
     
    Those close to Maryam request our prayers that:
    a. Maryam will know God’s encouragement, healing, strengthening and wisdom during these difficult days
    b. the Lord will comfort Maryam’s family
    c. those responsible for blocking Maryam’s request for unconditional release will have a change of heart, and that Maryam will be released from prison soon
    d. God will move the Iranian authorities and officials to love mercy and act justly
     
    Open sources: Mohabat News, Human Rights Activists News Agency

    May be circulated to general mailing lists, outside organisations, and quoted from freely in reports citing "Middle East Concern" as the source of the information.

     

     
  • Turkey: church buildings targeted during coup

    Posted on 18th July

    It is reported that there were two cases of church buildings being targeted on the night of 15th July during the attempted military coup in Turkey.
     
    In Trabzon on the Black Sea coast a group of about ten people attacked the Catholic church of Santa Maria. They used paving stones to break the church windows and an attempt was made to break into the church building using hammers. Muslim neighbours intervened, drove the perpetrators away and contacted the priest.
     
    Santa Maria Church is the place where Catholic priest Fr Andrea Santoro was murdered on 5th February 2006.
     
    In Malatya unidentified people tried to break the windows of Malatya Protestant Church and succeeded in breaking the glass panels in the door. The pastor Tim Stone believes it was just someone with a grudge against the church taking advantage of the general unrest.
     
    Malatya is the place where three Christian workers were brutally murdered on 18th April 2007.
     
    Religious leaders, including the Director of Religious Affairs Mehmet Görmez, Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew, the Chief Rabbi Rav Izak Haleva, the acting Armenian Patriarch Aram Ateşyan, Assyrian Orthodox Metropolitan Yusuf Çetin and Assyrian Catholic acting Patriarch Yusuf Sağ, issued a joint declaration condemning the coup and the bloodshed it involved and calling for love, peace and justice to reign in Turkey.

    The Association Of Turkish Protestant Churches (TeK) also issued a press statement condemning the coup, asking for wisdom and understanding for the country’s leaders, and praying for peace.

    Please thank the Lord for the apparent restored calm and security in Turkey and pray:
    a. for the protection of the small Christian community in Turkey, and that those extremists intent on harm and causing damage will be stopped, as they were in Trabzon
    b. that state officials will be diligent in protecting Christians and church property, and will seek to apprehend perpetrators and bring them to justice
    c. that overall security will be maintained in Turkey, and that state officials will respond wisely and appropriately to the crisis

     

    May be circulated to general mailing lists, outside organisations, and quoted from freely in reports citing "Middle East Concern" as the source of the information.

     
  • Iran: four Christians arrested, Amin Khaki freed

    Posted on 18th July


    Relatives and friends request prayer for three Azeri Christians and an Iranian Christian who were arrested on 24th June and remain in detention in Tehran.

    On Friday 24th June security agents raided an engagement party in Tehran attended by Eldar Gurbanov, Yusif Farhadov and Bahram Nasibov from “Word of Life” Church in Baku, Azerbaijan. Initially about ten people were arrested, but most were soon released. However Eldar, Yusif, Bahram and an Iranian Christian were taken away and remain in detention. Their whereabouts are unknown.
     
    Since their arrest the Azeri detainees have been able to contact their families once or twice. They are being kept in solitary confinement, and consular officials from the Azerbaijan Embassy in Tehran have not been allowed to see them.
     
    Eldar believes that they were set up and caught in a trap. As yet no charges have been brought against the detainees.
     
    Their families and friends are obviously very concerned about the situation.
     
    In more positive news, friends of Amin Khaki are delighted that he has been released from Ahvaz Prison.

    Amin Khaki, along with Hossein Barounzadeh, Mohammad Bahrami and Rahman Bahmani, was among eight people arrested forcibly at a picnic in Shush on 5th March 2014. They each received a sentence of one year in prison for spreading Christianity in Iran.

    Following a re-trial held on 1st February 2016, the sentences were upheld but the defendants were not immediately summoned to prison. Last month (June) all four Christians presented themselves at Ahvaz Prison to serve the remainder of their sentences. However, last week Amin was released, and he does not need to serve a previous suspended sentence of one year in addition to the most recent sentence.
     
    Hossein Barounzadeh, Mohammad Bahrami and Rahman Bahmani still have four months left of their sentences to serve.

    Please pray that:
    a. the three Azeris and the Iranian Christian will be released soon, and that God will bring peace and comfort to them and their families
    b. no charges will be brought against the four men, and that officials from the Azerbaijan Embassy will be allowed to see them
    c. Amin Khaki will adjust well to his freedom, and that no new charges will be brought against him
    d. Hossein, Mohammad and Rahman will also be released, or know God’s peace as they serve the remainder of their sentences
    e. all officials involved will love mercy, act justly, learn about Jesus and choose to follow Him

    May be circulated to general mailing lists, outside organisations, and quoted from freely in reports citing "Middle East Concern" as the source of the information.

     
  • Iran: Christian prisoner physically abused

    Posted on 18th July

     

    Ebrahim Firouzi, a Christian prisoner in Rajai Shahr Prison in Iran, has suffered physical abuse at the hands of prison guards when he was forced to attend an appeal hearing.

    On 21st August 2013 Ebrahim was arrested with two friends during a raid by plain-clothed security officers. He had also been detained in 2011 and earlier in 2013 because of his Christian activities. The other two believers were released on bail after several months. On 2nd October 2014 Ebrahim was relocated from Evin Prison in Tehran to Rajai Shahr Prison near Karaj. He was due for release on 13th January 2015 but was kept in detention, re-tried on 5th March 2015 and charged with "acting against national security, gathering and collusion". At the end of April 2015 Ebrahim was sentenced to five years in prison. He is in a ward with potentially dangerous criminals and last year went on hunger strike to protest against these conditions.

    On 13th July Ebrahim was summoned to attend an appeal hearing, but he refused to go as he was under the impression that it was sufficient for his lawyer to attend the hearing. Because of his refusal he was beaten by prison guards and forcibly taken to court. One of the presiding judges was absent however, and the appeal has been postponed until November.

    Ebrahim's mother appealed for Ebrahim's release in a video published by the Human Rights Activists News Agency.

    In March Ebrahim was able to release a call to prayer, noting God's promises to those who remain faithful to him and asking for prayer for himself to stand strong in the face of persecution. He said:

    "Jesus is our example; the Saviour who came among us to be crucified and save us. We sometimes have to sacrifice our freedom to live in God's love, so I can't think only about myself when there are so many believers suffering persecution."

    Please continue to pray for Ebrahim, asking that:
    a. God will keep Ebrahim in His love and strengthen and encourage him despite the abuse and lack of freedom
    b. he will be in good health and aware of God's abounding love to him in Jesus
    c. he will be released soon
    d. the prison officials will love mercy, act justly, learn about Jesus and choose to follow Him

     

    May be circulated to general mailing lists, outside organisations, and quoted from freely in reports citing "Middle East Concern" as the source of the information.