Posted on 11th March 2013

 

 

Greetings in the name of Jesus, Prince of Peace.

 

On 22nd February we requested prayer following the arrest on 10th February of Sherif, an Egyptian Christian businessman, in Benghazi. Sherif remains detained. A number of other Christians were arrested in the following days, including four Egyptians and three non-Arab expatriates who were working as language teachers or businessmen, each of whom knew Sherif in business or social contexts.

 

We regret to report that one of the Egyptians, Ezzat Hakim Atalla Abdel-Malak, died in detention yesterday (10th March). A few days ago he reported having severe chest pains. He was taken to a hospital and received some treatment before being returned to the detention facility. However, this treatment proved insufficient. His body is understood to show extensive bruising caused by physical abuse whilst detained.

 

Recall that Sherif runs a bookshop in Benghazi. The stock includes Christian books, intended for sale to the many expatriate Arabic-speaking Christians living and working in Benghazi and the surrounding areas. He, and the others detained, have been accused of proselytising, although no formal charges have yet been made against any of them.

 

Christians supporting those detained and their families request our prayers that:

a.      Ezzet’s widow and two teenage children will know the peace and comfort of Jesus

b.      Sherif and the others detained will know the presence and peace of Jesus each day, and be released soon

c.       Members of their families will know the close presence of Jesus

d.      All involved will know the healing touch of Jesus, both physically and psychologically

e.      Those supporting these Christians will know the Spirit’s guiding wisdom

f.        All officials involved will love mercy, act justly, learn about Jesus and choose to follow Him.

 

 

May be circulated to general mailing lists, outside organizations, as well as to the press for publication citing “Middle East Concern” as the source of the information.

Latest Requests

  • 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.

     
  • Sudan: update on 14 detained Christians

    Posted on 11th July

    On 8th July Middle East Concern requested prayer for 14 Christians detained in Sudan the previous day. They had objected to the illegal takeover of the school building on the compound of the Evangelical Church in Bahri in Khartoum. The property had been sold by a “committee” that was appointed by the government but which the church does not recognise and which has been ruled illegal by the Administrative Court.

    Police first arrested 11 people who were released after intervention from the church's lawyer. When they returned to the church compound and continued to object to the takeover of the building the police returned and detained 17 people, three of whom were released shortly afterwards (members of the government appointed “committee”). Even after the prosecutor had ordered the release (pending trial) of the remaining 14 detainees, the police refused to release them.

    On 10th July all 14 were charged before the Bahri Criminal Court. The court sentenced 13 of them to a fine of 300 Sudanese Pounds (US$50) for obstructing the police, and the other one to a fine of 500 Sudanese Pounds (US$82) for obstructing the police and disturbing the peace. They were all released after paying the fines.

    Five of them were released pending trial, as they will be charged for a breach of a signed commitment. They were detained in the first round of arrests on 7th July and then released after signing a statement saying they would not “disturb the peace” again. They were then re-arrested in the second round of arrests and accused of violating the conditions of their earlier release. No date has been set for their trial.

    Christians in Sudan request prayer that:
    a. those charged will be treated justly
    b. church leaders will have wisdom in their dealings with the authorities, and that the court ruling in favour of the church will be implemented
    c. 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.

     
  • Sudan: 14 Christians detained

    Posted on 8th July

    Christians in Sudan request prayer for the Evangelical Church in Bahri (also known as Khartoum North). On 7th July the police detained 14 church members, many of them leaders. Even though the prosecutor ordered their release in the evening, as of the afternoon of 8th July they were still being held.

    In March 2013 the church discovered that members of a committee responsible for church property had acted fraudulently, and consequently the church fired them. Some of the committee members complained to the government. Seeing an opportunity to divide the church, the government 're-instated' the committee members (even though the government has no authority to appoint committees in the church). The church does not recognise this 'committee' and took the government to court. In August 2015 the Administrative Court ruled in the church's favour and declared the 'committee' illegal.

    Since 2013 this government-appointed 'committee' has been selling parts of the Evangelical Church compound to businessmen connected with the government. There have been numerous incidents where these businessmen have come to the church compound with police protection and destroyed parts of the compound. At different times church members who objected were arrested. This continued even after the court declared the 'committee' illegal.

    Recently the illegal 'committee' sold a school that is part of the church to businessmen. On 7th July the businessmen came to the compound to take over the building. When church leaders objected that the sale was illegal the police came and arrested 11 church members, including several leaders. After intervention by the church's lawyer they were released.

    When they returned to the church compound they discovered they had been locked out of the school building. After some church members broke the lock to gain entry to the school the police came a second time and detained 17 people (including six church members who had been detained earlier that day). This included the three members of the illegal committee. They were released shortly after, leaving 14 church members still in detention.

    In the evening the prosecutor ordered the release of all 14 detainees. However, so far the police have refused to release them.

    Christians in Sudan request prayer that:
    a. those detained will know the peace and presence of Jesus
    b. they will be treated with dignity, and will be released soon
    c. church leaders will have wisdom in their dealings with the authorities, and that the court ruling in favour of the church will be implemented
    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.