Posted on 6th July 2012

 

 

Greetings in the name of Jesus, Prince of Peace

 

Iranian Christians thank us for our continued prayer for pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, who has been imprisoned since October 2009. In September 2010 the Revolutionary Tribunal of Gilan Province found him guilty of apostasy and sentenced him to death - a verdict upheld by the Supreme Court in July 2011.

 

It is understood that pastor Yousef was verbally informed on 4th July that he will face a new trial in September, on different charges. This has not been confirmed in writing, and Yousef has not been told of what any new charges would be. If new charges are brought, it is expected (based on the experience of most cases against Christians in Iran in recent months and years) that these would be non-specific political charges, such as “activities against the state” or against state security, rather than religious charges. Yousef has only limited legal support within Iran after a sentence given to his principal lawyer in July 2011 was upheld in April.

 

We regret to report that another believer, Farshid, has had a six-year jail sentence confirmed by an appeal court. Farshid was arrested on 26th December 2010 and formally convicted in April 2012. In a video released on YouTube in May, a prominent dissident who was held in the same cell as Farshid for some time gave positive testimony about Farshid’s attitude, conduct and service in prison, and the esteem in which he is held by fellow prisoners.

 

Other believers remain detained in Iran because of their Christian faith and activities. These include several arrested in raids on fellowships in late May (Hadi and Alireza in Neishabour, Vahid in Mashhad, Mehrdad in Tehran) and several arrested during similar raids in February (including a group of five in Shiraz and at least three in Kermanshah).

 

Iranian Christians rejoice that Yousef’s life has been spared thus far. They request our continued intercession that:

a.      Yousef’s death sentence will be revoked, his conviction overturned and any further charges against him dropped

b.      Yousef, his wife, Fatemeh, and their two sons will know the comfort, presence and hope of Jesus, and that the family will be reunited soon

c.       All believers in Iran facing trials because of their faith will know the Spirit’s guiding wisdom

d.      Farshid and other believers serving jail sentences will know the presence and peace of Jesus, remain strong in their faith and clear in their testimony and witness

e.      Christians throughout Iran will not be intimidated but will know the Lord’s enabling and guidance

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, and quoted from freely in reports citing "Middle East Concern" as the source of the information.

Latest Requests

  • Sudan: Update on pastors on trial

    Posted on 15th July

    Greetings in the name of Jesus.

    Christians in Sudan request our continued prayers for Michael Yat (49) and Peter Yen Reith (36), two South Sudanese pastors on trial in Khartoum who had their latest hearing yesterday, 14th July.

    In yesterday's hearing, lawyers presented the case for the defence. There were two witnesses, an IT expert and a retired army general. The pastors have stated that some of the "incriminating" documents allegedly found on their computers are not theirs. The IT expert testified as to how easy it would have been for others to plant the documents on their computers without their knowledge. The retired general testified that the documents used as evidence against the pastors are in the public domain and are not related to military or other state secrets as had been alleged.

    The next hearing will be on 23rd July and will be for procedural purposes only. The verdict is expected during a hearing on 5th August.

    Observers from a number of foreign embassies were present at yesterday's hearing. An official from the Sudanese Ministry of Justice told one of the pastors' lawyers that the extent of outside interest has led the Government to take a very close interest in the case.

    On 3rd July we requested prayer for an associate of the two pastors, Pastor Hafez, and for one of their lawyers, Mohaned Mustafa. Both were briefly detained on 1st July when challenging a government employee who was overseeing the destruction of parts of the church complex. The employee was attempting to destroy a part of the complex that was not within the government order. It is still not known when the case against Pastor Hafez and Mohaned will be brought to court.

    Christians in Sudan ask us to pray that:
    a. Pastor Yat and Pastor Reith, together with their families, will know the Lord's peace and protection
    b. all charges against them will be dropped
    c. similarly, that the charges against Pastor Hafez and Mohaned will be dropped
    d. church leaders in Sudan will know the Lord's wisdom in the face of increasing pressures against them
    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.

     

     
  • Syria & Iraq: Franciscan priest released, other Christians abducted and murdered

    Posted on 13th July 2015

    Greetings in the name of Jesus, the Lamb of God.

    On 8th July MEC requested prayer following the abduction of Father Dhiya Aziz, an Iraqi  Franciscan priest serving in north-west Syria. Fr Dhiya had been missing since Saturday 4th July.
     
    MEC is pleased to report that he has been released. The Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, the order to which Fr Dhiya is affiliated, reported his liberation on 9th July, noting that he had been treated well during his ordeal. They added that Jabhat an-Nusra, the al-Qaeda affiliate group controlling that area, allegedly assisted in securing Fr Dhiya's release from another group responsible for the abduction.
     
    This incident highlights the significant danger of kidnapping at the hands of a wide range of extremist or opportunist groups, faced by many communities in Syria and Iraq. Minority communities feel especially vulnerable to abduction, including kidnappings for ransom.
     
    Between 21st June and 1st July, four Christians were abducted in Baghdad. One was released following police intervention. For the other three, ransoms were demanded and paid. However, two were murdered, even though ransoms had been paid. The other was released. Imad Youkhana, an Iraqi Christian member of parliament, issued a statement on 9th July in which he decried this violence and urged Iraqi authorities to provide greater protection for Iraq’s Christians. He claimed that the violence is part of an intimidation campaign to force Christians to emigrate, but noted the wider impact as the unity of Iraqi society is undermined. An Iraqi NGO, the Hammurabi Human Rights Organization, today (13th July) issued a similar appeal for the protection of Christians in Iraq.
     
    Christians in Syria and Iraq are grateful for the prayers of many around the world. They ask for continued prayer that:
    a.  the families of those abducted and murdered in Iraq will know the presence and comfort of Jesus as they mourn
    b.  Fr Dhiya and others recently released will know the Lord's healing and restoration following their ordeals, and that they and their associates will know His protection and wisdom in all aspects of their life and ministry
    c.  all who are still abducted will know the Lord's comfort and sustaining, and that they will be released soon
    d.  Christians in Syria and Iraq will know the Spirit's wisdom and guidance each day
    e.  violence will cease, peace will be restored and the clear rule of law will be applied equally for all in every part of Syria and Iraq
    f.  those responsible for the abduction and murder of innocent civilians, and all who use violent means, will know the Spirit's conviction of sin, seek the Father's forgiveness and find new life in the Son

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

     
  • Iran: Christian prisoner informed of early release date

    Posted on 8th July 2015

     

    Greetings in the name of Jesus, the Prince of Peace.

     

    Iranian Christians rejoice in a positive development in the case of Farshid Fathi, in prison since December 2010, who has been informed that he is due for early release. 

     

    Farshid was among 22 believers arrested in Tehran on 26th December 2010 as part of a wider wave of arrests. By the end of April 2011 all had been released except Farshid. In April 2012 Farshid was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment, charged with "acting against national security through membership of a Christian organization, collection of funds, and propaganda against the Islamic Regime by helping spread Christianity in the country". Originally held in Evin Prison, Farshid was transferred to Rajai Shahr Prison in Karaj in August 2014. An additional year was added to his sentence following claims by the authorities that alcohol had been discovered during a raid on Evin Prison in April 2014.

     

    On 4th July prison authorities in Rajai Shahr notified Farshid in writing that he is due for early release in December 2015 (rather than December 2017 if he were to serve his full sentence).

     

    There have been developments in the cases of three others sentenced on account of their faith. Pastor Behnam Irani, serving a six year sentence since April 2010, has been allowed a 15-day furlough from Ghezal Hesar prison on payment of bail equivalent to $50,000. Eskandar Rezai and Bijan Haghighi, members of a fellowship raided in Shiraz in October 2012, have been summoned to serve their sentences. Along with five others, Eskandar and Bijan were given sentences ranging from one year to six years for crimes of "action against national security" and "propaganda against the order of the system." In 2014 the other five were summoned to serve their sentences in Shiraz, but Eskandar and Bijan remained free on bail. Following the recent summons, Eskander is now in Adelabad Prison, Shiraz, serving a one year sentence, and Bijan will soon start serving a three year prison sentence.

     

    Iranian Christians request our prayers that:

    a. the Iranian authorities will stand by their commitment to release Farshid in December, or earlier

    b. God will keep Farshid and bless him in these last months of imprisonment

    c. the furlough will be a time of great encouragement and renewal for Behnam and his family

    d. prisoners in Iran will be treated with respect and dignity as beings created in the image of God, and that others in prison on account of their faith in Jesus, including Eskander and Bijan and their five associates, will be released soon

    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.

     
  • Syria: Abduction of Franciscan priest

    Posted on 8th July 2015

     

    Greetings in the name of Jesus, the Lamb of God.

     

    As violence continues in many parts of their country, Syrian Christians request renewed prayer for peace and for all affected by the ongoing conflict, including Christian communities following the abduction of a Franciscan priest on Saturday 4th July in north-west Syria.

     

    Father Dhiya Aziz, who is Iraqi, was taken by militants from Yacoubieh, Idlib Province, where he serves as parish priest. The militants were purportedly taking him for a brief meeting with the Emir who exercises authority in that area, which is under the control of the al-Qaeda affiliate group, Jabhat an-Nusra.

     

    The Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land report that no news has been received of Fr. Dhiya since his abduction. Some draw hope from the fact that two militants later returned to collect Fr. Dhiya's medication. Some also draw hope from the fact that, in October 2014, Fr. Hanna Jallouf, the Franciscan priest of the neighbouring parish of Qunayeh, was released along with several of his parishioners within a few days of their abduction by militants.

     

    However, several church leaders abducted by militant groups in recent years remain unaccounted for. These include: Fr. Michel Kayyal (Armenian Catholic) and Fr. Maher Mahfouz (Greek  Orthodox), abducted in February 2013; Bishop Yohanna Ibrahim (Syriac Orthodox) and Bishop Boulos Yaziji (Greek Orthodox), abducted in April 2013; Fr. Paolo Dall'Oglio (Jesuit), abducted in July 2013 - recent rumours suggest he may no longer be alive; and Fr. Jacques Mourad (Syriac Catholic), abducted in May 2015.

     

    In north-east Syria, advances by Daesh ('Islamic State') militants in the city of Hassaka on 24th June led to further mass displacement, including of Assyrian Christian families, some of whom had fled to the city when their villages were overrun by Daesh in February.

     

    Syrian Christians ask us to pray that:

    a.  Fr. Dhiya will know the Lord's presence and protection, and that he will be released soon

    b.  others abducted who remain unaccounted for will similarly know the Lord's comfort and sustaining, and that they will be released soon

    c.  those displaced from their homes will know the Lord's care and provision, and will be able to return before long

    d.  violence will cease, peace will be restored and the clear rule of law will be applied equally for all in Syria

    e.  those responsible for the murder and abduction of innocent civilians will know the Spirit's conviction of sin, seek the Father's forgiveness and find new life in the Son

     

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

     
  • Sudan: Update on pastors on trial

     

    Posted on 3rd July 2015


    Greetings in the name of Jesus.

    Christians in Sudan request our continued prayers for Michael Yat (49) and Peter Yen Reith (36), two South Sudanese pastors on trial in Khartoum who had their latest hearing yesterday, 2nd July. They also request prayers for their lawyer, Mohaned Mustafa, and an associate, Pastor Hafez, both of whom were briefly detained on 1st July.

    Yesterday the judge questioned Pastor Yat and Pastor Reith, focusing on why they should be involved in Christian ministry in an Islamic country, and decided their case would continue to trial. The next hearing has been set for 14th July. The two pastors' lawyer has been denied access to them. Pastor Yat and Pastor Reith were arrested in December 2014 and January 2015 respectively and charged with multiple offences, including undermining the constitutional system and espionage (offences which carry the death penalty) and blasphemy (which may be punished by whipping).

    On 1st July Pastor Hafez of the Evangelical Church in Bahri (where Pastor Yat preached before his arrest) and Mohaned (the lawyer not only for the two pastors but also for the church) were arrested and detained briefly before being released on bail. The authorities had come to destroy part of the church complex, on the order of government officials. When Pastor Hafez and the lawyer complained that the government employee was attempting to destroy part of the church compound that was not within the government order, they were both arrested for obstructing a public servant in the exercise of his duties. The government employee continued to destroy the part of the compound that was not within the order.

    The lawyer was driven to the police station but the pastor was made to walk there in handcuffs - a deliberate attempt to humiliate him. During his detention Pastor Hafez was hit on the side of his head with a gun. After his release he needed to go to hospital for x-rays.

    It is not yet known when the case against Pastor Hafez and the lawyer will be brought to court.

    Christians in Sudan ask us to pray that:
    a. Pastor Yat, Pastor Reith, Pastor Hafez and the lawyer Mohaned, together with their families, will know the Lord's peace and protection
    b. all charges against them will be dropped
    c. church leaders in Sudan will know the Lord's wisdom in the face of increasing pressures against them
    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.