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

  • Syria: Destruction of monastery, update on abducted Christians

    Posted on 21st August

     

    Greetings in the name of Jesus.

    On 7th August we requested prayer following the abduction by Daesh (so-called "Islamic State" or ISIS) militants on 5th August of more than 200 civilians from the town of al-Qaryatain in Homs governorate, including at least 60 Christians.

    According to reports issued on 20th August, Daesh militants proceeded to demolish the Syrian Catholic monastery of Saint Elian in al-Qaryatain, built on the site of the 1,500-year-old tomb of Saint Elian. Reports also claim that Daesh has moved more than 100 abductees to its heartland in Raqqa province, including Christians who have been forced either to convert to Islam or be subjugated under the 'jizya' tax. It remains unclear whether those moved to Raqqa include the priest Father Jacques Mourad and deacon Boutros Hanna, who were abducted in al-Qaryatain on 21st May.

    In a separate development 22 elderly Assyrian Christians (14 women and 8 men) were released by Daesh on 11th August. These Christians were among the group of more than 230 Christians abducted from villages in al-Hassaka governorate on 23rd February. More than 180 of these abductees are understood to remain in captivity. Ransom demands have previously been made for the release of these abductees, though church sources deny that payments were made to Daesh for the 22 recently released.

    Elsewhere, Father Antoine Boutros, a Greek Catholic priest of Saint Philip's church in Shahba in Suweida governorate, was released on 15th August following a month of captivity and after intervention by local dignitaries. Father Antoine and his driver Said al-Abdoun were abducted on 12th July as they travelled to a nearby village to celebrate mass. It is not yet confirmed whether Said has also been released. Nor is it known which group was responsible for their abduction.

    Syrian Christians request prayer that:
    a. all those who are still abducted will find refuge in God in their distress, and that He will strengthen and protect them
    b. the abductors will treat their victims with compassion and set them free
    c. the Christians among those abducted will be faithful witnesses to their captors and fellow captives
    d. those who have recently been released will know the Lord's comfort, healing and provision
    e. violence will cease, peace will be restored and the clear rule of law will be applied equally for all in Syria

     

    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 pastors imprisoned for their faith

    Posted on 20th August

     

    Greetings in the name of Jesus.

     

    On 6th August Middle East Concern reported that Pastor Michael Yat (49) and Pastor Peter Yen Reith (36) had been banned from leaving Sudan despite their release after they were unjustly imprisoned in the capital Khartoum.

     

    The pastors' lawyer has been appealing against the travel ban which had been imposed by the prosecutor. This morning (20th August) a court revoked the ban, but the National Intelligence and Security Service is appealing against that decision.

     

    As the procedure to lift the ban was taking longer than expected, the pastors sought other ways of leaving the country. They succeeded in departing from Sudan yesterday, travelling first to their home country South Sudan and then onwards from there.

     

    Please pray:
    a. that Pastor Yat, Pastor Reith and their families will know the Lord's clear guidance and provision
    b. that there will be no repercussions for others arising out of the pastors' departure from Sudan
    c. for the lawyer, who is facing charges in a related case
    d. that church leaders in Sudan will know the Lord's wisdom in the face of increasing pressures against them
    e. that 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.

     

     
  • Israel: Christian schools threatened with closure

    Posted on 10th August

    Greetings in the name of Jesus.
     
    Christians in Israel have requested prayer about risks to the continued existence of Christian schools in the country.
     
    Christian schools have a long history serving the Christian community in Israel, but recent government cuts in subsidies received by these schools, as well as restrictions in the amount of school fees which may be collected from parents, have created an impasse and in a press communiqué on 9th August the General Secretariat of the Christian Schools in Israel announced that Christian schools may not be able to open for the coming school year.
     
    There are 47 Christian schools in Israel associated with different denominations and serving mainly the Israeli Arab community of Christians and Muslims.
     
    The General Secretariat has a meeting with President Reuven Rivlin and Education Minister Naftali Bennet scheduled for the end of August to discuss the situation.
     
    Christians in Israel are asking for the Christian ethos of the schools to be protected and the significance of the schools for the Christian community to be recognised and supported by the Israeli government.
     
    Please pray that:
    a. the meeting with the President and Education Minister will be successful in finding a way forward out of the present crisis
    b. the Israeli government will recognise and support the useful role of these schools in society
    c. God will give wisdom to the General Secretariat of the Christian Schools in Israel in their discussions and the way they present the issue to the media
    d. none of the schools will have to close through the present financial pressure
     
    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: Christians abducted, village attacked

    Posted on 7th August

     

    Greetings in the name of Jesus.

    Prayer is requested for a group of at least 60 Christians abducted by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group in Syria.

    According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, at least 230 civilians were taken on Thursday in the town of Al-Qaryatain, which ISIS jihadists had captured late on Wednesday. They included at least 60 Christians, many of whom had previously fled from Aleppo province in Syria’s north to seek refuge in Al-Qaryatain.

    A commentator for the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said those abducted were wanted by ISIS for “collaborating with the regime”, and their names were on a list already prepared by the jihadists as they occupied the town. This has serious implications for those people and their lives could be in danger.

    According to sources related to the Assyrian Orthodox Metropolitan in Homs, while Al-Qaryatain was being attacked another attack by ISIS was concentrated on the town of Hawwarin 10km away. This is an Assyrian village and approximately 2,000 Assyrian Christians were forced to flee.

    Recent developments suggest that ISIS is again starting to target local Christians in Syria. In May masked men abducted Syrian priest Jacques Mourad from the Syriac Catholic Mar Elian monastery in Al-Qaryatain near the ancient city of Palmyra, after it was captured by ISIS. Father Mourad, who helped both Christians and Muslims, was preparing aid for an influx of refugees from Palmyra and his whereabouts are still unknown. Pope Francis mentioned him specifically in public prayer on 26th July.

    Prayer is requested that:
    a.    those abducted will find refuge in God in their distress and that He will strengthen and protect them
    b.    the abductors will treat their victims with compassion and set them free
    c.    the Christians among those abducted will be a faithful witness to their captors and fellow captives
    d.    those who have fled from Hawwarin will find refuge
    e.    Father Mourad will be restored to freedom

     

    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: Travel ban for pastors

    Posted on 6th August

     

    Greetings in the name of Jesus.

    After they were released from prison yesterday, Pastor Michael Yat (49) and Pastor Peter Yen Reith (36) travelled to the airport to leave Sudan this morning.

    However, they were not allowed to fly out due to a travel ban that is still in force.

    Their lawyer has returned to the judge to ask for the ban to be lifted.

    He was told to come back on Sunday (after the Sudanese weekend) to file a petition.

    However, the judge will only have jurisdiction if the travel ban was instituted by the prosecutor as part of the legal proceedings.

    If the travel ban was instigated by the Sudanese National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) the judge will have no jurisdiction and the lawyer will have to petition the NISS to have it lifted.

    This would be much more difficult.

    Middle East Concern is hopeful that the two South Sudanese pastors will be able to travel early next week.

    Please pray:
    a. for Pastor Yat, Pastor Reith and their families
    b. that the two pastors will be able to travel as soon as possible
    b. that church leaders in Sudan will know the Lord's wisdom in the face of increasing pressures against them
    c. that 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.