Iran: update on Armenian pastor detained in raid on Christmas celebration

Posted on 11th January 2013

 

 

Greetings in the name of Jesus, Prince of Peace

 

On 31st December we requested prayer for Pastor Vruir Avanessian who was detained by security agents during a raid on a gathering of believers on 27th December.

 

We are pleased to report that Pastor Vruir was released from Evin prison in Tehran yesterday (10th January). Property title deeds were submitted as bail, and he is awaiting a summons to a court hearing. The date of the hearing is not yet known and the charges he will face remain unspecified.

 

Recall that he was detained when 15 security agents interrupted a Christmas celebration attended by approximately 50 believers, most of whom were from Muslim backgrounds (Pastor Vruir himself is of Armenian descent). All were required to complete a detailed pre-prepared questionnaire. Among details collected were contact details, email and social media ID and password information, and details of how they had come to accept Christianity. Mobile phones were confiscated and they were advised that they would be summoned individually for further questionning.

 

There was serious concern for Pastor Vruir’s health because he requires regular dialysis for a chronic kidney disease. We are pleased to report that he did receive regular medical treatment whilst detained.

 

At least 20 other believers are known to remain detained in Iran because of their Christian faith or activities. These include Pastor Farshid, held in Evin prison since December 2010, and Pastor Behnam, held in Ghezal Hesar prison, Karaj, since May 2011. Behnam is not receiving the medical treatment necessary for a serious health issue. Pastor Saeed, a dual Iranian-American national held in Evin prison since 26th September 2012, has been informed that his case will be assigned to a Revolutionary Court judge who is notorious for his harsh sentences. No date has yet been set for Saeed’s court hearing

 

Those supporting Pastor Vruir and his family praise God for his conditional release and thank us for our prayers. Iranian Christians request our continued prayer that:

a.      Pastor Vruir will know the peace and presence of Jesus, quickly return to normal living, and that all charges against him will be dropped

b.      The others present at the Christmas gathering will know the peace of Jesus, that the investigations will be dropped and they will face no further legal proceedings

c.       Farshid, Behnam, Saeed and all others who remain detained for their faith will know the peace and presence of Jesus, that they will be released soon, and that all charges against them will be dropped

d.      Christians throughout Iran will know the Spirit’s wisdom, especially concerning when and where to meet for worship

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

 

Latest Requests

  • Iran: Christian released from prison in Shiraz

    Posted on 30th March 2015

    Greetings in the name of Jesus.

    On 29th January MEC reported the release of Vahid Hakkani and asked for prayer for the release of two other believers held with him, Mojtaba Hosseini and Homayoun Shokouhi. Iranian Christians rejoice that Mojtaba was set free on 18th March and that Homayoun was recently allowed ten days' leave from prison for Nowruz, the Iranian New Year holiday.

    These three were among eight believers arrested on 8th February 2012 in coordinated raids by security agents in Shiraz. Although all the others have now been released, Homayoun remains in detention to complete his sentence of 3 years and 8 months, with an additional suspended sentence of 8 months.

    Four were released in 2012. On 10th January 2013 the other four believers, Homayoun, Kurosh, Mojtaba and Vahid, were brought before the Revolutionary Court of Shiraz on charges of 'disrupting national security' and 'propaganda against the regime' (related to their involvement in a house church), evangelism, and contact with Christians outside Iran. They were found guilty and received prison sentences of three years and eight months each.

    Kurosh was released on 18th May 2014 and Homayoun was released on 10th November 2014 - only to have his bail conditions cancelled and be returned to prison. Vahid was released on Monday 26th January 2015 and, most recently, Mojtaba was released on 18th March 2015.

    Iranian Christians request our prayers that:
    a. Mojtaba and Vahid will know God's strength and love as they recover from imprisonment and seek God's direction for the future
    b. All those detained in Iran for their Christian faith or activities, including Homayoun, will know the Lord's strength and support during their detention and that they will be released soon
    c. All prisoners in Iran will be treated with respect and dignity as beings created in the image of God
    d. All officials involved will love mercy, act justly, learn about Jesus and choose to follow Him


    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.

     
  • Turkey: Update on Malatya murder trial

    Posted on 12th March 2015

     

    Greetings in the name of Jesus, the Good Shepherd

    Further delays are anticipated in the trial of the suspects behind the murder of three Christians at Zirve Publishing House, Malatya in Turkey in 2007.

    A recent amendment to legislation has resulted in the establishment of new courts in Istanbul, Ankara and Diyarbakir to try cases of terrorism and organised crime. Previous hearings in this case took place in Malatya, but the trial will now move, possibly to Diyarbakir, which is the closest of the new courts.

    Lawyer Erdal Dogan remarked that this will be the fourth change of judge and court officials and that this will inevitably have a negative effect on the progress of the trial as it takes a lot of time for each board of judges and prosecutors to read and acknowledge the case file.

    As mentioned in a prayer update of 22nd January 2015, all the defendants (apart from one held on a separate charge) have now been released, although the five accused perpetrators have been electronically tagged and are under house arrest. Life sentences without parole have been demanded for the killers of the three Christians (two Turkish and one German).

    Turkish Christians request our continued prayers that:
    a. The new court will quickly become engaged with the trial and that justice will be seen to be done
    b. The families and friends of the murdered Christians will know the peace and presence of Jesus, especially concerning the trial process
    c. All those who aided or perpetrated the murders would have a deep conviction about what they have done, and understand the depths of Jesus' forgiveness
    d. All Christians involved will know the Spirit's enabling, equipping and assisting as they persevere in their efforts to promote justice
    e. All judges, other officials, lawyers and journalists involved will hear the gospel of Jesus, and be drawn to the Father's love, forgiveness and acceptance

     

    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 - release of Pastor Victor

    Posted on 4th March 2015

     

    Greetings in the name of Jesus, the Good Shepherd.

    Iranian Christians are pleased to report the release from Evin Prison in Tehran of Pastor Victor Bet-Tamraz. MEC issued a prayer request on 2nd January mentioning his arrest and asking for prayer on his behalf. Pastor Victor expresses his thanks to those who have been praying for him, and says that it was a great source of encouragement to know of this support.

    On 26th December security officials raided the house of Pastor Victor and conducted a thorough search, confiscating Bibles, mobile phones and identity papers belonging to people who had gathered for a Christmas celebration. All those present were arrested and most were released shortly afterwards, but Pastor Victor, who is of Assyrian Christian background, and two other believers (from Muslim backgrounds) were taken to Evin Prison.

    The two believers detained along with Pastor Victor, Amin and Kaviyan, were released on bail a month ago. Pastor Victor was initially refused bail. However, on 1st March he was offered conditional release. The bail conditions were high and his family has had to submit title deeds to meet these conditions.

    Pastor Victor feels weak, has breathing difficulties, and has lost weight. He also has a tooth infection, but otherwise is in reasonable health. Security officials are keeping his home under observation.

    Iranian Christians rejoice at Pastor Victor's release and request prayer that:
    a. Victor will quickly recover from the ordeal and have wisdom about the next steps that he should take
    b. Victor will be able to receive adequate legal assistance
    c. Iranian justice officials will not make unreasonable bail demands
    d. All those in prison in Iran on account of their faith in Jesus will be released soon
    e. All the Iranian officials involved will love mercy, act justly, learn about Jesus and choose to follow Him

     

    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.

     
  • Syria: Update on abduction of Assyrian Christians in Hassaka Governorate

    Posted on 1st March 2015

     

    Greetings in the name of Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us.

    Last week we requested prayer for a developing situation in north-east Syria involving the abduction of large numbers of Assyrian Christians by Daesh ('Islamic State') militants.

    We are pleased to report that 19 of the hostages were released yesterday (1st March). However, grave concerns remain for the many others still being held by Daesh, now estimated to be more than two hundred. The nineteen released were taken by bus to the Church of Our Lady in Hassaka. Most are men, and all are reported to be over 50 years old. There is speculation that an Islamic court ordered their release after 'tax payments' were made on their behalf.

    The abductions began at around 4.00am on 23rd February, when Daesh launched an offensive on a 40km front along the River Khabour in Hassaka Governorate - an area in which there are around 35 predominantly Christian villages. It is believed that the abducted Christians are being held in Mount Abdelaziz, an area nearby which is under Daesh control.

    In the days following the offensive, all sources increased their initial estimates of how many were abducted and how many had fled from their villages. Most sources claim that the number of abductees is more than 200. A representative of the Assyrian Church of the East reported that 51 families failed to flee from Tal-Shamiram and are feared to have been abducted, in addition to more than 100 individuals from other villages. He noted that the number of families who have fled is expected to reach 1,200. At least 15 casualties have been reported, principally among Assyrian combatants fighting alongside Kurdish militias in defence of their areas.

    Assyrian and Syrian Church leaders have appealed to the international community to redouble efforts to stop the killing and systematic displacement of Christians, and to promote a peaceful settlement in the region.

    Syrian Christians ask us to continue to pray that:
    a.  Those abducted will know the presence and protection of Jesus, and will be released soon
    b.  Those displaced from their homes will know the Father's care and provision, and will be able to return to their villages soon
    c.  Those released will know the Spirit's comfort and healing following their ordeal
    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 abductions 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. 

     
  • Syria: abduction of Assyrian Christians in Hassaka Governorate

    Posted on 24th February 2015

     

    Syrian Christians have requested prayer for a developing situation in north-east Syria in which large numbers of Assyrian Christians have been abducted by Daesh ('Islamic State') militants.

     

    The abductions began at around 4.00am local time yesterday (23rd February) when Daesh launched an offensive on a 40km front along the River Khabour in Hassaka Governorate. There are around 35 predominantly Christian villages along the river in that area. The Daesh offensive follows clashes in which Kurdish and Syriac militias claim to have 'liberated' villages from Daesh control in neighbouring Raqqa Governorate.

     

    According to one source, more than 600 families managed to flee from these villages. However, many Christians were abducted by Daesh militants. There is still some uncertainty about the exact numbers being held; one source refers to 56 Christians having been taken from the village of Tal-Shamiram and 'dozens' from other villages. Some refer to up to 100 having been abducted.

     

    There are reports that churches in two villages were set on fire, and that a 17 year-old Christian was murdered. Examples of Muslim neighbours showing solidarity and assisting Christians have also emerged.

     

    The reason for the abductions has not been stated. There is speculation that the abductees may be used in negotiations for the release of Daesh militants captured by Kurdish militias. However, there is grave concern over the fate of the Christians, especially in view of the recent murder of 21 Christians by Daesh-affiliated militants in Libya.

     

    Syrian Christians ask us to pray that:

     

    a.  Those abducted will know the presence and protection of Jesus, and will be released soon

    b.  Those displaced from their homes will know the Father's care and provision, and will be able to return to their villages soon

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

    d. Those responsible for the abductions 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.