Iran: update #3 on dual-national detained for Christian activities

Posted 28th January 2013

 

Greetings in the name of Jesus, Prince of Peace

 

Last week we requested prayer for Saeed, an Iranian believer from a Muslim background who is currently detained in Tehran and faced a hearing in a Revolutionary Court on 21st January.

 

We regret to report that the judge has informed Saeed’s lawyer that Saeed has been convicted of anti-state activities due to his work with house fellowships and a jail sentence of eight years’ imprisonment imposed. The court has not yet issued the written verdict and sentence. It is understood the Saeed is entitled to appeal the conviction and sentence.

 

Recall that Saeed was in Iran to visit his parents and to conduct humanitarian activities. In 2009 he had been warned about his activities with house fellowships, and so had focused on humanitarian activities during subsequent visits to Iran. He has joint Iranian-US citizenship, and his wife and children are in the US. He has been detained since 26th September.

 

Christians supporting this family thank us for our prayers. They request our continued intercession, asking that:

a.      Saeed will know the close presence of Jesus each day

b.      Naghmeh, their two children and his parents will know Jesus’ presence and peace

c.       The appeal will be successful and the conviction and sentence dropped, and that he will be allowed to travel freely from and to Iran and to continue his humanitarian work in the country

d.      Others currently detained in Iran for their Christian faith or activities will be released and all charges against them dropped

e.      Others facing court hearings for their Christian faith or activities will know the Spirit’s guiding wisdom as and when their hearings are held, and that all charges will be dropped

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

  • Iran: update on Pastor serving six year prison sentence

    Posted on 23rd April 2014

     

    Greetings in the name of Jesus, the Good Shepherd

     

    Iranian Church leaders have requested further intercession for Pastor Farshid Fathi, a believer from a Muslim background, who is serving a six-year prison sentence. He was injured on 17th April when revolutionary guards attacked a number of prisoners held in Evin prison, Tehran. Farshid suffered a broken foot and toe after he intervened in the beating of another prisoner and a guard stamped on his foot. He was taken to hospital for treatment on 20th April as a day patient. Approximately 30 fellow prisoners were injured, some more seriously than Farshid. Three other Christians were included on a list of those who had been beaten: namely Ebrahim Firouzi, Rasoul Abdullahi and Alireza Seyyedian. Their injuries are understood to be minor.

     

    Recall that Farshid was arrested on 26th December 2010 along with a number of other Christian leaders. He was taken directly to Evin prison, Tehran, and has remained there ever since. He has been subjected to periods of solitary confinement, intense interrogation and at times he has been denied communication with his family. In March 2012 he was convicted on charges of anti-state political activity, charges that were derived from his leadership of a network of house fellowships. In June 2013 his appeal was rejected and the six-year sentence upheld.

     

    Across Iran, at least 50 others are known to be in prison because of their Christian faith or activities. Some, like Farshid, have been convicted and sentenced, though many have not yetbeen formally charged. Others have been released on bail and are awaiting hearings.

     

    Christians supporting Farshid request our prayers that:

    a.      Farshid, together with others injured on 17th April, will know the healing touch of Jesus

    b.      Farshid, his wife and their two children will know the presence, peace and protection of Jesus each day

    c.       Likewise for others convicted and imprisoned for their Christian activities, and that they will remain steadfast in their faith and clear in their witness and testimony

    d.      Those detained would have access to Scriptures and be able to communicate with their families

    e.      All those detained unjustly will be released

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

     

    Open sources used: Elam Ministries, Mohabat News

     

    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: call for day of prayer as violence continues

    Posted on 7th April 2014

     

    Greetings in the name of Jesus, Prince of Peace

     

    Syrian Christians are calling for a day of prayer and fasting for Syria on 11th April. As the devastating conflict continues, Christians continue to be affected by the violence along with all other communities in Syria.

     

    We regret to report that earlier today (7th April) Father  Frans van der Lugt, a 75 year-old Dutch priest who has been resident in Syria for more than 40 years, was murdered in the Bustan ad-Diwan neighbourhood of Homs. Father van der Lugt was killed by an assailant who entered his residence, took him outside and shot him. Talal al-Barazi, governor of Homs province, has reportedly claimed that the perpetrator is associated with Jabhat an-Nusra, an al-Qaeda affiliate group in control of that area.

     

    There has been much media attention on recent events in the town of Kessab, near Syria’s border with Turkey, which has a significant Armenian population. On 21st March armed groups opposed to the government took control of the area. Up to 3,000 Christians reportedly fled. Following the take-over, some church buildings were desecrated, homes pillaged and government buildings destroyed. However, Christians from Kessab, including the town’s mayor, have refuted reports that alleged that a massacre occurred.

     

    Syrian Christians request our prayers that:

    a.      Fr. Frans’ family, friends and colleagues will know the presence, peace and comfort of Jesus

    b.      Church leaders will know the Spirit’s guiding wisdom in all aspects of their work

    c.       Those forced to leave Kessab will know the protection, provision and peace of Jesus

    d.      Efforts to secure a nationwide ceasefire will be resumed, including efforts to curb the influx of foreign fighters and weapons and to promote reconciliation

    e.      All those detained without trial or held by kidnappers will be released, including the two bishops kidnapped in April 2013, a priest kidnapped in July 2013 and two priests kidnapped in February 2013

    f.        Local initiatives to promote reconciliation will be effective and wisely supported

    g.      Humanitarian assistance will be provided for all those in need within Syria and amongst Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries.

     

    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: legal change leads to temporary release of murderers of Christians

    Posted on 12th March 2014

     

    Greetings in the name of Jesus, the Good Shepherd

     

    Last week we requested prayer regarding the effects of a legal change on the trial of five men arrested at the scene of the murder of three Christians in Malatya in April 2007. Recall that a new regulation means people cannot be held in remand for more than five years. Under these new provisions, the five perpetrators were released, as expected, on Friday evening (7th March) pending trial.

     

    The Turkish press has condemned the fact that there have not yet been convictions and expressed concern about the release of the defendants. They also point to various irregularities in the trial process. A local TV station in Malatya interviewed Susanne Geske, who continues to live in Malatya. She spoke of her forgiveness in Christ of her husband’s murderers and that she held no bitterness against them, but questioned the justice of the release and how the Christian community might thereby be affected.

     

    The Association of Protestant Churches in Turkey issued a statement today (12th March)saying that the release has caused great sorrow among Christians and that belief in justice has been shaken. They express their horror at having the perpetrators once more at large in society, especially as they had verbally threatened the relatives and lawyers of the victims in court during 2013. The Association also called on the government to do its duty and intervene promptly to prevent any miscarriage of justice.

     

    On 10th March the Justice Minister announced that four of the five would be electronically tagged. The fifth would be monitored using different technology as the tagging system would not work in the area where his family lives.

     

    The trial now involves a total of18 defendants, with 13 added during the process on charges of instigating or otherwise being involved with the crime. Those close to the trial hope that verdicts in the case of the five perpetrators will be issued soon. The prosecution have requested that the five perpetrators each receive three terms of life imprisonment.

     

    Recall that the five defendants murdered Necati Aydin, Ugur Yuksel and Tilmann Geske at the Zirve Publishing House on account of their Christian activities. Their trial opened in November 2007 but became complicated as the investigation into the murders revealed that those behind the actual perpetrators had links to wider conspiracies.

     

    Turkish Christians following the trial request our continued prayers that:

    a.      The families and friends of murdered Christians will know the peace and presence of Jesus

    b.      The Christian community in Malatya would not fear and that they wouldcontinue to show a faithful witness

    c.       The current publicity on this case will facilitate prompt completion of the judicial process

    d.      Judges throughout Turkey will be wise in applying this change in this legal change

    e.      All defendants released under the legal change would not be able to flee the country to avoid judicial processes

    f.        The truth concerning the Malatya murders will be revealed, and all guilty of involvement will be convicted

    g.      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

    h.      All Christians involved will know the Spirit's enabling, equipping and assisting as they persevere in their efforts to promote justice

    i.        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: three believers arrested as restrictions are imposed on some house church leaders

    Posted on 10th March 2014

     

    Greetings in the name of Jesus

     

    Iranian Christians have requested our prayers following the arrest on 5th March of three believers, Amin Khaki, Hossein Barunzadeh and Rahman Bahman. They were arrested near Shoush, Khuzestan province, together with five other believers, while attending a picnic. The other five present were questioned for several hours and released. The security agents reportedly had arrest warrants for Amin and Hossein, but not for the others.

     

    Amin, a deacon in the fellowship led by Behnam Irani (detained since May 2011), has faced problems from the authorities in recent years. He was arrested on 10th May 2010 in Karaj, charged with anti-government activity and given a one-year suspended sentence (suspended for five years). On 15th December 2013 the homes of Amin and several associates were searched  and computer equipment confiscated. It is understood that a travel ban was imposed on Amin and another church leader in February 2014, forbidding them from leaving Alborz province. If so, he was in breach of this order at the time of his arrest.

     

    There are concerns that these travel bans and the latest arrests are part of a wider campaign to restrict the movement and activities of known ministry leaders.

     

    Christians supporting these believers request our prayers that:

    a.      Amin, Hossein and Rahman will know the peace and presence of Jesus each day, and will remain faithful to Jesus and clear in their testimony

    b.      They will be released soon

    c.       Ministry leaders throughout Iran will know the Spirit’s guiding wisdom when confronted with pressures and restrictions from the authorities

    d.      Behnam and others detained in Iran for their faith or Christian activities will know the Lord’s daily enabling and healing, be cleared of all unjust charges and released

    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: nuns abducted from Ma’aloula released

    Posted on 10th March 2014

     

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

     

    Syrian Christians rejoice in the news that 13 Greek Orthodox nuns and their three attendants were released overnight and returned to Damascus this morning (10th March) in a prisoner exchange deal. The nuns and attendants are understood to be tired but otherwise well, and report that they were generally treated well by their captors..

     

    These nuns and their attendants were abducted on 2nd December 2013 after Jabhat al-Nusra and four other armed groups attacked Ma’aloula, a historic Christian town north of Damascus. It is understood that most of the 40 nuns at St. Thecla Convent and the orphans in their care were relocated to a safer location before the outbreak of violence. However, the Mother Superior, Pelagia Sayyaf, and some other nuns chose to stay at the Convent. It is these that were abducted when the armed groups took control of the upper part of the town including the ancient quarter in which the convent and several churches are located.

     

    The release follows extensive discreet negotiations between the Syrian government and Jabhat al-Nusra mediated by Lebanese and Qatari officials. The government is releasing 153 Syrian women detained without trial.

     

    Syrian Church leaders have requested our perseverance in prayer for peace and stability in their country. There are several causes of deep distress for many Syrians, including the continued prevalence of kidnapping, denial of access for aid convoys, attacks on aid convoys and the use of siege tactics in several areas employed by numerous parties to the on-going crisis.

     

    Syrian Christians thank us for our prayers and rejoice in the release of these people. They request our continued intercession asking that:

    a.      The nuns of Ma’aloula and their attendants will recover quickly from their ordeal, and be able to resume caring for orphans and others in need

    b.      The two bishops kidnapped in April, a monk missing since early August, two priests kidnapped in February 2013 and other Christians held hostage will be released unharmed

    c.       Syrian Christians will know the close presence of Jesus, the guidance of the Spirit and the protection of the Father

    d.      Violence will cease, peace be restored and the clear rule of law applied equally to all will be established throughout Syria

    e.      The international community, together with those in local control, will act decisively to ensure that humanitarian aid reaches all those in need.

     

    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.