Research


Research Projects

Research to Address Structural Issues

MEC conducts proactive research into the underlying causes of religious persecution across the region. These seek to relieve the pressures that lead to incidents of persecution.

The structural issues covered are:

    * Church Registration and Property: including (a) the recognition of a church as a legal entity so that it can own or rent property, employ personnel, open bank accounts, sponsor visas, etc. (b) the building and maintenance of church buildings and other property.

    * Education: including (a) whether there is parental choice in the religious education of their children (b) whether Christians can operate Christian schools and if so who has control over curriculum and staff appointments (c) curriculum issues e.g. history pre-the 7th century (d) is there discrimination against Christians in admission to higher education?

    * Religious Registration and Legal Documents: the problems caused by the expression of religious registration on legal documents such as identity cards, birth certificates, passports and driving licences and the difficulty of changing the stated religion.

    * Relocation: the theological and practical issues surrounding the relocation of Christians seeking to escape religious persecution, including the benefits and drawbacks of relocation within country, within the region, to developing countries and to developed countries. The main objective is to promote the alternatives to relocation to Western nations, thereby reducing the emigration of Christians.


Methodology for Structural Issues
Research usually leads to the writing of documents that:

  • Summarise the challenges that confront Christian communities across MEC's region
  • Summarise relevant International Law and regional treaties (e.g. the Arab Charter on Human Rights)
  • Record a detailed review of the situation in each country in MEC's region.

 

Country specific reports are written for a selection of countries in MEC's region showing where the practice differs from national law, constitutional rights and the normslaid down in International Law and regional treaties.

Some require additional components, e.g. Church Registration and Property includes a chapter on the different theologies of buildings seen within and amongst Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant Christian traditions.

Research results are discussed with Christian leaders in countries where the subject researched causes significant challenges for Christian communities. Any resulting planned actions usually comprise a combination of actions to be taken by national Christians plus coordinated worldwide prayer and advocacy support. Much of the latter is done discreetly.

 

Research on Related Topics

MEC undertakes occasional research on other relevant issues. Recent examples include:

  • Family law systems across MEC's region
  • Asylum and refugee systems across the region, with a focus on central Middle Eastern countries
  • The psychological effects on the children of those following Jesus from non-Christian backgrounds due to the challenges that emerge from the structural issues of education and legal documents

 

 

Latest Requests

  • Iraq: Update on the situation of Christians in Mosul

    Posted on 18th July 2014

     

    Greetings in the name of Jesus, the eternal Rock

     

    Christians in Iraq, especially from the city of Mosul, continue to face great difficulties. They have request renewed prayer for their country at this time of turmoil and hardship.

     

    Earlier this week the militant group in control of Mosul, the 'Islamic State' (IS, previously known as ISIS) summoned Christian leaders to a meeting on 17th July to notify them of Islamic rules to be applied to non-Muslims. Christian leaders did not attend this meeting. Consequently, it was announced that remaining Christians should leave the city or else face execution. They were ordered to leave all property behind. The ultimatum was initially set for noon today (18th July) but was then extended by 24 hours.

     

    It is believed that most Christian families have now fled from Mosul, many to areas of Northern Iraq under Kurdish control. Reports have suggested that some fleeing families were stopped at checkpoints by IS militants who confiscated belongings including money, jewellery and mobile phones.

     

    Earlier this week, the IS marked houses belonging to members of minority communities with the phrase "property of the Islamic State" including inhabited houses. Christian houses were marked with the letter 'N' for Nazarite.

     

    Iraqi Christians urge us to pray, asking that:
    a. Christians in Iraq, and especially from the Mosul area, will know the peace of Jesus, the guidance of the Spirit and the protection of the Father
    b. The displaced families will find sanctuary and that humanitarian assistance would reach all who are in need.
    c. Peace will be restored and that those displaced, including Christians, would be able to return to their towns.
    d. A peaceful and permanent political solution would soon be found, enabling all Iraqis to live in safety and prosperity.

     

    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.

     
  • Iraq: Abducted nuns and orphans released unharmed

    Posted on 15 July 2014

     

    Greetings in the name of Jesus, the Good Shepherd

     

    As Christians in Iraq continue to request prayer for their country, they rejoice in good news concerning two nuns and three orphans in their care who were abducted in Mosul on 28th June by Islamic militants.

     

    The nuns and orphans were released on Monday 14th July. According to the Chaldean Patriarch, no ransom was paid for their release, all are in good physical health and they were treated well during their abduction.

     

    The two nuns had disappeared on 28th June close to the Chaldean Monastery of Maskenta in Mosul. The nuns live and work in an orphanage attached to the Monastery. They were accompanied by two girls and a young boy from the orphanage. It is widely assumed that they were held by militants from the extremist group ISIS that seized control of Mosul and surrounding areas in early June.

     

    Chaldean and other church leaders continue to express grave concern for the future of Iraq's Christian communities. Similarly, other non-Sunni communities in areas controlled by ISIS fear for their future. In recent days there have been reports of atrocities against Yazidi communities, the appropriation of land belonging to Christians and members of other minority communities, and the further removal of statues and religious symbols.

     

    Iraqi Christians are grateful for our prayers and give thanks for the safe release of the five Christians. They request continued prayer, asking that:
    a. The nuns and orphans will know the comfort, healing and peace of Jesus and the protection of the Father as they adjust to their new circumstances
    b. Iraqi Christians will know the guiding wisdom of the Spirit and the protection of the Father
    c. Violence will cease, peace will be restored, those displaced (including Christians) will be able to return to their homes, and the clear rule of law will be established equally for all throughout Iraq
    d. Those in authority locally, together with the international community, will 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.

     
  • Iran: Update on house church members and leaders imprisoned for their faith in Christ

    Posted 8th July 2014

     

    Greetings in the name of Jesus, the Good Shepherd

     

    Iranian Christians have requested our prayers following developments in the long-standing cases of three house church members detained for their faith in Jesus.

     

    Mohammad Roghangir and Suroush Saraie were arrested on Saturday 5th July 2014 in Bandar Azali in northern Iran. It is believed that they have been taken to Shiraz prison in order to serve sentences handed down in July 2013.

     

    Recall that on 12th October 2012 seven believers were arrested in a raid on a prayer meeting in Shiraz. Mohammad and Suroush were among them. Although they were released from detention on 19th March 2013, they were then tried on 16th July 2013. Mohammad was sentenced to six years in prison and Suroush received two and half years. They remained at liberty pending an appeal which was subsequently rejected.

     

    The leader of an associated fellowship, Abdolreza Haghnejad (also known as Matthias), was also arrested on 5th July. Security officials raided his home in Rasht and confiscated Christian materials, including Bibles. He has yet to be charged.

     

    In May 2011 Abdolreza and a number of other believers were acquitted of charges that included propaganda against the state. Abdolreza was tried again on 8th April 2012 and the judge ruled, on the basis of the previous acquittal, that there was no case against him. On 22nd August 2013 there was a new Tribunal hearing in Rasht at which he faced charges of actions against national security.

     

    Even after release, former prisoners continue to experience hardship. In some cases those released prisoners have been pressurised by security officials to become informers. Many former prisoners suffer psychological trauma and some have struggles in areas of marriage and family relationships.

     

    Iranian Christians request our prayers that:
    a.  Mohammad and Suroush will experience the Lord's support during this time of imprisonment
    b.  Abdolreza and his family will know the Lord's presence and support
    c.  Those who have been released will be know his physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual healing, and experience his strength and enabling as they and their families adapt
    d.  All prisoners in Iran will be treated with respect and dignity, as beings created in the image of God
    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.

     
  • Sudan - Update on Christian sentenced to death, released and detained again

    Posted on 27th June 2014

     

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

     

    On 25th June we requested further prayer for Meriam Yahia Ibrahim, who remained in a police detention centre, accompanied by her family. They had been detained at the airport and prevented from leaving the country on 24th June, the day after the Appeals Court had overturned her conviction and death sentence for apostasy.

     

    We are pleased to report that Meriam was released from the detention centre yesterday (26th July) at about 9.30pm local time after the Attorney General accepted a guarantor for her conditional release. She and her family are now at the US Embassy.

     

    Allegations that Meriam had used false travel documents and had given false statements are being investigated. Meriam's lawyers expect to have a meeting with the Attorney General on 29th June to hear whether charges will be filed against her. The family had attempted to leave Sudan using a travel document issued by the Embassy of South Sudan, as the husband holds South Sudanese nationality (as well as US citizenship). The Embassy of South Sudan has attested to the validity of the travel document.

     

    There remains a possibility that the Attorney General will appeal the verdict that acquitted Meriam of apostasy, once that verdict is issued in written form.

     

    Christians supporting this family thank us for our prayers and rejoice that Meriam has been freed once again. They request our continued prayer that:
    a. Meriam, Daniel, Martin and Maya will know the peace, presence and comfort of Jesus
    b. The investigation will be concluded soon, with no further charges brought against Meriam
    c. The family will be allowed to leave Sudan and will know the Spirit's clear guidance for their future
    d. Christians across Sudan, and especially those from Muslim backgrounds, will know the Father's protection, the Son's peace and the Spirit's wisdom
    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: Update on imprisoned pastor beaten and taken to an unknown location

    Posted on 27th June 2014

     

    Greetings in the name of Jesus, the Good Shepherd

     

    On 10th June we requested prayer for Pastor Behnam Irani, imprisoned in Iran since May 2011, who had been transferred from prison to an unknown location

     

    On Monday 23rd June, Behnam was returned to his cell at Ghezal Hesar prison in Karaj. Family and friends are grateful that his whereabouts are now known again and that they are able to visit him.

     

    Recall that on the 7th June Behnam was summoned to appear before the head of a revolutionary tribunal in Karaj. He was taken by force to the head of the revolutionary tribunal before being transferred to an unknown location. It was reported by fellow prisoners that Behnam suffered beatings at the hands of intelligence officials during this operation.

     

    Behnam was sentenced to six years in prison in 2011 on charges of offences against national security. He has been badly treated during his imprisonment and his health suffered to the extent that he needed an operation in February to stop internal bleeding.

     

    However, the whereabouts of eight Christians who were arrested on Easter Sunday (18th April 2014) remains unknown. According to a report by the Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), Ehsan Sadeghi, Nazi Irani, Maryam Asadi, Ali Arfa`, Vahid Safi, Enayat Safi, Amin Mazloumi and another person were arrested during a raid by security forces on a church in southern Tehran. Three of the detainees are of Afghan origin. The families have been told that a military organisation conducted the arrests and that no communication with family members would be allowed until interrogations had been completed.

     

    Iranian Christians request our prayers that:
    a.  Behnam and his family will know the Lord's presence and support
    b.  He will experience God's physical healing during this time of incarceration
    c.  The eight missing Christians and their family and friends will know God's protection and peace
    d.  Prisoners in Iran will be treated with respect and dignity, as beings created in the image of God
    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.