Iranian Christians request prayer for four Christians belonging to the self-styled “Church of Iran” network who are due to appear in Rasht Revolutionary Court on 15th October charged with “actions against national security”.
On 13th May security agents raided the home of Yousef Nadarkhani, a church leader who attracted international attention after he was charged with apostasy and sentenced to death in 2010. He was eventually acquitted of apostasy charges, but was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment for evangelising. He was released on 7th December 2013.
Following this raid in May, Yousef and his wife Tina were arrested along with Yasser Mossayebzadeh, Saheb Fadaie and Mohammed Reza Omidi, and their phones, computers and Christian literature were confiscated. Yousef and Tina were released later that day, but Yasser, Saheb and Mohammed Reza were detained and interrogated for several weeks before being released on bail.
Yousef, Yasser, Saheb and Mohammed Reza were charged with acting against national security – a common charge levelled against Christian converts who are recognised as having leadership responsibilities in the Christian community.
In addition, Yaser, Saheb and Mohammed Reza faced charges related to consumption of alcohol, for drinking wine during a communion service. They had a hearing on 10th September, but a verdict has yet to be given. If found guilty, they are likely to receive a sentence of flogging (Mohammed Reza received 80 lashes for the same offence in 2012).
Drinking alcohol is not illegal for Christians, but under applicable Islamic law it is prohibited for Muslims. The charges brought against Christian converts reflect the state view that a Muslim cannot change religion.
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Those close to Yousef, Yasser, Saheb and Mohammed Reza request prayer that:
a. they will be successfully defended in court, and will be acquitted of all charges
b. the judges and other court officials will love mercy and act justly
c. the money submitted as bail will be safely returned
d. God will strengthen and encourage faithful Christians in Iran to withstand persecution
e. all officials involved will also learn about Jesus and choose to follow Him