Iranian Christians request further prayer for Christian converts in Rasht facing various charges. These converts have also reportedly been threatened by Revolutionary Guards, a branch of the Iranian armed forces effectively under the direct control of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Since the arrest of Yousef Nadarkhani, Yaser Mosibzadeh, Saheb Fadayee and Mohammed Reza Omidi on 13th May 2016, they have had two court hearings facing charges of action against national security – a common charge levelled against Christian converts in Iran – and a verdict is still pending.
Recently the Revolutionary Guard contacted the men and warned them against meeting together and sharing the Gospel with others. They were threatened with immediate arrest and yet more charges.
In addition Yaser, Saheb and Mohammed Reza were charged with consumption of alcohol for drinking wine during a communion service*. After a court hearing on 10th September they were found guilty and sentenced to 80 lashes each. They have an appeal hearing scheduled for 9th February 2017.
The 2016 Christmas period was notably calm for Christians in Iran and no raids on house groups or churches have been reported. This is a positive development compared to previous years when there were frequent arrests. The Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) also reported that Christian prisoner Maryam Naghash Zargaran was allowed out of prison on 27th December 2016 for a five-day furlough.
* Drinking alcohol is not illegal for Christians in Iran, 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 his / her religion.
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Although Iranian Christians are thankful for a quiet Christmas, they point out that harassment of Christians, especially converts, is continuing. Prayer is requested that:
a. the Revolutionary Guards will stop threatening Christians, and that Christians will not be intimidated
b. the four men will be acquitted of the charges of acting against national security
c. the appeal in February against the sentence of 80 lashes for consumption of alcohol will be successful
d. God will give His peace to the men and their families, and that they will not be anxious
e. all officials involved will love mercy, act justly, learn about Jesus and choose to follow Him