In response to a year of persecution and the imminent passing of a law making the death sentence mandatory for all Muslim men who turn to Christ and life imprisonment for Muslim women who turn to Christ, Iranian church leaders are calling for prayer and fasting November 21 – 23rd 2008.
They know they have no influence in the courts of men – but they want to take their case to the courts of heaven.
And like Esther of old, the queen of Iran who told Mordecai to ask all the people of God to pray and fast for three days, so Iranian Christian leaders are asking the world-wide church to also set aside these three days for prayer and fasting.
If you are a prayer leader in your church, please contact other intercessors to be involved in these three days, and please approach your pastor to see if special prayers for Iran can be made at your church service on Sunday November 23rd.
2008: YEAR OF INTIMIDATION FOR CHRISTIANS IN IRAN
The growing church in Iran is under attack. Since April there have been at least fifty three arrests of people whose only crime is their faith in Jesus Christ. The arrests are not localised, but have happened in all of Iran’s major cities…Tehran, Mashhad, Isfahan, Shiraz, Kerman, and elsewhere. Sometimes people have been released the same day, others spent months in prison, some still remain behind bars. Many of them have had to pay exorbitant fees for bail and face frightening court cases. Some have suffered physically while in detention and it is believed that one elderly couple died as a result of being beaten up. These are only the arrests that get reported: it is likely there have been many more.
All of this has been happening against the ominous background of legislation going through the Iranian parliament that will make the death sentence mandatory for any man who leaves Islam and chooses another faith. Women will face life imprisonment for the same ‘crime’. Click here to read more about this legislation.
Despite the persecution, the church in Iran continues to grow rapidly. The Word of God is reaching many in the country and many believers are determined to courageously share Christ with their countrymen. Christian leaders in Iran believe that the church will continue to grow very rapidly in the next five to ten years, such is the openness of Iranians to the Gospel.
Elam Ministries urges Christians, world wide to pray and fast on behalf of the church in Iran.
- Pray for all those who have been arrested and intimidated. Pray that the Lord will be their Rock, Deliverer and Shield. (Psalm 18:2)
- Pray that despite the persecution, Christians will be “encouraged to speak the Word of God more courageously and fearlessly.” (Phil 1:14)
- Pray against the law of apostasy. Pray that the severe mandatory punishments regarding apostasy in Iran’s new penal code will not enter the statute book. Pray that many millions of Muslims will see the evil of this law and will hunger for spiritual truth and salvation.
OVERVIEW OF INTIMIDATION*
April, Amol, Mazandaran: a Christian husband and his pregnant wife are arrested. The wife is released after three days, the husband not till the end of May and only when he had secured his bail with his home. He has to face charges in court.
May 11th, Shiraz: Homayon Gholamzadeh and his wife Fariba and Amir Hussein Anari, and his wife Fatemeh, were arrested at the airport and taken directly to jail. All were questioned about their faith and church involvement. The wives were released the same day, but Anari was not released till May 14th, and Gholamzadeh not till May 22nd. The same day Allaedin Hossein, his wife and three children were arrested, their home searched, and computers and books confiscated. All were released apart from the eldest son, Mujtaba Hussein, aged 21. He was kept in prison till June 3rd and then only released on $20,000 bail.
May 13th, Shiraz: Mahmood Matin and Arash Bandari, were arrested while walking in a park. Both were kept in solitary confinement till July 15th, when they were placed in a cell together.
May 31st, Tehran: Police arrest forty four year old Mohsen Namvar and confiscated his computer. Mohsen was in prison in 2007 when he was beaten so badly he could hardly walk. No reason was given for this second arrest. He was released on June 27th with high fever and shaking hands. He refuses to talk to his wife about his treatment. The family had to pay the security forces $43,000 for bail – and received no receipt. In early July they fled Iran as refugees.
June 3rd, Tehran: Christian couple, Tina Rad and Makan Arya were arrested and interrogated for holding Bible studies with Muslims. During their four day ordeal both were badly beaten up and the authorities threatened to put their four year old daughter into an institution. They had to raise a total of $50,000 to be released on bail.
July 12th, Tehran:. Mohsen Radfar arrested travelling to the city.
July 12th, Kerman: Twelve Christians are arrested at the airport on their way to a conference. While being questioned their homes are searched. They are released the same day.
July 17th, Isfahan: Sixteen Christians, including six women and two minors, arrested during a service. The elderly hosts of the meeting, Abbas Amiri and Sakineh Rahnama were so badly beaten that both later died: Abbas on July 30th, his wife on August 3rd.
Early August, Shiraz: Mahmood Matin Azad and Arash Basirat, imprisoned in Shiraz since May 13th, are formally charged with apostasy, which carries the death sentence.
August 8th, Kerman: A Christian couple, Dariush and Shireen, are arrested.
August 12th, Arak: Shahin Zanboori is arrested and suffered beatings while in prison as authorities attempted to find out the names of other believers. He was released on August 31st, but faces a court case.
Mid August, Mashad: A Christian, Iman Rashidi, is arrested.
August 21st, Mashad: Ramtin Soodmand, minister of the Evangelical Church, is imprisoned. Ramtin is the son of martyred Revd Hossein Soodmand who was hanged in 1990 for being an apostate from Islam. Ramtin’s mother is blind.
September 22nd, Urumieh: Assyrian Evangelical Minister, Revd. S. Yadegar and another Christian man are arrested and held in prison charged with evangelizing.
September 23rd, Shiraz: All the charges against Mahmood Matin Azad and Arash Basirat are dropped and they are released.
September 28th, Urumieh: A Christian man, Sobhan, is arrested.
October 20th, Mashad: Fereshteh Dibaj and her husband Amir Montazami, who were arrested and held last year, are threatened again by the court that they could be imprisoned. Fereshteh Dibaj is the daughter of Mehdi Dibaj who was imprisoned for nine years for his Christian faith. He was sentenced to death for apostasy in 1993, but was released after international pressure, only to be murdered in the summer of 1994.
October 22nd, Mashad: Ramtin Soodmand freed.
* Main sources: Compass Direct, FCNN
NEW PENAL CODE – MANDATORY DEATH FOR CONVERTS
This intimidation of Christians has been happening while parliament has been revising Iran’s penal code whereby death for male converts will be mandatory. Articles 225-8 of the new code bluntly states that punishment for a male apostate is ‘death’ and for a female it is life imprisonment – unless she re-cants. In a similar way that Nazis argued over the definition of a Jew, so this code has special clauses for ‘parental’ and ‘innate’ apostates. The former have three days to recant; the latter none. Such details do nothing to hide the fundamental injustice of a law that seeks to ferociously punish its citizens for choosing their own religion.
Up to now the death sentence has been available as a punishment for apostasy from Islam in Iran, but individual judges could use their discretion. However the word used in this new legislation is ‘hadd’ which means this is a fixed punishment that cannot be changed, reduced, or annulled.
This proposed bill also introduces a new crime into Iran’s statute book – ‘establishing weblogs and sites promoting corruption, prostitution and apostasy’ Those found guilty could be punished with death or the amputation of their arms and legs.
The new Penal Code was approved by the Iranian parliament by 196 – 7 votes on September 9th and is now being reviewed before it is sent back to parliament for another vote, and then to the Guardian Council for its final consent. It will then become law.
From the human perspective it is inevitable that this new penal code will become law, so threatening the lives not just of thousands of Christians from Muslim backgrounds, but any believer who wants to witness to the fact that Jesus Christ is the only Saviour, for this is ‘promoting apostasy’.
As in the days of the early church, when Peter was put in prison, there can still be a but…
So Peter was put in prison, but the church was earnestly praying…
Please start praying now, and put November 21st – 23rd in your diaries for praying and fasting.