Displaying items by tag: Iran
When Iranian authorities arrested and executed his 18-year-old brother for a minor political crime. Hormoz wanted revenge. But God spoke to his heart: ‘Those people who killed your brother are not your enemies. They are victims in the hands of your enemies. When you see Muslims killing others they are victims.’ Today house churches in Iran celebrate with satellite broadcasts of Hormoz. He is now an evangelist in the tsunami of salvation washing over Iran. While Iran’s regional ambitions and nuclear programme dominate the news, widespread underground unseen revival is occurring.
‘The Iranian media, schools, everything you see and hear is Islamic’, said Ramin Parsa. ‘They brainwash you. We had no magazines or books. We saw caricatures of Israeli soldiers killing Palestinian babies. They sowed hatred in our hearts.’ Ramin went to the mosque every morning to pray. Every morning at school, they shouted, ‘Death to Israel! Death to America!’ Although it is illegal, every house has a satellite dish - an alternative to non-stop religious propaganda on government channels. On the Trinity channel he heard about Jesus. Ramin didn’t immediately believe. ‘If you give Jesus your heart, he will change your life. He loves you,’ the man was saying. ‘He died for you and rose again from the dead.’ Then Ramin relented. Asking to be forgiven, he started weeping. He felt God move in his body, providing heat and warmth. He rushed to see his mother, ‘Why is your face so shiny?’ she asked, bewildered.
International Christian Concern has released its annual report, documenting the abuse and condition of prisoners in Iran’s prisons. Their treatment has long been of major concern for the international community. Iran violates not only international standards of right to life and health of prisoners, but its own national code as well. Political prisoners and Christians arrested for their faith are housed with common and dangerous criminals. They are intentionally placed there for targeting. Also commonly used are solitary confinement for indefinite amounts of time and the denial of medical treatment for prisoners who are tortured or injured before incarceration. Pray for the Iranians imprisoned for their faith, including Joseph Shahbazian, an Iranian-Armenian church leader, who received the highest requested bail for any imprisoned Christian, $150,000. Saheb Zaman Fadaie, who received eighty lashes and a six-year sentence, is experiencing medical neglect.
Just days before he leaves office, US secretary of state Mike Pompeo asserted, ‘Al-Qaeda has a new home base in Iran.’ He said ties between Tehran and al-Qaeda vastly improved in 2015, when the Obama administration finalised the deal that saw Iran limit its nuclear enrichment in exchange for lifting international sanctions. In his speech Pompeo urged more international pressure on Tehran, but stopped short of calling for military action, saying, ‘If we chose to do that, there’s a much greater risk in executing it’. The speech could represent an escalation in the US’s ability to use force against Iran; the Trump administration could say it already had congressional approval for an attack on Iran, if al-Qaeda were proved to be on Iranian territory. Several incidents have brought Iran and the USA to the brink of conflict during Trump’s term. The Iranian foreign minister accused Pompeo of ‘warmongering lies’.
Iran has detained a number of foreign nationals and Iranian dual citizens in recent years, many of them on spying charges. Human rights groups have accused Tehran of using the cases as leverage to try to gain concessions from other countries. On 25 November Kylie Moore-Gilbert, a British-Australian academic serving a 10-year sentence for espionage, was freed in a swap for three jailed Iranians. She has strongly denied all charges against her, as has British-Iranian charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe who since 2016 has been in prison, also on spying charges. Her husband Richard said, ‘Nazanin and I are really happy for Kylie and her family. It is an early Christmas present for us all that one more of us is out and on their way home; one more family can begin to heal.’ Amnesty International said, ‘There may now be renewed grounds for hoping that UK-Iranian dual-nationals like Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori will also be released in the coming days or week.’
Harsh sentences reflect dark times for both recognised and underground churches in Iran. The flogging of an underground Christian, and the harsh prison sentence upheld for the pastor of a legally-recognised church, reflect the growing dangers for Christians. Mohammad Reza Omidi received 80 lashes for drinking communion wine. Alcohol is forbidden only for Muslims, but since Iranian law does not recognise his conversion from Islam to Christianity, he was sentenced to the lashes in September 2016. The sentence was not carried out until recently. Two of his fellow house-church members, Mohammad Ali (Yasser) Mossayebzadeh and Zaman (Saheb) Fadaee, have also been sentenced to flogging. Omidi received 80 lashes in 2013 for the same offence. Advocacy director Mansour Borji said the lashes were ‘inhumane and humiliating’.
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was summoned to court in Iran, according to her family, who said she has been told to pack a bag as she will be returned to prison following a hearing on 2 November. Her local MP Tulip Siddiq said the timing of the trial raised ‘serious concerns’ as it follows the postponement of a court hearing about the UK's historic debt to Iran. She added, ‘Nazanin has once again been treated with utter contempt and I am extremely concerned about her future and wellbeing. The fact that she has been told to pack a bag for prison ahead of her court hearing doesn't fill me with confidence that this will be anything close to a fair trial. The timing of this development alongside the postponement of the court hearing raises serious concerns.’
‘The fastest-growing church in the world has taken root in one of the most unexpected and radicalised nations on earth,’ according to Sheep Among Wolves, a two-hour documentary about Iran’s revival that is reproducing discipleship movements that own no property or buildings, have no central leadership, and are predominantly led by women. Many of the ruling class still follow Islam, ‘because that’s where the high paying jobs are’, according to the film; but the majority of the ordinary people love God and recognise that Islam is the problem. The most powerful Christian leaders are very gentle, courageous women going out on the highways and byways sharing with prostitutes, drug addicts and everybody they come into contact with. Praise God for the abundance of Bibles in Farsi being distributed, and pray for those still translating His word into various Persian ethnic languages.
Ebrahim’s ordeal began in 2013 when he was sentenced to one year in prison and two years of internal exile in the remote town of Sarbaz for ‘propaganda against the regime by establishing and organising Christian gatherings’ and ‘having contacts with anti-revolutionary networks outside Iran’. He expected to be released in 2015, but instead he was retried and sentenced to an additional five years in prison for ‘acting against national security’. On 27 September, he had to answer a further charge of ‘propaganda against the state’, carrying a prison sentence of three to twelve months. Thankfully, the next day the case closed for lack of evidence. Iranian Christians are thankful that the prosecutor did not press charges, but request prayer that Ebrahim will know the Lord’s peace during this time of increased pressure from the authorities, even while continuing to serve the internal exile sentence.
While an increasing number of rape and sexual assault victims are speaking out in Iran, the legal code often prevents justice and puts some victims at risk of punishment. The #MeToo movement has finally emerged among Iranians, sending shockwaves across Persian language social media. Over the past week many women and men have come forward to talk about their experiences of rape and sexual assault by dozens of high-profile figures in the country. Although the official media remain indifferent to the stories, they have stirred public uproar to the point that the police in Tehran arrested a well-known bookshop owner accused of rape by several women. No one can doubt the bravery and courage of individuals who break the taboos and talk about their personal experiences of sexual harassment in a country where patriarchal values are reproduced and reinforced by the state.