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Over 70 Iranian Christians were arrested during Christmas Holidays.
Remember those in prison, as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. Hebrews 13:3, NIV
SEVEN CHRISTIANS RELEASED ON BAIL, 26 STILL IN PRISONJanuary 29, 2011 - Reported by Elam
Four women were released from Tehran's Evin Prison last night (29th January 2011), and one woman and two men from the prison in Isfahan three days ago. They spent over a month in prison, most of them in solitary confinement, solely for being Christians. They were all arrested on December 26th, 2010 along with 31 others.
Sara Akhavan's family had to surrender their trade licence, which means that if the authorities deem bail is broken, the family's livelihood would be destroyed.Â This trade licence was not enough to also bring the release of Sara's sister, Leila Akhavan still in Evin prison. Ladan Nouri, Nasrin Hosseini-nia, Anahita (her husband, Javad Zare still in prison)Âwere the other women released temporarily on bail. Rafi Nadipoor, Basir Amini and Yasaman Yar-Ahmadi were released temporarily in Isfahan on bail.
There are reports that families of the three of the Christians in Mashad arrested earlier this month have been told they must pay $180,000 bail to secure their temporary release. The experience of prison and interrogation can be very traumatic and some Christians who endure this ordeal then decide to seek asylum in another country. Their families then not only lose their loved ones to exile, but also suffer the dire financial consequences as the state swallows up the bail money.
Traumatised Children Do Not Know Where Father IsFor thirty-four days the two children of Rasool and Maryam Abdolahi, both minors, have been without parents as both their mother and fatherÂwere abruptly arrested without warning in the early hours of December 26th, 2010. While their mother has been able to make few call,Âtheir ordeal is not over, as not only both parents are still in prison, but there has been no communication from their fatherÂwhatsoever. All the other prisoners were allowed to make few calls to their families - except Rasool Abdolahi. Church leaders are extremely concerned and ask for intense prayer for him.
Still 26 Christians In PrisonAt least twenty-six Christians are still in prison, including Yousef Nadarkhani who has been sentenced to death for apostasy. Vahik and Sonia Abrahamian, and Arash and Arezoo Kermanjani, have been in prison in Hamadan now for nearly four months. There has been intense anxiety over Sonia's health, exacerbated by prison conditions. There is also equal concern over, Mojtaba Keshavarz and ShahinÂ Rostami, held in Arak over three months, especially as Shahin is diabetic.
Please pray for:
Continued Wave of Arrests: 4 New Christians are arrested in Isfahan, IranFollowing the wave of arrests and repressive measures against new Christians in the capital city of Tehran, reports now indicate similar actions against new Christians in other cities of Iran.
According to reports received by the Iranian Christian New Agency, (Mohabat News ), following the wave of repressions and arrests of several new Christians in Tehran and other cities, the security police in Isfahan have also been very active in pursuing similar measures. Coinciding with the arrest of Rev. Leonard Keshishian, the pastor of the Assemblies of God Church in Isfahan on December 31st, reports have been received that 4 other new Iranian Christians have also been arrested in Isfahan (240 km South of Tehran) at the same time.
Iranian Christian New Agency reporter in Isfahan has reported that the names of the 4 arrested are as follows: 31 years old Basir Amini, 25 years old Hooman Tavakoli, 20 years old Rafee Nadi-Pour, and 35 years old Yasaman Yar-Ahmadi. They were all arrested in Isfahan on Thursday, December 30th, 2010. The security police, in a coordinated and simultaneous sting operation, arrested each of the above mentioned Christians at their residences. These agents of the government, in their usual and routine habit, searched the homes of these Christians and confiscated some of their personal belongings such as computers, CDs, Bibles, and other Christian books.
Unofficial sources have indicated that these individuals, subsequent to their arrests, were transferred to Tehran. Also, it has been reported that these 4 Christians along with all others who have been detained since Christmas 2010 have been kept at the section 209 of the infamous Evin Prison in Tehran, which is an exclusive section reserved for political prisoners and is under the direct control of the Revolutionary Guards. It should be mentioned that Rev. Keshishian was also arrested moments before the arrival of the New Year, on December 31st, and currently it is unclear whether these arrests and the ones from several weeks' pasts are in any ways connected to each other. Reports of similar arrests in various cities in Iran such as Tehran, Karaj, Mashhad, Arak, Dezful, Ahvaz, Shiraz, Rasht, Hamadan, and Isfahan have been reported and published in this and other news sites.
The Iranian government, in the past years, has been exerting repressive pressures on religious minorities, but the recent wave of arrests represents the largest coordinated and organized repression so far. The official government news and propaganda sites as well as Mr. Morteza Tamadon, the governor of the Province of Tehran, have accused these Christians as collaborators with illegal foreign Christian organizations. This accusation seems strange when the government judicial authorities are yet to release the name of any such foreign organization and present credible evidence to prove such accusations.
Christian Iranians have always believed that contact with other churches and Christian organizations, whether in or out of their country, is part of their Christian unity and means of discipleship and fellowship of all members of the universal body of Christ. Therefore, any form of contact with churches or Christian organizations outside of Iran is not viewed, by believers inside Iran, as an immoral or subversive activity. Currently, due to severe restrictions on travel visa for touristic or educational purposes, any meaningful contacts and fellowship with Christians outside of Iran are non-existent. Therefore, we conclude that the Christians in Iran are basically independent and are not part of any worldwide denominations. Christian churches in Iran, due to the restrictions imposed by both the Iranian government and other countries, do not receive any form of aid from any foreign missionary organizations. Thus, accusations such as collaboration with foreign missionary organizations are baseless and sooner or later these detained men and women should be released
Iran rounds up Christians in crackdown - Associated Press - Tuesday January 11, 2011 - Brian MurphyDUBAI, United Arab Emirates . Iran has arrested about 70 Christians since Christmas in a crackdown that demonstrates the limits of religious tolerance by Islamic leaders who often boast they provide room for other faiths.
The latest raids have targeted grass-roots Christian groups Iran describes as "hard-liners" who pose a threat to the Islamic state. Authorities increasingly view them with suspicions that range from trying to convert Muslims to being possible footholds for foreign influence.
Christian activists claim their Iranian brethren are being persecuted simply for worshipping outside officially sanctioned mainstream churches. Caught in the middle is the small community of Iranian Christians who get together for prayer and Bible readings in private residences and out of sight of authorities. They are part of a wider "house church" movement that has taken root in other places with tight controls on Christian activities such as China and Indonesia.
Iran's constitution gives protected status to Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians, but many religious minorities sense growing pressures from the Islamic state as hard-edged forces such as the powerful Revolutionary Guard exert more influence. There are few social barriers separating Muslims and Iran's religious minorities such as separate neighborhoods or universities. But they are effectively blocked from high government and military posts. Iran has claimed as a point of pride that it makes space for other religions. It reserves parliament seats for Jewish and Christian lawmakers and permits churches . Roman Catholic, Armenian Orthodox and others . as well as synagogues and Zoroastrian temples that are under sporadic watch by authorities. Religious celebrations are allowed, but no political messages or overtones are tolerated.
In past years, authorities have staged arrests on Christians and other religious minorities, but the latest sweeps appears to be among the biggest and most coordinated.
In the West, the followers are drawn to house churches because of the intimate sense of religious fellowship and as an alternative to established denominations. In places such as Iran, however, there also is the effort to avoid monitoring of sanctioned churches from Islamic authorities . who have kept closer watch on religious minorities since the chaos after hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's disputed election in 2009.
Groups monitoring Christian affairs in the Islamic world say Iranian authorities see the unregulated Christian gatherings as both a potential breeding ground for political opposition and suspect they may try to convert Muslim in violation of Iran's strict apostasy laws . which are common throughout the Muslim world and have at times fed extremist violence against Christians and others.
Tehran Governor Morteza Tamadon described the Christians as "hard-line" missionaries who have "inserted themselves into Islam like a parasite," according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency. He also suggested that the Christians could have links to Britain . an accusation within Iran that refers to political opposition groups Tehran claims are backed by the West.
The crackdown by Iran resonates forcefully across the Middle East at a time when other Christian communities feel under siege following deadly attacks against churches in Egypt and Iraq . bloodshed that was noted Monday by Pope Benedict XVI in an appeal for protection of religious minorities.
The suicide blast in Egypt's Mediterranean port of Alexandria on Jan. 1, which killed 21 Coptic Christian worshippers, followed threats by al-Qaida in Iraq over claims that Coptic leaders forced two women who converted to Islam to return to Christianity . allegations that church leaders deny.
"It's the nature of the house churches that worries Iran. It's all about possible converts," said Fleur Brading, a researcher for Middle East and North Africa at Christian Solidarity Worldwide, a British-based group the follows Christian rights issues around the world. "It's a very specific and pinpoint strike by Iran." Iran's religious minorities represent about 2 percent of the population and include communities with deep connections to their faiths. Iran's ethnic Armenian minority dates back to early Christianity, and the Jewish celebration of Purim is built around the story of the Persian-born Esther. Even Iran's Islamic Revolution could not stamp out the influence of the pre-Muslim Zoroastrian faith, including its new year's holiday Norooz in March.
The wave of arrests began Christmas morning and since then, opposition websites have reported 70 Christians arrested, including those regarded as pastors in the house church movement. Many were later released, but the reports say more than a dozen remain in detention and officials have hinted more raids are possible. It's still unclear what charges could be brought against the jailed Christians. But allegations of trying to convert Muslims could bring a death sentence. Brading, however, expects Iranian authorities could opt for political charges rather than religious-linked allegations to soften a possible international outcry. Iran is already struggling against a campaign opposing the death-by-stoning for an Iranian woman convicted of adultery as well as international pressure over its nuclear program.
"The use of the word missionaries instead of evangelicals is an intentional move by the government," she said. "As evangelicals, they are a group entitled to their faith. As missionaries, they are enemies of the state seeking to corrupt its people." In recent months, some members of Iran's Armenian community also have been detained on unspecified allegations of working to undermine the state, the Iranian Christian News Agency reported. Iranian officials have not given details of the reported detentions.
On Friday, a U.S. watchdog group on religious tolerance expressed concern over the recent arrests. "What's most troubling about this wave of detentions is the fact that Iran is continuing its recent trend of targeting evangelical Christians, which they've been doing for years, and also leaders from the recognized and protected Armenian Christian community," said Leonard Leo, chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent government advisory panel.
Iranian authorities have come down hard on religious groups seen as threats to Islam, including the Baha'is whose faith was founded in the 19th century by a Persian nobleman considered a prophet by his followers. Baha'is are not recognized as official religious minority in Iran's Constitution.
There are no accurate figures on the number of Christians in the "house church" movement or followers outside established denominations. But the manager of the Iranian Christian News Agency, Saman Kamvar, said authorities likely perceive some kind of challenge to the religious status quo and are "feeling insecure."
Kamvar attributes the stepped up raids against Christians to comments last month by Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei denouncing the growth of private house churches. "This, in my opinion, was a green light to the other authorities to crack down on them," Kamvar said from Canada, where he now lives.
- January 7, 2011
We regret to report a new wave of arrests of believers from a Muslim background (BMBs) in Tehran and other Iranian cities.
(New Living Translation)
38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love. Death can't, and life can't. The angels can't, and the demons can't. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, and even the powers of hell can't keep God's love away.
39 Whether we are high above the sky or in the deepest ocean, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Jesus said: "I have told you these things, so that in me you
may have peace. In this world you will have trouble.
But take heart! I have overcome the world."
- Gospel of John 16:33
|"Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection... they were stoned; they were sawn in two; they were put to death by the sword... the world was not worthy of them." -- Hebrews 11: 37-38.|
|2008 - on September 11, 2008 "Iran Parliament Approves Death Penalty for Apostasy Bill"|
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