Iran: The Suffering but Growing Church
For decades the Christian Church in Iran has paid a heavy price for its faith. Over the past three years many Iranian Christian Believers have suffered degrading and inhumane treatment in wretched Iranian prisons. Yet these valiant Believers soldier on and shine like a beacon to the wider Church. They need our support.
Iranian Believers have been brutally murdered and killed defending their Christian faith. These modern-day martyrs include Bishop Haik Hovsepian-Mehr, Rev Tateos Michaelian and Mehdi Dibaj. All paid the highest price with their lives.
At least 300 Christians have been arrested in the past three years in Iran. Currently, more than forty Believers are incarcerated in Iran's notorious prison system, with another forty-five awaiting trial.
In prison they suffer periods of solitary confinement, verbal abuse, and intensive interrogations involving psychological - and sometimes physical torture. They are also threatened with apostasy charges (which, for men, carry the death penalty). They have to endure abject sanitary conditions, and inadequate medical treatment.
Even those Believers not in prison pay a price. Christians who attend officially-recognized churches are closely monitored by the Government, which routinely photographs Christians going into and out of services. Church leaders must submit a list of their members with detailed personal information so that church-goers can be easily traced.
Praise God that three Believers were released from prison in the past few months. However this has not signaled a general change of heart by the government. Four other Believers lost their judicial appeals against their prison sentences.
Our Brothers and Sisters in Iran's prisons need your prayers. Prayer strengthens them and serves as a reminder them that they are not forgotten.
In 2010 Pastor Farshid Fathi began serving a six-year prison sentence. Here is an excerpt from his letter written in prison and sent to Elam Ministries: "I sense the fragrance of your prayers as a cool breeze on my heart and it strengthens me from afar."
"Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering" (The Bible, Hebrews 13:3).
Elam Ministries, which trains Iranian Church leaders, calls on the wider Body of Christ to stand in solidarity with Iranian Christians currently incarcerated. These include, among many others, Pastor Farshid, another pastor and his wife, two church elders, and a Christian musician. Most Believers, though not all, are from the house church movement in Iran.
Pray for world governments to use appropriate channels to urge Iran to uphold its obligations under international law and according to its own constitution. This diplomacy/pressure was recommended by a 2012 UK parliamentary report into the persecution of Christians in Iran (The Bible, 1 Timothy 2:1-2).
Pray for governments worldwide to speak out publicly against the persecution of Christians in Iran, using all means available (The Bible, Leviticus 19:34).
Pray for Western governments to work with Turkey, which has many Iranian Christian refugees, so that safe humanitarian refuge for persecuted Christians can be found in other countries (The Bible, Judges 6:2).
This article originally appeared in the January 2014 version of the REPORTER.
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