(Voice of the Persecuted) Dear brothers and sisters, please take a moment to watch the video below and pray for Iranian Christians, those being persecuted. the nation and leaders of Iran.
Known as Persia until 1935, today’s Islamic Republic of Iran is predominately Muslim (98%), mostly Shi’ite. With its proximity to Arabic speaking countries, it is often perceived to be Arabic, but Iran is Persian. The Elamites, descendants of Noah’s son Shem, first settled in the area and were followed by the Medes and Persians who established an ancient civilization and world empire.
The Bible records the names of some of its most famous: Cyrus the Great, Darius, and Xerxes. Over the centuries, the Persian language (Farsi) and culture have prevailed even with many conquerors crossing through this land.
Persians comprise over sixty percent of the 79 million people in Iran and it’s as ‘Persians’ that many identify themselves.
With coastlines on the Caspian Sea in the north and the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman in the south, Iran’s large land mass is politically strategic as it shares borders with Iraq, Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Geographically in the Middle East and Central Asia, Iran is a recognized regional power.
Continent: Asia — Capital City: Tehran — Government: Theocratic Republic
Population: 82,021,564 — Major People Groups: Persian, Azeri, Kurd, Lur, Baloch, Arab, Turkmen and Turkic tribes
Religion: Muslim 99.4%, other 0.3%, unspecified 0.4%
Language: Persian, Azeri Turkic and Turkic dialects, Kurdish, Gilaki and Mazandarani, Luri, Balochi, Arabic, other
GDP Per Capita: $20,000
Literacy Rate: 86.8%
The 1979 Islamic Revolution overthrew the twenty-five-hundred-year-old monarchy and converted Iran into a Shi’ite Muslim, cleric-ruled country. A year later, Iraq attacked Iran and an 8-year war followed, helping solidify the rule of the Muslim clerics (Ayatollahs) and worsening the already hurting economy.
Currently, Iran’s over dependence on the country’s rich oil and natural gas exports, a significant increase in the birth rate in the 80’s, and economic reforms that fell short of their targets have resulted in high unemployment and underemployment, double-digit inflation, and almost 20% of the people living in poverty.
Furthermore Iran’s questionable nuclear program along with its geographic location and attitude toward Israel has stirred up considerable worldwide political concerns for the stability of the region and has resulted in economic sanctions and continued close scrutiny of all Iranian political activities.
In Iran all ethnic Persians and those from Muslim backgrounds (even if not practicing) are considered Muslims. Anyone who converts to Christianity is declared an apostate and could face death.
The Iranian constitution recognizes the historic minority religions of Zoroastrianism, Judaism, and Christianity, but it does not allow churches to preach or distribute materials in Farsi and proselytizing is forbidden. Yet, the number of Muslim background believers coming to Christ in Iran continues to grow greatly regardless of certain persecution.
Believers and non-believers are having Holy Spirit-inspired dreams and visions and are seeing wonders. Many are curious about the Bible, but Bibles and Christian printed materials in Farsi are illegal. Smuggled Farsi Bibles and materials are quickly put to use. The Internet and broadcasts by radio and satellite TV are providing encouragement, resources, and training for believers as more come to Christ and more underground house churches are established.
• Pray for a great harvest resulting from faithful believers sharing bold accounts of their faith.
• Pray for the church to rapidly multiply and mature despite horrendous persecution against non-Muslim peoples.
• Pray for Christians to capitalize on unprecedented opportunities to spread the Gospel via Internet, TV, and media.
In an organized operation Iranian security police arrested 12 Christian converts in different cities across the country.
On July 8th, Mohabat News reported that Iranian security officers have begun a new wave of arrests across the country to crackdown on Iranian Christians and especially targeting Christian converts.
Reports of this new campaign state that plain-clothed security officers raided a prayer gathering in a house church in Yaftabad region in Tehran, at 8pm on Tuesday June 30. At least 20 worshipers were in attendance at the time. Officers arrested a few of the congregants and thoroughly searched the house where they had gathered.
Article 18, an Iranian Christian advocacy group, verified the news and added, among the security officers were two female agents as well, which is not a common sight. Security authorities video recorded their raid and few rounds of questioning and arrests took place during the attack.
Eyewitnesses reported, after authorities turned off their video cameras they began mistreating and beating the house church congregation. At the end of this ordeal, authorities forced these Christians to sign a paper stating they were not subject to any kind of violence or mistreatment. During the raid security authorities arrested six Christians and confiscated all Bibles and cellphones belonging to the congregants.
The same day, Iranian authorities raided homes of a number of other Christians in Karaj and Tehran. The names of some of those arrested are Joseph Shahbazian, Reza N, Salar A, Mina Kh, Maryam Kh and Sonia. At least three other Christian converts, Farhad M, Arash and Farhad Kh were also arrested in Karaj. Some of these Christians have already received a bailing order for 50 Million Tomans (approx. $12,000 USD).
In addition, three other Christians, Sohrab A, Ebrahim and Yaser, were also arrested on the same day in Malayer, Hamedan Province. All three were temporarily released the following Thursday after each posted a 30 Million Tomans (Approx. $7,000 USD) bail.
Credible sources in Tehran told Mohabat News, a Christian woman by the name of Maliheh Nazari was also arrested in Western Tehran.
Ever Increasing Pressure on Iranian Christians
This new wave of crackdown on Iranian Christians is happening as the country is dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. The virus continues to spread in Iranian prisons where poor hygiene accelerates virus spread. The danger of catching COVID-19 in Iranian prisons is so high that Iranian Judicial System decided to temporarily release around 80 thousand prisoners to avoid mass infection.
The regime continues to violate the human rights of its citizens at a time when the people are already suffering as a result of widespread mismanagement and embezzlement among top ranking authorities in addition to economic pressure caused by international sanctions on the country.
Iranian political and religious dissidents are usually arrested under false accusations such as propaganda against the Islamic regime or receiving support from Israel. These dissidents are often used as a scapegoat for the problems that plague the country.
The Islamic regime uses media propaganda to win over public support before each crackdown campaigns against political and religious dissidents. As expected before this new wave of attacks, the regime began a media propaganda campaign to shed a negative light on Iranian Christians.
Last week, Yahya Yasrebi, an Iranian professor of Islamic Philosophy stated, “gravitation of our youth towards Christianity is not as a result of their pursuit for truth, but rather it’s out of frustration, mortal needs and stupidity”.
Likely, the number of arrests reported in this crackdown campaign are much lower as families of Christians who are arrested are always warned not to publicize the arrest and threatened that it will result in worsening of their situation.
Dear Prayer Warriors, Marziyeh Amirizadeh and Maryam Rostampour, two women who were born into Muslim families who went on to lead house churches and evangelized to Muslims, are examples of converts who have been arrested for their faith.
The women spent a total of 259 days in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison in 2009. Since departing from Iran in 2010, they have often shared their experiences as converts.
“We know firsthand how difficult it is for those who attend house churches because they risk their lives to attend house churches,” Amirizadeh said at an event in February hosted by the Family Research Council. “Any time if the government find out, they can raid the gathering, arrest people, torture them and confiscate their property.”
Open Doors reported that 169 Christians were arrested in Iran during the organization’s 2019 reporting period — Nov. 1, 2018, to Oct. 31, 2019.
According to Iran Human Rights Monitor, the Iran Revolutionary Court in southern Iran sentenced last month seven Iranian Christian converts for the alleged crime of “spreading propaganda against the state.” The converts were sentenced to prison, exile, a financial penalty, and a ban on work and social activities.
In addition to being one of the world’s largest state sponsors of terrorism, Iran is also listed by the U.S. State Department as a “country of particular concern” for tolerating and engaging in systemic and severe violations of religious freedom.
Iran ranks as the 9th worst country in the world when it comes to Christian persecution, according to Open Doors 2020 World Watch List. Converts from Islam in Iran often face persecution from the government and face the threat of arrest for attending an underground church. It is illegal to hold church services or produce Christian literature in Farsi, the main language.
Pray for the believers in Iran who have been arrested
- Ask God to calm their fears, that they would know that they’re not alone and that the worldwide Church is standing with them. Pray that they would be treated well and for quick release to be back home with their families.
- We continue to pray for Anita, an Iranian convert also arrested by the Iranian Regime. We have learned from Voice of the Persecuted that her original 10-year sentence was lowered to 6 years. Her attorney has appealed the lengthy prison term with the hope of lowering it to 1 year. At present, she has not yet been called back to the prison and is still under house arrest. Pray she will be released without serving the prison sentence and for her faith to remain strong.
Please also remember:
- Leah Sharibu and Alice, captives of Boko Haram, to be set free.
- Pray that Pastor Wang Yi in China will be able to minister to inmates and that soon he will be released from prison. Pray for his family and for the Church that God gave him to lead.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, I read a beautifully illustrated story a Victory!
“The Eagle does not fight the snake on the ground.
It picks it up into the sky and changes the battle ground, and then it releases the snake into the sky.
The snake has no stamina, no power and no balance in the air. It is useless, weak and vulnerable unlike on the ground where it is powerful wise and deadly.
Take your fight into the spiritual realm by praying and when you are in the spiritual realm God takes over your battles.
Do not fight the enemy in his comfort zone, change the battle grounds like the Eagle and let God take charge through your earnest prayer.
You will be assured of clean victory.
Pray without ceasing.”
If Holy Spirit is leading you please join us tonight as we pray on the Persecution Watch prayer conference call for the persecuted church and the global harvest of souls.
Your Sister in Christ Love,
Nadia Dybvik, Persecution Watch Prayer Leader
Prayer Conference Call Details
Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday
From any location on your phone
9:00 PM Eastern
8:00 PM Central
7:00 PM Mountain
6:00 PM Pacific
Call in number: 712 775-7035
Access Code: 281207#
Recommended: For those who may be subject to added charges for conference calls. Please download the app, it’s free!
MOBILE APP: Free Conference Call HD also provides a quick and easy way for you to dial into conference calls without having to remember the dial-in credentials. Save all of your conference call dial-in numbers and access codes using this free app. With the Free Conference Call HD you can instantly dial into a conference call via 3G/4G data network and or regular mobile carrier. Google Play link or App Store – iTunes
What is Persecution Watch?
Persecution Watch is a U.S. national prayer conference call ministry that prays specifically for the global Persecuted Church. For over a decade, Blaine Scogin led this national network of believers who faithfully pray for the persecuted and the global harvest for the Kingdom of God.
The group meets via a free call-in service every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday night at 9pm Eastern (please check your time zone). Blaine also served as Prayer Director for Voice of the Persecuted and our missions became one. The prayer mission of Persecution Watch is an important part of our own.
With the passing of Blaine into glory on December 26, 2019, Voice of the Persecuted is committed to continue the prayer conference call for the persecuted along with our dedicated prayer warrior team.
On occasion, persecuted brothers and sisters have been invited on the call to share the trials they’re facing. The team serves to encourage them by washing their feet in Spirit led prayer.
Time is often reserved for those on the call to ask questions. We believe this helps to gain a better understanding of the situation that persecuted Christians endure in their specific nations. Q&A also helps us to focus our prayers based on their current needs.
Persecution Watch also hosts callers who want to pray united from other nations. If your heart is perplexed by the sufferings of our persecuted brothers and sisters, you no longer need to pray alone. We welcome all who desire to pray for the persecuted church and consider it a joy to pray together with you.
If you’re new to the call and can’t find your voice, listen in and pray silently or on mute. We are grateful and thank the Lord for bringing us all together to pray in agreement for our persecuted family in Christ. We can all be prayer warriors on this call!
NOTE: Persecution Watch has a new email address for the prayer team and those who would like to receive urgent prayer requests, weekly call prayer points and notification of special prayer events and special guest speakers.
Please fill out the form below to be included in our new distribution list to receive this important information. We are grateful for your prayers and to the Lord for guiding us as we continue the Persecution Watch prayer call mission.
Note to Voice of the Persecuted (VOP) readers: The Persecution Watch prayer team is also the prayer team of Voice of the Persecuted. SIGN UP today.
The following are among the abuses Muslims inflicted on Christians throughout the month of May 2020:
The Slaughter of Christians
Nigeria: From January 2020 to mid-May 2020, Muslim terrorists massacred at least 620 Christians (470 by Fulani herdsmen and 150 by Boko Haram). According to a May 14 report:
Militant Fulani Herdsmen and Boko Haram … have intensified their anti-Christian violence … with hacking to death in the past four months and half of 2020 of no fewer than 620 defenseless Christians, and wanton burning or destruction of their centers of worship and learning. The atrocities against Christians have gone unchecked and risen to alarming apogee with the country’s security forces and concerned political actors looking the other way or colluding with the Jihadists. Houses burnt or destroyed during the period are in their hundreds; likewise dozens of Christian worship and learning centers.
The report further states that, since 2009, “not less than 32,000 Christians have been butchered to death by the country’s main Jihadists.”
Earlier this year, Christian Solidarity International issued a “Genocide Warning for Christians in Nigeria,” in response to the “rising tide of violence directed against Nigerian Christians and others classified as ‘infidels’ by Islamist militants…” More recently, in a May statement, the Christian Rights Agenda, another human rights group, expressed concern for “the seeming silence of Nigeria’s President, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, who as the commander-in-chief of the armed forces has not only failed to protect the Christian communities but has remained silent over these killings. To date, no Fulani herdsmen have been arrested and prosecuted over the killings, a development that has helped to embolden them.” It is worth noting that Buhari himself is a Fulani Muslim.
Separately, the Muslim man who murdered Michael Nnadi, an 18-year-old seminarian at the Good Shepherd Seminary, confessed from his jail cell that he did so because the youth “continued preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ” to his captors. According to the May 3 report, “the first day Nnadi was kidnapped … he did not allow [Mustapha Mohammed, his murderer] to have peace” due to his relentless preaching of the Gospel. Mohammed “did not like the confidence displayed by the young man and decided to send him to an early grave.”
Democratic Republic of Congo: Muslim fighters from the Allied Democratic Forces, which earlier pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS), murdered at least 17 people, possibly many more, in the Christian-majority (95%) African nation. “They fired several shots in the air,” a local said. “When the population was fleeing, they captured some people and cut them up with machetes.” In late 2019, the same group murdered a pastor after he refused to stop preaching and convert to Islam.
Attacks on Christian Churches, Cemeteries, and Crosses
Greece: Muslim migrants ransacked and transformed a church into their personal toilet. This public restroom was once the St. Catherine Church in Moria, a small town on the island of Lesvos, which has been flooded with migrants who arrived via Turkey. “The smell inside is unbearable,” said a local. “[T]he metropolitan of Mytilene is aware of the situation in the area, nevertheless, he does not wish to deal with it for his own reasons.” According to the report:
This is only the latest incident … [I]t has become extremely common for Greek Orthodox Churches to be vandalised and attacked by illegal immigrants on Lesvos….
As a deeply religious society, these attacks on churches are shocking to the Greek people and calls to question whether these illegal immigrants seeking a new life in Europe are willing to integrate and conform to the norms and values of their new countries.
These continued attacks have ultimately seen the people of Lesvos, who were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2016, become increasingly frustrated by the unresolved situation that has restricted and changed their lives as they no longer feel safe on their once near crime-free island.
Other incidents on Lesvos include “African immigrants ridiculing and coughing on police in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, and thousands of olives trees being destroyed.”
Turkey: On May 8, a man tried to torch a church in Istanbul; the church had been attacked in the previous years, sometimes with hate-filled graffiti. When police detained the arsonist, he said “I burned it because they [Christians] brought the coronavirus [onto Turkey].” Discussing this incident, another report said that “Minorities in Turkey, such as Armenians, Rums and Syriacs [all Christians], as well as their places of worship, are occasionally targeted in hate attacks.”
Two weeks later, on May 22, in broad daylight, a man climbed the fence of a historic Armenian church in Istanbul and proceeded to yank off its metal cross and hurl it to the ground, as captured on surveillance footage. The man, who looks more like a Westernized “hipster” than an ardent Islamist, walks up to and stares at the cross for a while — he even looks at and strikes a pose for the security camera — before attacking the crucifix.
Pakistan: After Friday prayers on May 8, an armed Muslim mob shouting “anti-Christian slogans” attacked and tried to set fire to the Trinity Pentecostal Church in Hakeem Pura. Built 22 years ago, the church was desecrated, and a large cross and part of a wall broken. The Muslim man behind the attack had sold land to the growing church a year earlier, and now wanted it back. A Christian eyewitness said that the mob, “after attacking the walls and the cross, challenging anyone who dare oppose them, fled… Not only was the cross broken, but our hearts were crushed too.”
The Christian community there reportedly protested against the violation and tried to stop the vandalism. However, they were allegedly threatened with guns… [A]ll graves that were destroyed had crosses fixed on the top… [S]ome of the houses occupied by the Christians were demolished and people were forced to flee from their homes. Amid widespread discrimination against the Christian community in Pakistan, the properties owned by the minorities are often subjected to injustice including land grabbing and being the target of criminals. Moreover, the economic disparities and religious bias in Pakistan’s judiciary have increased the struggles Christians face to recover the lost land.
Serbia: On Sunday, May 31, two Muslim migrants entered the St. Alexander Nevsky Church in Belgrade during service and robbed several of the mostly elderly congregants. “There were two of them. They broke into the church during the liturgy, which was in progress, and they stole two purses along with three mobile phones,” a church leader said, adding:
Upon entering the temple, they split up on two sides, and after the people saw what was happening, they managed to catch one of them and take away his mobile phones and the money he stole. The other managed to escape. He took two purses, in one there were 3,500 dinars, while in the other there were 18,000, which was the entire pension of one woman. We handed that young man over to the police, while the other managed to escape. This is an insult. Isn’t anything sacred to people, such as the liturgy? Terrible.
Egypt: On May 30, 2020 — two days before President Trump recognized Global Coptic Day — Egyptian authorities demolished the only Coptic church in village of Koum al-Farag, even though it had stood for 15 years and served 3,000 Christians. According to the report:
The destruction of the church was a punishment for the ‘crime’ of building rooms for Sunday school…. When the work began, some extremist Muslims began to attack Christians.
A separate report on this incident relates:
According to an ancient Islamic tradition, or common law, churches are prevented from being formally recognised or displaying any Christian symbols if a mosque is built next to them.
The authorities decided to solve this issue by demolishing the church, which took a tractor “six long hours,” a Copt recalled:
The decision was not welcomed by the Christians in the village, so they protested by appearing at the site in possession of the documents. However, the police and some radicals began to insult and assault Christians, including women and children. The church leader received so many punches in the face and chest that he passed out.
Security camera footage led to his apprehension. Fortunately, no one was injured in this attack. Predictably, however, the prosecutors appear to be [pursuing] an acquittal on the claim that the perpetrator of the religious hate crime is also mentally ill. Based on precedent, it is extremely unlikely that this perpetrator will face any consequences for his attempt to torch a church.
Mozambique: Islamic terrorists attacked a monastery. The four monks residing in it managed to hide and emerge unscathed. However, the hospital they were building for a nearby village was destroyed by the armed Muslims. According to the May 18 report:
Little is known about the insurgents, and until recently there were doubts they were actually islamists, but they have claimed to be fighting for the imposition of Sharia law in the North of Mozambique…. The attack on the monastery, which included the destruction of a hospital that the monks were building in the village, is the second most serious attack against a Christian target since the troubles began. Last month a Catholic mission was also attacked, although, as here, nobody was killed. Other communities have not been so lucky, as the insurgents have left a trail of death and destruction behind them in the towns and villages they attack.
Nigeria: On May 7, a helicopter bombed and destroyed a church. The building was empty at the time; no casualties were reported. According to a local leader,
The helicopter used to hover around the area, dropping some things. We don’t know what they have been dropping but yesterday in the afternoon, the helicopter came and dropped a bomb … [The] Assembly of God church was destroyed including a nearby building…. Hours after the incident, a group of people numbering about 100 pass through the village carrying guns. Some were trekking while others rode on motorcycles. One of them was carrying a flag which is not a Nigerian flag; one other person was making some incantations in Arabic… People have fled the village… The question is who was in the helicopter dropping bomb?… We are very concerned … If it was a mistake by security agencies, they should come out and explain so as to allay the fears of the community.
Algeria: Four Muslim guards responsible for protecting a church vandalized and overturned its statue of the Virgin Mary. According to the report,
[T]he chapel of Santa Cruz built in stones extracted from the mountain of Murdjadjo where it is perched, was the object of an attempted theft… Four looters allegedly destroyed the statue of the Virgin Mary by attempting to steal it. They have even destroyed other holy monuments in their path….
It was later found, however, that the chapel’s four hired guards were themselves the “looters” responsible for the desecration. The report continues:
In addition, the Christian community in Algeria denounces… the intimidation which the faithful are subject to. Many Christians have denounced the series of closings of churches in the national territory. Several evangelical associations and organizations have called for an end to “the increasing pressure and intimidation from the Algerian government.”
Iran: On Sunday, May 17, a Christian cemetery was set ablaze, just two days after the tomb of the biblical Esther and Mordecai was also set on fire on the 72nd anniversary of the creation of the State of Israel. Damage at the tomb — a holy site shared by Jews and Christians — was reportedly minimal. Few other details concerning the burned Christian cemetery aside from video footage showing smoke billowing over its walls are available. A Hindu temple was also reportedly set on fire in May.
While Europe has experienced a growing number of acts of vandalism and profanation of Christian sites, the greatest number of such acts have occurred in France, where churches, schools, cemeteries, and monuments “are being vandalized, desecrated, and burned at an average rate of three per day,” according to reports drawing from government statistics.
Although the identity of the vandals responsible for this latest outrage is unknown, it appears that Western European nations that have large Muslim migrant populations are seeing a disproportionate rise in attacks on churches and Christian symbols. According to a 2017 study on France — which has the largest Muslim population in Europe — “Islamist extremist attacks on Christians” rose by 38%, going from 273 attacks in 2015 to 376 in 2016; the majority occurred during Christmas season and “many of the attacks took place in churches and other places of worship.” Similarly, around Christmas 2016, in a German region where more than a million Muslims reside, some 50 public Christian statues (including those of Jesus) were beheaded and crucifixes broken.
Abduction, Rape, and Forced Conversion of Christian Women
Nigeria: Between March 23 and April 30, six young Christian girls and one older married woman were kidnapped. “We are saddened to report to you the battles we have been fighting even amidst the lockdown,” the Hausa Christians Foundation reported on May 4, adding that it “has been working on the following tragic incidences of abduction and forceful Islamization, despite the fact that the lockdown has limited our efforts.” The statement continues:
The usual practice is that these girls will be forced into marriage and perpetually be abused sexually, physical and emotionally. We are doing our best to rescue these precious lives but our efforts have been truncated by the current government imposed lockdown that has put everything on hold…. The simple reason for the injustice and the persecution we have been subjected to… is because of our faith in Christ Jesus.
Two of the young girls have since been rescued.
Pakistan: Another young Christian girl was kidnapped. According to a May 2 report,
On Sunday, April 26, a 14-year-old Christian girl … was abducted by a group of armed Muslim men… [T]he Christian girl’s family has filed a police report and is begging police to recover their relative…. Myra Shehbaz was abducted by a group of Muslim men led by Muhammad Naqash. Eye witnesses claim that Myra was attacked while she was traveling to her workplace as a domestic worker on Sunday afternoon…. Myra’s abductors forced her into a car and Myra tried to resist…. [The] abductors were armed and fired several shots into the air…. [The girl’s mother] fears her daughter will be raped, forcefully converted is [sic] Islam, or even killed…. [A]n estimated 1,000 women and girls from Pakistan’s Hindu and Christian community are assaulted, abducted, forcefully married to their captor, and forcibly converted to Islam every year.
Egypt: In a May 22 report, Coptic Solidarity, a human rights organization focused on the plight of Egypt’s Christians, made the following remarks:
The indigenous Coptic Christians of Egypt continue to experience increasing persecution, by the government and society…. To illustrate, at least five Coptic women, including some minors, have reportedly been kidnapped or disappeared in just the last few weeks, and Egyptian state security has made no concerted effort to recover them…. Ranya Abd al-Masih, a Coptic wife and mother of three from a town just north of the capital, Cairo… remains hidden despite protests, including from the region’s church, which laments “the total lack of reaction by the authorities.”
Hate for and Abuse of Christians
Austria: A local newspaper reported:
A graffiti that rightly causes a lot of agitation. The lettering “Christians must die” can be seen at the Traisen-Markt train station. Above it, in the same style, the words “Allach Akkbar” [sic]. The removal of the graffiti has already begun and will cost about 500 Euros.
Uganda: A Muslim father burned his daughter for converting to Christianity. While traveling with her father, a sheikh (respected elder) of the Muslim community, Rehema Kyomuhendo, 24, heard the gospel and secretly converted. On the night of May 4, while she and her father were staying at her aunt’s home, she called a Christian associate: “As she was sharing Christ with me, I was so overjoyed,” Rehema later explained, “and my father heard my joy and woke up, came from his bedroom furiously and started beating me up with blows, slaps and kicks.” He also shouted that he was “going to kill her.” He broke a gas container, lit the pieces with the unspilt fuel, and began to burn his daughter. Her cries awakened her aunt, who protected her from the sheikh. Last reported, Rehema was expected to need more than a month of hospitalization due to “serious burns on her leg, stomach, rib area, near her neck and on part of her back.” No one has “reported the assault to police for fear that her father might try kill her.”
Pakistan: In another example of abuse of Christians in connection to COVID-19, “an Islamic cleric claims his organization is using COVID-19 food aid to convert non-Muslims to Islam,” according to a May 8 report. Speaking on Pakistani television, the cleric boasted of how when a destitute Christian man came for aid, the “staff of the organization offered him conversion against food which he accepted.” The man was subsequently renamed Muhammad Ramadan, signifying his conversion had occurred during the Muslim holy month. The cleric had added that Muhammad was then fasting (which is ironic considering hunger is what prompted him to convert in the first place).
About this Series
The persecution of Christians in the Islamic world has become endemic. Accordingly, “Muslim Persecution of Christians” was developed in 2011 to collate some—by no means all—of the instances of persecution that occur or are reported each month. It serves two purposes:
1) To document that which the mainstream media does not: the habitual, if not chronic, persecution of Christians.
2) To show that such persecution is not “random,” but systematic and interrelated—that it is rooted in a worldview inspired by Islamic Sharia.
Accordingly, whatever the anecdote of persecution, it typically fits under a specific theme, including hatred for churches and other Christian symbols; apostasy, blasphemy, and proselytism laws that criminalize and sometimes punish with death those who “offend” Islam; sexual abuse of Christian women; forced conversions to Islam; theft and plunder in lieu of jizya (financial tribute expected from non-Muslims); overall expectations for Christians to behave like cowed dhimmis, or second-class, “tolerated” citizens; and simple violence and murder. Sometimes it is a combination thereof.
Because these accounts of persecution span different ethnicities, languages, and locales—from Morocco in the West, to Indonesia in the East—it should be clear that one thing alone binds them: Islam—whether the strict application of Islamic Sharia law, or the supremacist culture born of it.
Ibrahim’s writings, translations, and observations have appeared in a variety of publications. He is theauthor of the recent book, Sword and Scimitar, Fourteen Centuries of War between Islam and the West, is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Gatestone Institute, a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center, and a Judith Rosen Friedman Fellow at the Middle East Forum.
(Morning Star News) – The COVID-19 crisis in Iran has resulted in freedom for several Christians among the roughly 85,000 people released from prison, but convictions have continued in spite of a short-lived lull in actions against converts to Christianity, sources said.
The release of imprisoned Christians as part of the regime’s efforts to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus was pragmatic and not an indication of a change of policy by the Iranian government, rights advocates said.
“For a time it looked like the authorities were too busy with coronavirus to bother with the Christians,” a researcher at Middle East Concern (MEC) told Morning Star News. “Now we know they have really turned their attention again to targeting Christian converts.”
On April 21 Christian convert Mary (Fatemeh) Mohammadi, 21, was sentenced to flogging and three months plus one day in prison for taking part in a January protest in Tehran over the downing of Ukranian Airlines Flight 752 by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of Iran. Though the case is unrelated to her faith, since previously serving a six-month prison sentence for charges due to Christian activity, Mohammadi has been harassed and denied education, according to MEC.
In the hearing, the judged asked Mohammadi about her Christian faith, although it had no bearing on the charges of “disturbing public order” that she faced, raising concerns as to whether her faith influenced the judge’s handling of the case.
Mohammadi will not appeal her sentence, which has been suspended due to the coronavirus crisis.
Mohammadi’s court hearing was suspended in April due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The MEC researcher said he was surprised that the court pursued the charges despite recent postponements within the judicial system.
“Personally, I thought they would have given priority to more serious cases,” he said.
Similarly, multiple sentences handed down to Christian convert Ismaeili Maghrebinejad based on virtually no evidence remain in effect, alarming advocates.
Maghrebinejad, 65, was sentenced to two years in prison on Feb. 27 for “membership of a group hostile to the regime” for receiving a Bible verse from Philippians from a Christian media organization, according to MEC. According to a court document, the organization advocates “Evangelical Zionist Christianity,” which is not tolerated by the regime.
When appealing the sentence, instead of a reprieve, Maghrebinejad was given an additional one year for “propaganda against the state.”
This followed a three-year sentence for “insulting Islamic sacred beliefs,” in a civil court hearing on Jan. 8. The crime: Maghrebinejad had responded to a joke on social media deemed critical of the clergy – with a smiley face emoji.
“This was the only evidence that they could find after arresting him without cause and searching his house without a warrant,” the MEC researcher told Morning Star News. “This is very disturbing. This is an elderly man. His family is not living in the country anymore, and he is really being targeted by the authorities. They are determined.”
Maghrebinejad is released on bail and appealing all three convictions.
The disappointing conviction came on the heels of more positive developments due to the virus, including the release of Christian converts Amin Khaki, Rokhsareh (Mahrokh) Ghanbari and Fatemeh Bakhteri.
The three Christians initially were released temporarily on bail of several thousand dollars, but as the novel coronavirus crisis continued, so did their release.
Khaki was released conditionally on March 2 after paying a bail bond and serving eight months of a 14-month sentence for “propaganda against the regime and establishing house churches.” Roughly one month later, Khaki was notified that he was not required to return.
After serving about seven months of their one-year sentences for “spreading propaganda against the regime,” Ghanbari and Bakhteri were also released temporarily in March.
Prison authorities informed Ghanbari in early April that she was not required to return, while Bakhteri was informed that her temporary release was extended, according to advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).
Remaining in Prison
Several other Christians with longer sentences remain in prison despite the threat of contracting the virus, including pastor Yousef Nadarkani and three others arrested with him – Mohammadreza Omidi, Yasser Mossaybzadeh and Saheb Fadaie.
All four are still serving 10-year sentences handed down in June 2017 for charges of “acting against the national security through propagating house churches and promoting Zionist Christianity,” according to CSW.
They requested furlough due to several coronavirus cases within some of the wards of Evin Prison, according to MEC, but it was denied.
Nadarkani’s case was reviewed by the revolutionary court in May, but the outcome is unknown, according a Middle East expert at CSW. He said it was unclear why Pastor Nadarkani has not been released.
“I guess he is a very high-profile case, so maybe to give a message to the Iranian society, and especially Iranian Christian converts, that, ‘Don’t think we are relaxing our policies – it is just temporary,’” he said.
Advocates are hoping that more prisoners will be released permanently, and that those who were first released temporarily will be able to retrieve bail amounts that are often several thousand dollars.
The novel coronavirus hit Iran hard economically, and released Christian converts experience an additional layer of suffering, as it is harder for those targeted by the government to find jobs, the Middle East specialist at CSW said. They and potential employers are often harassed, eventually forcing them to leave the country.
The recent releases are largely image control by the Iranian government, he added.
“This serves the Iranian propaganda, because they release the prisoner,” he said. “They get some credit for that…but they make life so difficult for them that they have to leave Iran. They use these tactics to sort of dissuade and discourage others form converting or expressing their new faith in public.”
Iran was ranked ninth on Open Doors’ 2020 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.
VOP NOTE: Voice of the Persecuted well knows the situation Iranians Christians are facing. We have asked you to keep praying for our sister in Christ, Anita. She, a Christian convert, recently appealed her sentence but was sentenced to a harsh term of 10years in prison for sharing the Gospel in Iran. This took place while others have been released during the Covid-19 pandemic. At present, Anita is under house arrest and waiting to be called back to the prison. Please continue to pray for her and all others bein persecuted for their faith by the Iranian Regime.
(Forum 18) Twenty-one-year-old Iranian Christian convert Fatemeh (Mary) Mohammadi has been sentenced to three months plus one day in prison, and ten lashes.
The sentence relates to Mary’s alleged participation in anti-government demonstrations following the downing of a Ukrainian passenger plane in January.
The sentence is suspended for one year, and depends on her future conduct.
Mary has not appealed against the verdict, but commented:
“There was no evidence against me, so I ought to have been acquitted, but instead I was sentenced not only to imprisonment, but also flogging.
“And it should be mentioned that even before the verdict was handed down, I and my family were forced to endure all kinds of torture, none of which was sanctioned by law, and which ought to be considered crimes in themselves. So even if I would have been acquitted, it wouldn’t have been a real acquittal!”
“We have refrained from appealing against the verdict because the appeal courts have turned into confirmation courts!”
During Mary’s court hearing last week, the judge questioned her about her religious views, even though the charges were unrelated to her faith.
He cited no evidence against her, saying that her presence in the area where the rally was taking place was evidence in itself.
Mary’s hearing had previously been scheduled for 2 March, but was postponed due to coronavirus.
After her hearing was rescheduled, Mary tweeted that it would be a “crime against humanity” to send anyone to prison under the current circumstances.
Mary has already spent six months in prison as a result of her participation in house-churches, for which she was convicted of “action against national security” and “propaganda against the system”.
In July last year she faced fresh criminal charges relating to her “improper” wearing of hijab. Those charges, which were eventually quashed, were brought against her after she initially went to police to complain of an assault.
Then in December, Mary was kicked out of her Tehran university, without explanation, on the eve of her English-language exams.
Just a few weeks later, on 12 January 2020, Mary was arrested as protests took place in Azadi Square.
There was no word about Mary’s whereabouts for a month, before it was confirmed that she was being held in Qarchak women’s prison, south of the Iranian capital Tehran.
After her arrest, Mary was forced to sit in a yard, for hours, in extremely cold weather and opposite the toilets, and not given any food for 24 hours.
She was beaten so badly – by male and female officers – that the bruises were visible for three weeks.
Mary was also strip-searched twice by female officers, who told her that if she refused to remove her clothes, they would rip them from her.
Mary is a rare example of a Christian activist still living in Iran. She launched a campaign last year called “Kahma”, fighting for the rights of all Christians – whether from Christian homes, or Christian converts – to be given the right to attend church.
UPDATE on Anita
We had asked you to pray for Anita, a Christian convert who was charge with promoting the underground church in Iran. Her hearing took place on April 15th. The Iranian court had recommended 6 years in prison, but we were encouraged that the judge, who is known to be harsh, had treated her kindly during the trial. After the hearing she was released to house arrest and told the judge would send his final verdict. Sadly, she received a verdict of 10 years in prison. Please pray for Anita and her attorney who will likely appeal the sentence.
(Voice of the Persecuted) Thank you to all who have been praying for Anita. She was arrested, interrogated, tortured and charged for having a role in the underground house church movement. Later she was released to await her trial under house arrest.
Anita’s final hearing was held yesterday, April 15, 2020. The court had recommended over 5 years in prison. The judge hearing her was known to be tough. However, during her trial the judge was kind and recommended 1-1/2 years. As the hearing progressed his heart seemed to soften towards her. At the end he released her back to house arrest and said he would send his final verdict.
Please continue to pray for Anita and a favorable verdict with no prison time, and for all Christians in Iran.
Urgent Prayer Request: (Voice of the Persecuted) Please pray for Anita who gave her life to our Lord and converted to Christianity in Iran. She was arrested, interrogated, tortured and charged for having a role in the underground house church movement. Later she was released to await her trial under house arrest. Anita’s final court/trial date is scheduled tomorrow (April 15) in Iran, which would be this evening for those of us in the USA.
In recent weeks, we’ve heard of many being released from Iranian prisons due to the coronavirus. However, it appears the authorities may be set on giving Anita a heavy conviction and moving forward with her trial. Please pray for the judge’s heart to be softened. Continue to pray for all Christians in Iran. Pray for the many unbelievers to hear the Gospel with hearts ready to accept and follow our Lord, Jesus Christ.