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.
Be encouraged as you read this praise report!
Morning Star News) – When a convert from Islam in Iran was sentenced to two years in exile in Sarbaz last year, the judge warned him that religious extremists in the remote desert town would treat him harshly.
When Ebrahim Firoozi arrived in November to southwest Iran near the border with Pakistan, though, he discovered the fear the judge had tried to instill in him was unfounded – local Muslims were helpful, open and hospitable, the Christian said in a recent online interview.
This discovery was all the more welcome as in March his term of exile was extended by another 11 months.
Upon his arrival in Sarbaz, one person invited Firoozi to stay at his home the first night; others quickly found him a place to live. Local people’s kindness only increased, he said, when they learned he was exiled for his Christian faith rather than for a crime.
“I found these people to be very noble,” Firoozi, 34, told Joseph Hovsepian of Hovsepian Ministries in an interview posted on YouTube in which he opened up about his conversion and his years in prison before exile.
Firoozi and advocates believe this kindness was an answer to the prayers of worried friends, family and others.
“The reason people were nice to me wasn’t because of my own character or my goodness. It was all because of God,” Firoozi told Hovsepian.
Released from Rajai Shahr Prison in Karaj on Oct. 26, Firoozi was ordered to report to Sarbaz following a brief period to order personal matters. Shortly after arriving, though, he sought permission to leave the area to settle family affairs in Hamedan and, receiving no response, in December he departed.
As a result, he received an additional eight months of exile for violating terms of the sentence and three more for failing to show for a daily check-in, according to advocacy group Middle East Concern (MEC).
Besides punishment, the purpose of exile is to keep people from continuing to be an influence in their areas, a researcher at MEC told Morning Star News. He added, however, that Firoozi has been an inspiration to Christians in his desire to stay in Iran, rather than fleeing in the face of persecution, and in his attitude throughout the process.
“His faithfulness in the midst of persecution is an inspiration to others,” he said.
Firoozi’s lifestyle in exile is simple, the researcher at MEC added, and he spends much of his time reading Christian literature.
It is unknown whether Firoozi has found work in the area, but Hovsepian told Morning Star News, “He is not alone, and he will be taken care of.”
Before exile, Firoozi had spent almost seven years in prison, starting in 2011, when agents searched his house, arrested him and presented tracts and other materials as evidence against him, he said in his online interview.
The judge initially sentenced Firoozi to 10 months in prison. When Firoozi was released, he continued to share his faith, and in 2013 he was given a one-year sentence and two years in exile.
Five years were added to the one-year sentence. As he was preparing to turn himself in to serve the initial one-year sentence, Firoozi said, he met with people to say goodbye, during which agents entered and interrogated them and accused him of conducting a Bible study group, and five years were added to his initial one-year sentence.
He was sentenced to five years under charges of “crimes against national security,” “participating in illegal gatherings” and “colluding with foreign entities.” Criminal charges are given to Christian converts for involvement and fellowship with Christian groups and activities. The sentences, Firoozi said, are rarely put in writing to avoid evidence of unjust convictions.
In court he was pressured to ask for forgiveness and renounce his faith in exchange for a lighter sentence, he told Hovsepian.
“But that was absolutely not an option for me,” he said. “I could never turn my back on my faith and submit to this, and by God’s grace I encountered a few years in prison in exchange for an eternity with him.”
At the beginning of his faith journey, Firoozi said he knew that he would face this type of persecution.
His journey began at age 20, when his family moved from Hamadan to Tehran. Through Christian media, he was introduced to a Christ much different than the one he had heard of while growing up.
When the friends he had been staying with blocked the Christian programs, he listenedto short-wave radio broadcasts with headphones on the roof of the house, Bible in hand, until he could find his own place. Through subsequent contacts with Christians, he said, “I came to accept him as my Lord and Savior.”
After his conversion, he openly shared his faith and gave people Bibles, and even declared himself as Christian on official forms.
Staying in Iran
While emphasizing that his experience in prison was not necessarily like that of all Christian inmates, Firoozi said he was not mistreated. He was eventually allowed to have a Bible, to build a small library, and when all Christians were transferred to Rajai Shahr Prison in 2013, he was able to be with fellow believers.
He told Hovsepian that in prison he realized the value of freedom, love and grace toward others as well as the endurance and submission required of biblical heroes like Job.
While serving his sentence, his mother died. Hovsepian said the fact that Firoozi’s heart is not filled with bitterness is a testament to his character.
“In a way I would say maybe he is an icon of the young generation of persecuted believers in Iran,” said Hovsepian, 46.
While there is hope that in future generations Christians will not be imprisoned for their faith, Hovsepian noted that persecution often strengthens the church.
“I have seen that wherever there is persecution, the church grows fast,” he said. “The church purifies. The church unites, and the opposite also happens wherever there is no persecution.”
While some might use their conversion as a means to request asylum abroad, Firoozi told Hovsepian that he has no intention of doing so. Instead, he wants to stay, bring change and spread hope and the gospel to Iranian people.
He asked for prayers that Iranians would be granted human rights, that those in prison would feel supported and that the leaders of the country would have a change of heart.
“I don’t want people to be discouraged by stories of people like myself being imprisoned or other believers being persecuted in Iran or other countries,” Firoozi said, “but instead I want them to emphasize the fact that God is with the church in Iran and gives the church grace and strength to endure in difficult times.”
Iran was ranked ninth on the Open Doors’ 2020 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.
Urgent Prayer Request: Please pray for Anita who gave her life to our Lord and converted to Christianity in Iran. She has been charged for having a role in the underground house church movement. Her 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 the many being released from Iranian prisons due to the coronavirus. However, it appears the authorities may be set on giving her a heavy conviction and they’re moving forward with her trial. Pray for the heart of the judge hearing her case to be soften. Please continue to pray for all Christians in Iran as well.
Ebrahim Firouzi says a new warrant, issued by the Courthouse of Sarbaz county, has added two charges of “insulting the sacred” and “cyber spying” to his case.
Sarbaz is a county in Sistan and Baluchestan Province in southeastern Iran.
(Mohabat News) In addition to two new charges, Ebrahim Firouzi has recently been sentenced based on a warrant issued by the Criminal Enforcement Branch of General and Revolutionary Courts in Robat Karim city.
Based on this verdict, issued on March 11, 2010, eight months have been added to the deportation of the Christian citizen.
Ebrahim Firouzi told Iranian Christians News Agency, “Mohabat News”: I requested a leave of absence because of family problems, but the city’s prosecutor added eight-month deportation to the length of my exile after three months.
This two-year exile of Ebrahim Firoozi to the city of Sarbaz (near the Iran-Pakistan border) began in mid-November 2009. He was imprisoned in Rajai Shahr (Gohardasht) Prison for four years before being deported, and his request for leave of absence was not agreed during all this time! Ebrahim, who has 35 years old, had been in prison for a total of seven years. He suffered much discomfort during his sentence that he was not allowed to attend the funeral after his mother died due to a long illness.
He says, “During the seven years of imprisonment, many things have occurred and the prison authorities did not agree to my request for a leave of absence to resolve these problems.” He added, “I was pressured by the relatives to carry out administrative matters quickly for preparing documents, and I was put on deadline. I applied for a five-day leave of absence regarding my administrative matters, but it was only agreed to six days, due to the paperwork.
“Ebrahim Firouzi says: “After being sent on leave, I was forced to get a layer to pursue administrative matters. Then, I returned to the Sabaz county and introduced myself to the police station, but they said my case is out of exile section. I went to the courthouse but they said you were absent and you left the city without permission and this report (your absence) was sent to Tehran.
Ebrahim Firouzi added, “I went back to Robat Karim and to the courthouse, and they accepted my reasons and announced that my leave had been approved, in a letter to the criminal enforcement division in Sarbaz County. I submitted the letter to the Sarbaz Courthouse but said my leave is unacceptable and my case has been sent to Tehran.
“He said: “It took me about three months to get this sentence and I was in exile all this time. Nevertheless, these three months are not counted as exile and I was fined eight months, namely, a total of six months was added to the exile.
These cases don’t involve all problems of Ebrahim Firouzi. Although he was acquitted of “insulting the sacred” in his first case, two charges of “insulting the sacred” and “cyber spying” were added to his case based on a new warrant issued by the Sarbaz Courthouse. Now, the fate of this Christian convert is uncertain. There have been a few reports indicating this high level of psychological harassment for a prisoner of conscience, if not unprecedented, and his situation is still unclear./ Persian