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(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.
Stephen Tong, a reformed Chinese pastor based out of Indonesia, has influenced the Chinese house church perhaps more than any other pastor in this generation. In the video below, he shares at the KL2020 conference in Kuala Lumpur some of his thoughts about Pastor Wang Yi. To prevent him from boldly sharing the Gospel, Yi was given a 9 year prison sentence by the government. Please continue to pray for this pastor and our Chinese brothers and sisters being persecuted for their faith in Christ.
(Voice of the Persecuted) A statement from Early Rain Covenant Church regarding the severe sentencing of Pastor Wang Yi, encouragement for other churches being persecuted and a request for prayer.
Since December 9th, 2018, our church’s senior pastor Wang Yi has been imprisoned on charges of “inciting to subvert state power” and “illegal business operations.” On December 26th, 2019, he was secretly tried at the Chengdu Intermediate People’s Court. On December 30th, the court announced that Pastor Wang Yi was sentenced to 9 years in prison and fined 50,000 RMB. Our church issues the following statement to clarify our position:
1. As the senior pastor of this church, Pastor Wang Yi is a faithful servant who has been chosen by God and by the Lord Jesus Christ. His teachings on the truth of the gospel are consistent with the entirety of biblical revelation; they are consistent with the creeds, confessions, and relevant catechisms inherited by the universal church; and they are consistent with the constitution of Western China Reformed Presbytery. The influence that God has given Pastor Wang Yi within the universal church and especially within Chinese churches throughout the world is a result of his being called by God and courageously preaching the gospel amidst the unique cultural and political circumstances in China.
2. Pastor Wang Yi’s sermons, lectures, books, and articles are produced for the pastoring of believers and for the spreading of the gospel. From the perspective of the church, he produces these things as a way of fulfilling his call to the ministry and responding to the gifts and grace he has received. By producing these things, he is fulfilling his duties as a pastor and a missionary. From the perspective of society, he is exercising his freedoms of religion and of speech, rights granted to Chinese citizens by the Constitution and laws of China. The books printed by the church have never been printed for profit but only for the pastoring of believers and for the spreading of the gospel. He has never conducted so-called “illegal business operations.”
3. Ever since Pastor Wang Yi received his calling from God, he has always held to the biblical principle of “separation of church and state” regarding the relationship between church and state. He has spent much time researching, preaching, and writing about this. It is widely known in the Chinese church that he has always taught that Christians should submit to authorities in power in accordance with Scripture. He has taught that even when the church is being persecuted, Christians should be willing to submit to the government’s physical restrictions of them as well as to the depravation of their property. He has never said or done anything that amounts to “inciting to subvert state power.”
4. Pastor Wang Yi’s arrest, imprisonment, and trial are persecutions he has suffered for the sake of the Christian faith, and they testify to the sufferings of Christ for the glory of God (1 Pet. 5:1). He is a gift and joy whom God has given to this church (Eph. 4:11, Phil. 4:1).
5. Pastor Wang Yi did not commit any crime. The authorities’ charges of “inciting to subvert state power” and “illegal business operations” are part of the unjust persecutions against the Chinese house church. Regardless of the sentence the authorities pronounce against him, Pastor Wang Yi is the senior pastor of this church and a faithful messenger of the kingdom of heaven whom we stand with and follow and whom the Lord Jesus Christ has chosen and approved.
In Christ, we issue the following exhortation and protest against Pastor Wang Yi’s severe sentence. Do you government officials not know that this is a sin against God? Do you not know that this is an abuse of your authority (Rom. 13:3)? Even so, we do not hate you. On the contrary, our merciful and righteous God wants us to love you and to pray for you. We desire that those public officials and law enforcement officers who are involved in this case would quickly repent and believe in the Lord, that you would know the atonement and forgiveness of sins which the Lord Jesus extends to all through his suffering on the cross, and that you would obtain eternal life and hope.
We invite all sojourners throughout the world who belong to the universal church to pray fervently for Pastor Wang Yi and Elder Qin Defu, who are being imprisoned for the sake of Christ and of the gospel, as well as for their families. Pray for all of us. We will also pray for you. In this eschaton, which Jesus Christ brought about through his incarnation, through his perfect life, through his betrayal and trial, through his substitutionary death, through his resurrection and ascension, through his gift of the Holy Spirit—in this eschaton, may we testify, through our suffering, that Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (Jn. 14:6) and that he is the light of the world.
We also invite churches who are currently being persecuted to fix their eyes together with us upon the crucified and risen Jesus Christ. Through the Holy Spirit, may we be united to the King of Kings who ascended to the right hand of the Majesty on high, who is our eternal high priest and prophet of the last days. May we be strong in his grace as we keep on fighting despite repeated setbacks. We do this to fulfill the Great Commission and to spread the gospel, that the glorious name of the triune God might be praised. May God help us and allow us to experience together the breadth, length, height, and depth of the love of God until the day we see him face-to-face. May blessing and honor and wisdom and wealth and glory and power and authority be to our holy Father who is in heaven, to the Lord Jesus Christ who obtained our salvation, and to the Holy Spirit our Helper who continually helps us. Amen!
Early Rain Covenant Church
December 30, 2019
Voice of the Persecuted asks that you be their voice and share this story. Encourage your church, friends and family members to pray with you for them in their suffering. These precious Chinese believers are praying for you!
我们邀请寄居全地的普世教会，为因基督和福音缘故被囚禁的王怡牧师、覃德富长老和他们的家人继续切切代祷。为我们众人祷告，我们也会为你们祷告，愿我们在这末世 — 耶稣基督以他降世为人、完美一生、被卖受审、代罪受死、复活升天和赐下圣灵带来的末世中 — 以我们的受苦见证基督是道路、真理、生命（约14.6），是这黑暗世界的光。我们也邀请正在遭受逼迫的教会，一起定睛死而复活的耶稣基督，依靠圣灵与已经升到高天之大者右边的王万之王、永远的大祭司和末后的先知紧密联合，在祂的恩典上刚强起来，屡败屡战，屡战屡败，为的是践行大使命，让福音广传，使三一上帝荣耀的名得着称赞。求上帝帮助我们，让我们在逼迫中，同享上帝长阔高深的慈爱，直到与祂面对面的时刻。愿颂赞、尊贵、智慧、丰富、荣耀、能力和权柄，都归给我们在天上的圣父，为我们赢得拯救的主耶稣基督，不断向我们施恩帮助的圣灵保惠师。阿们！
Early Rain Covenant Church-Facebook
We have learned that Pastor Wang Yi was sentenced to 9 years in prison for proclaiming the gospel. The following is a translation of the official announcement from the court:
“On December 30, 2019, the Intermediate People’s Court of Chengdu, Sichuan Province, publicly pronounced the following judgment in accordance with the law regarding the case of the defendant Wang Yi for the crimes of ‘inciting to subvert state power’ and ‘illegal business operations’: For the crimes of ‘inciting to subvert state power’ and ‘illegal business operations,’ Wang Yi is sentenced to 9 years in prison; he is deprived of political rights for 3 years; and 50,000 RMB of his personal property shall be seized.”
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matt. 5:11-12)
Praise God for the faithful witness of our brother in Christ, whose reward is now great in heaven. May the Lord use Pastor Wang Yi’s imprisonment to draw many to himself and to bring glory to his name. “For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” (2 Cor. 4:11)
From Pastor Wang Yi:
I hope God uses me, by means of first losing my personal freedom, to tell those who have deprived me of my personal freedom that there is an authority higher than their authority, and that there is a freedom that they cannot restrain, a freedom that fills the church of the crucified and risen Jesus Christ.
Regardless of what crime the government charges me with, whatever filth they fling at me, as long as this charge is related to my faith, my writings, my comments, and my teachings, it is merely a lie and temptation of demons. I categorically deny it. I will serve my sentence, but I will not serve the law. I will be executed, but I will not plead guilty.
Those who lock me up will one day be locked up by angels. Those who interrogate me will finally be questioned and judged by Christ. When I think of this, the Lord fills me with a natural compassion and grief toward those who are attempting to and actively imprisoning me. Pray that the Lord would use me, that he would grant me patience and wisdom, that I might take the gospel to them.
Separate me from my wife and children, ruin my reputation, destroy my life and my family – the authorities are capable of doing all of these things. However, no one in this world can force me to renounce my faith; no one can make me change my life; and no one can raise me from the dead.
Jesus is the Christ, son of the eternal, living God. He died for sinners and rose to life for us. He is my king and the king of the whole earth yesterday, today, and forever. I am his servant, and I am imprisoned because of this. I will resist in meekness those who resist God, and I will joyfully violate all laws that violate God’s laws.
– Pastor Wang Yi, “My Declaration of Faithful Disobedience”
// […] 我渴望上帝使用我，以失去人身自由的方式，来告诉那些让我失去人身自由的人，有一种比他们的权柄更高的权柄存在，也有一种无法被他们关押的自由，充满了耶稣基督死而复活的教会。
– 王怡牧师 《我的声明：信仰上的抗命》
This update comes by means of the Facebook page associated with Early Rain Covenant Church.
Please share and pray for Pastor Wang Yi. Pray for all Chinese believers who are at a high risk of persecution as the Chinese government is cracking down on them and seeking to wipe out Christianity. Our Lord will never abandon them, not for a moment!
Father God, Pastor Wang Yi is suffering for the sake of Christ and for our Lord’s glory. Please fill our brother with your supernatural presence. Comfort him as he picks up this cross and give peace to his heart and mind. When he opens his mouth may Your words flow from him. Give him the courage that whatever may come your Gospel and saving love will be boldly shared. Help Pastor Yi to love his persecutors and prepare them to hear Your Word.
May persecution never weaken our brother’s faith but make him stronger, a mighty warrior for Your Kingdom. We thank you for this precious brother in Christ. We lament for and with him as if he were our own family member and we were in prison with him. Oh Father, if it’s in Your will, we ask for his release. Lord, we lift up his family as they too go through this trial.
We ask for Your hand to be on every Chinese brother and sister as they face this rapid increase of persecution from their government. In the face of fear help them not retract from the faith. May the fire of the Holy Spirit sweep over and consume this nation, and may a greater Church body arise!
We pray for those who are shunning you and hurting your church. They do not realize what they are doing. We pray for their eyes to be opened and their hearts prepared as you reveal Yourself to them. Show them they have no power over You. That You cannot be removed from any place on Your Earth, it is Yours. Your Gospel will be shared exactly as You’ve said and Your light will continue to shine even in the darkest place. We pray that they will accept our Christ and the invitation of salvation. All for Your glory, alone. In Jesus Holy name, we pray.
On behalf of U.S. Pastor Andrew Brunson, his daughter addressed the Human Rights Council in Geneva and directly spoke to the Turkish representative there as well. See video below.
Ebrahim Firouzi, a Christian prisoner in Rajai Shahr Prison in Iran, has suffered physical abuse at the hands of prison guards when he was forced to attend an appeal hearing.
On 21st August 2013 Ebrahim was arrested with two friends during a raid by plain-clothed security officers. He had also been detained in 2011 and earlier in 2013 because of his Christian activities. The other two believers were released on bail after several months. On 2nd October 2014 Ebrahim was relocated from Evin Prison in Tehran to Rajai Shahr Prison near Karaj. He was due for release on 13th January 2015 but was kept in detention, re-tried on 5th March 2015 and charged with “acting against national security, gathering and collusion”. At the end of April 2015 Ebrahim was sentenced to five years in prison. He is in a ward with potentially dangerous criminals and last year went on hunger strike to protest against these conditions.
On 13th July Ebrahim was summoned to attend an appeal hearing, but he refused to go as he was under the impression that it was sufficient for his lawyer to attend the hearing. Because of his refusal he was beaten by prison guards and forcibly taken to court. One of the presiding judges was absent however, and the appeal has been postponed until November.
Ebrahim’s mother appealed for Ebrahim’s release in a video published by the Human Rights Activists News Agency.
In March Ebrahim was able to release a call to prayer, noting God’s promises to those who remain faithful to him and asking for prayer for himself to stand strong in the face of persecution. He said:
“Jesus is our example; the Saviour who came among us to be crucified and save us. We sometimes have to sacrifice our freedom to live in God’s love, so I can’t think only about myself when there are so many believers suffering persecution.”
Please continue to pray for Ebrahim, asking that:
a. God will keep Ebrahim in His love and strengthen and encourage him despite the abuse and lack of freedom
b. he will be in good health and aware of God’s abounding love to him in Jesus
c. he will be released soon
d. the prison officials will love mercy, act justly, learn about Jesus and choose to follow Him