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China’s Ongoing Persecution of Christians and the Case of Pastor Wang Yi
(The Heritage Foundation) The political landscape in the U.S. has shifted since 2018, yet Pastor Wang Yi still languishes in a Chinese prison. He’s a fitting symbol of the many persecuted by Communist China for their religious faith. Yet few outside China know his name.
Wang, founder of Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu, China, was arrested in December 2018, along with over 100 other members of his congregation. They were charged with “inciting subversion of state power”—a charge often given to Christians who do not fit the Communist Party’s ideological mold.
Wang’s church released his statement on civil disobedience—a treatise he penned on how believers should respond when the state conflicts with deeply held religious beliefs—shortly after his arrest.
A year later, on Dec. 30, 2019, the People’s Intermediate Court in Chengdu sentenced him to nine years in prison. He was convicted for “illegal business operations” and “inciting subversion” against the state.
Wang’s wife, Jiang Rong, was allowed to visit him in November 2021—the first time since his arrest three years before. Prior to this visit, Chengdu State Security forces prohibited his family members from visiting the prison.
Information on Wang is still limited, however, as Chengdu State Security restricts what he can disclose to family members. Chengdu Jintang Prison officials have claimed Wang is in good condition. But insider reports say he is likely being held in closed confinement. If so, he can’t meet with inmates other than two hardened criminals who likely share his cell. He is forced to eat moldy rice. Any health care he receives would come, at best, from unqualified medical staff or might even be cobbled together from fellow prisoners.
The Chengdu National Security Police also continue to intimidate and harass Wang’s family. Party officials have subjected his wife to 24-hour surveillance. They installed 360-degreee cameras in her home, robbing her of all privacy. The police also surveil and harass Wang’s parents and son.
Moreover, congregants of Early Rain Covenant Church continue to face persecution. Dai Zhichao and his family, for instance, have been subject to various forms of harassment by Communist Party officials, such as intimidation and the vandalizing of their home. Police have also targeted members of his small church group, one of whom was threatened and beaten on three separate occasions.
What Can Be Done?
The Chinese Communist Party’s attempt to bring religion under its control has been met with courageous opposition, and Wang’s testimony is a prime example. As he wrote in his Declaration of Religious Disobedience,
As long as the secular government continues to persecute the church, violating human consciences that belong to God alone, I will continue my faithful disobedience. For the entire commission God has given me is to let more Chinese people know through my actions that the hope of humanity and society is only in the redemption of Christ, in the supernatural, gracious sovereignty of God.
But can we do anything to help such persecuted faithful inside China?
Yes. Wang has been adopted as a prisoner of conscience by a member of Congress as part of the Tom Lantos Defending Freedoms Project.
Olivia Enos, a senior policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation, further recommends that the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom adopt Wang as a religious prisoner of conscience as part of their Religious Prisoners of Conscience Project. The commission has a track record of success, even in China.
For example, Dilshat Perhat Ataman, a Uyghur Muslim in Xinjiang, China, who was detained in 2018, was released a year later with the help of Tony Perkins’, the commission chair, advocacy work. If the commission adopted Wang, it would raise the profile of his case and make his release more likely. It would also make the wider world more aware of the Chinese Communist Party’s track record of religious persecution.
Indeed, the imprisonment of Wang and the detention and harassment of his family and other Early Rain members is just one of many such instances of religious persecution in China. Adopting Wang as a religious prisoner of conscience would elevate the profile of his case and shed light on the Communist Party’s systematic persecution of Christians.
The religious convictions of Christians like Wang cannot be reconciled with the communists’ efforts to assimilate them into the party ideology. This conflict must be met with efforts—on our part and on the part of the U.S. government and advocacy groups—to alleviate the plight of Chinese Christians.
The Commission on International Religious Freedom’s work in adopting prisoners of conscience is an especially promising avenue for elevating Wang’s case. Cases like these should continue to serve as a wake-up call to the leaders of the free world to defend those around the globe persecuted for their faith.
VOP Note: Please pray for Pastor Wang Yi and Chinese Christians.
This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal
Eritrean evangelical Christians freed on bail due to COVID-19
(World Watch List) The Eritrean government has released on bail more than 20 prisoners who’d been in detention for years because of their faith, the BBC reports.
It says sources have said that the prisoners are from Christian evangelical and Pentecostal denominations, some held in a prison outside the capital Asmara.
In 2002 Eritrea introduced a new law that forbids all Churches except for the Orthodox, Catholic and Evangelical Lutheran ones. Sunni Islam is also officially recognized.
According to a religious freedom campaigner from Asmara, but now based in North America, Hannibal Daniel, people who’d been in prison for about 16 years have been freed on bail.
A regional spokesperson for charity Open Doors International said that, for some time, it had heard discussion that prisoners might be freed on bail due to the coronavirus pandemic (as has happened in several other countries) but could not independently confirm the reports: “If true, this could be quite significant.”
The Eritrean government has not responded to BBC requests for confirmation or denial. Previously, it’s dismissed accusations of intolerance to religious freedom.
In May 2019, a monitoring group for the UN said “thousands” of Christians are facing detention as “religious freedom continue[s] to be denied in Eritrea” and questioned why the UN was not monitoring the situation more closely.
In June 2019, Thomson Reuters reported that more than 500,000 refugees worldwide have left Eritrea, up from 486,200 a year earlier.
Many flee compulsory military service, but others flee political or religious persecution.
That same month, the government seized all Catholic-run health clinics in the country, and arrested five Orthodox priests. These moves prompted the UN Special Rapporteur for human rights in Eritrea, Daniela Kravetz, to call on the government to uphold religious freedom for its citizens and “release those who have been imprisoned for their religious beliefs.”
In August 2019, Eritrea’s Orthodox patriarch, Abune Antonios, was expelled by pro-government bishops of his Church, accused of heresy; he remained in detention throughout 2019.
Antonios had been under house arrest since 2007, when he refused to comply with the regime’s attempts to interfere with church affairs.
The US Commission on International Religious Freedom says Eritrea is a ‘Country of Particular Concern’, saying “In 2019, religious freedom conditions in Eritrea worsened, with increasing interference in and restrictions on religious groups. In spite of the significant regional political changes and the 2018 peace agreement between Eritrea and Ethiopia, Eritrea continues to have one of the worst religious freedom records in the world, and has shown little interest in concretely improving the situation”. The State Department estimates there are between 1200 and 3000 prisoners held for their faith. USCIRF included some of those cases in its new Victims List.
Some prisoners, such as the leader of the Full Gospel Church, have been in prison for more than 15 years.
A year, ago, 70 Christians detained included 35 women and 10 children
At least 150 Eritrean Christians were arrested by government officials during summer 2019, with some held in an underground prison made up of tunnels.
For instance on 18 August, 2019, Eritrean security officials detained 80 Christians from Godayef, an area near Asmara airport.
Four days later, on 22 August, the United Nations observed its first annual commemoration of victims of religiously motivated violence. “On this day, we reaffirm our unwavering support for the victims of violence based on religion and belief. And we demonstrate that support by doing all in our power to prevent such attacks and demanding that those responsible are held accountable,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres.
The government’s 2019 clampdown on evangelical Christians had begun in June 2019 when security officials arrested 70 members (among them 35 women and 10 children) of the Faith Mission Church of Christ, in Eritrea’s second city, Keren. These were taken to Ashufera prison, 25kms from the city.
The prison is a vast underground tunnel system and conditions in which detainees are held are very harsh, a local source said. It’s far from a main road, the source said, which “means that anyone who wants to visit has to walk a minimum of 30 minutes to reach the entrance.
Inmates are forced to dig additional tunnels when officers need extra space for more prisoners.”
After the 2019 arrests, government officials also closed the church-run school, said the local source, whose identity World Watch Monitor withheld for security reasons.
The Faith Mission Church of Christ was the last church still open in the majority-Muslim city, 90kms northwest of Asmara. Started over 60 years ago, the Church once had schools and orphanages all over the country, according to religious freedom advocacy group CSW.
It had been waiting for registration since it submitted an application in 2002 when the government introduced the new law. This clampdown sent other Christians in Keren into hiding, the source said.
Eritrea is 6th on the Open Doors 2020 World Watch List of the 50 countries in which it is most difficult to live as a Christian.
Pastor in Nepal Jailed for More than Three Months Released on Bail
(Morning Star News) – A pastor arrested in Nepal in March on charges that violate religious rights, and then re-arrested moments after release in April, was released after paying an exorbitant bail this month, sources said.
First arrested on March 23 on charges of spreading false information for saying prayers can heal the novel coronavirus, pastor Keshab Raj Acharya had been released on April 8 only to be re-arrested moments later on charges of “outraging religious feelings” and “proselytizing.” After more than three months in prison, he was released on July 3 after paying bail equal to about $2,500, sources said.
“It was very difficult for me,” Pastor Acharya told Morning Star News. “I would think of my little children and my wife, and I would cry out to the Lord in prayer. I would look up at Him in hope that if it is in His will that I should be put through this, He would get me out of this.”
Government officials and police worked together against him, he said.
“They were laying a thorough plan to make sure I would stay in the jail for a longer period,” Pastor Acharya said.
The charges against the father of two young children violate a freedom of religion agreement to which Nepal is a signatory, rights advocates and Christian leaders in the Himalayan country said.
“I was released on bail after my wife paid 5,000 Nepalese rupees [US$41] on April 8, but after few minutes I was again taken into custody,” Pastor Acharya told Morning Star News.
When he asked why officers were arresting him again, police said he had gone against Nepalese religious customs by distributing gospel tracts in several places, he said. Officers further questioning him mocked and harassed him as they ordered him to explain each photo they found in the cell phone they had confiscated from him, he said.
Pastor Acharya had stored files of and about gospel tracts on his mobile phone. Seeing photos of different areas of Nepal and people he had met there, the officers mocked him, saying he had been to every district, and that the photos were solid evidence against him, he said.
“They ridiculed, ‘Oh, you have gone all around this country preaching about Christ against the Sanathan Hindu culture and customs. You are a threat to our nation. You should not be let go that easily,’” Pastor Acharya said.
When he asked officers why he was held in custody so long despite cooperating in every possible way, they spoke respectfully to him while at the same time fabricating false charges against him, he said.
“The officers told me, ‘Sir, you are not a criminal. You are a man of God. The Lord will save you,’ but they would twist the context of my narration and write statements on their own to only make the cases against me stronger,” Acharya told Morning Star News. “Only when I was produced before the judge did I get to know what all they have written about me. And, each time I was surprised to see the police twisting my statements and presenting them before the court so that the judge would really think I am a threat to national security.”
Police filed charges of outraging religious feelings and proselytizing, and on April 19 a Kaski District judge set a bail of 500,000 Nepalese rupees (US$4,084), considered disproportionately high for the level of charges against him.
“Every time I had asked the police to show me the statements they have written about me, they did not allow me to read them and took my signatures without me reading a word,” the pastor said.
Transfer to Dolpa
After 25 days, police planned to transfer him to the more remote Dolpa District jail, which has a reputation for mistreatment and poor conditions.
On May 13 officers arrested him from court premises on a third set of charges and sent him to the Dolpa jail. They treated him like a most-wanted criminal, stopping at every police station along the way and frequently changing the personnel taking him on the three-day trip, he said.
“Some of the police personnel who accompanied me did not wear masks,” Pastor Acharya told Morning Star News. “I was offered food in plates that were not clean, and especially since the COVID-19 spread in Nepal was rising, I had concerns about safety and hygiene. But I gave thanks and ate whatever they offered.”
Accusing Pastor Acharya of printing and distributing gospel tracts, the Dolpa District Attorney’s office on May 21 filed charges under the Nepal Criminal Code’s Section 158(1), which prohibits converting anyone from one religion to another, and Section 158(2), which prohibits undermining one’s religion with the intention of converting another person.
He was denied bail on May 22, but more than a month later the district judge reviewed the order decided to release him temporarily on bail of 300,000 Nepali rupees – about $2,500. Five days after the order, he was released on July 3, he said.
Pastor Mukunda Sharma, executive secretary of Nepal Christian Society, told Morning Star News that Christian individuals and organizations concerned about religious freedom around the world came forward to extend support in prayer and action. The Nepal Christian Society’s Rapid Response Team formed a three-member committee to work on his case soon after hearing about it, he said.
“We had talks with the police officials at all the three police stations where Pastor Acharya was framed in cases of spreading false information that prayers could heal COVID-19 and outraging religious feelings and proselytizing Hindus to Christianity,” Pastor Sharma said. “Since Nepal is a secular state and the constitution of Nepal guarantees religious freedom and the freedom of expression to all the citizens equally, the committee studied Pastor Keshab’s case and came to the conclusion that he had been falsely framed in cases that are against the Nepalese law of the land and also international human rights laws.”
The society hired Supreme Court lawyer Govinda Bandi and petitioned the court, but their pleas were rejected.
“All through the imprisonment, Pastor Acharya was treated like a notorious criminal. His hands were tied behind as police shifted him from place to place,” he said. “Worried by the arrest and inhumane treatment of Pastor Keshab Acharya, the Nepal Christian Society along with individuals and organizations from across the globe petitioned the attorney general of Nepal, Mr. Agni Kharel, to drop all the wrongful charges against Pastor Acharya and uphold the freedom of religion and belief.”
Thankful for Support
Pastor Acharya’s wife, Junu Acharya, told Morning Star News she wished to thank all who have prayed for and supported her family throughout the ordeal.
Unable to pay the rent on their worship facility, she added, the church has vacated the building.
“Outraging religious sentiments” under Section 158 of the Nepal Penal Code is punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to 50,000 Nepalese rupees (US$403). Under Section 156, it is punishable by up to two years in prison and a fine of up to 20,000 Nepalese rupees (US$163).
While Nepal’s 2015 constitution establishes it as a secular and democratic republic, its definition of “secular” appears to protect Hinduism and allows others only to worship in their own faiths. Article 26 forbids anyone to “convert a person of one religion to another religion, or disturb the religion of other people.”
Advocacy groups have detected increased enforcement and other anti-Christian efforts as officials seek to placate Hindus incensed that the new constitution did not re-establish a more prominent place for Hinduism. A landlocked country between the giants of India and China, Nepal is said to be more than 75 percent Hindu and 16 percent Buddhist. Christians are estimated to make up nearly 3 percent of Nepal’s population, and Muslims 4.4 percent.
Legal advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom’s allied attorney in Nepal said Christians who were once primarily hit with false accusations of “forcible conversion” are now being charged with preaching or speaking about their faith publicly.
An increase in persecution of Christians in Nepal began after a new criminal code was passed in October 2017, which took effect in August 2018.
By criminalizing conversions, Nepal has infringed on the fundamental freedom of religion or belief which is guaranteed not only by its constitution but also secured by several international covenants, according to ADF-International.
“Nepal’s constitution prohibits the attempt of religious conversion,” according to an ADF press statement. “At the same time, Nepal is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, an international treaty explicitly protecting freedom of religion and expression.”
Nepal is ranked 32nd on Open Doors’ 2020 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.
Persecution Watch: Persecution is a test
(Voice of the Persecuted) Dear Prayer Warriors, since December 9, 2018, Pastor Wang Yi has been imprisoned on charges of “inciting to subvert state power” and “illegal business operations.”
On December 26, 2019, he was secretly tried at the Chengdu Intermediate People’s Court. On December 30, the court announced that Pastor Wang Yi was sentenced to 9 years in prison and fined 50,000 RMB.
Not much being shared as updates about him or his church.
They and churches like his certainly need our prayers.
Below is an encouraging video sermon by Pastor Wang Yi.
Persecution is a test
12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.
Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.
Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.
But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled.
Strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.
When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.
And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Please join us tonight as we will pray for the persecuted church in China, Pastor Wang Yi and his parishioners at Early Rain Covenant Church.
It is our mission to continue to lift up persecuted witnesses for the Lord. Remember to pray for Leah Sharibu and Alice, that they will be set free from Boko Haram captivity.
For the release for Anita, a Christian convert recently sentenced to 6 years in prison for sharing the Gospel in Iran.
Join us on tonight’s prayer conference call.
All for His Glory,
Nadia and Merlaine
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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.
Christian Begins Sentence of Exile in Remote, Islamist Area of Iran
(Morning Star News) – A Christian in Iran convicted of conducting evangelistic activities began a mandated two years in exile this month in a remote area on the border with Pakistan, sources said.
As part of a larger prison sentence delivered in 2013, Ebrahim Firoozi, 33, was sentenced to two years in exile in Sarbaz, a frontier town on the Iranian-Pakistani border known for its isolation and prevalence of Islamic militant groups.
The sentence, which will expose the convert from Islam to extended periods of danger and isolation, was meant to keep him “from having a positive influence on people and to stop him from fellowshipping with the people in the Tehran area,” a source at advocacy group Middle East Concern (MEC) told Morning Star News.
Released from Rajaei Shahr Prison in Karaj on Oct. 26, he was ordered to report to Sarbaz following a brief period to order personal matters.
Firoozi, whose mother died while he was in prison, arrived in Sarbaz on Tuesday (Nov. 12).
Having found housing in “a remote desert town out in the middle of nowhere,” he was said to be looking for work.
Firoozi n August 2013 was convicted of charges of “propaganda against the Islamic Republic,” “launching and directing evangelism” and “running a Christian website” He was sentenced to a year in prison and the term of exile.
While serving the prison sentence, Firoozi faced a second trial where he was sentenced to an additional five years for “crimes against national security,” “participating in illegal gatherings” and “colluding with foreign entities.”
Court Hearing Delayed
A hearing of an appeal by a group of Christians with prison sentences as long as 15 years was postponed without reason Wednesday (Nov. 13).
The delay was one of several in the appeal process for the Christians. In February a judge who was later unseated for corruption inexplicably combined a case involving a pastor’s wife with two longstanding appeal cases against other Christians. The three cases were delayed in September when the judge declined to show up.
Although delaying court cases is a common method to harass Christians charged with or convicted of crimes of belief, a researcher at MEC who requested anonymity said some of the delays surrounding the three cases could be due to court confusion about why the third case was combined with the earlier two. No date has been set for a new hearing.
The first case involves an Assyrian pastor, Victor Bet Tamraz, and two converts from Islam, Amin Nader Afshari and Kavian Fallah Mohammadi; all were arrested at a Christmas celebration in December 2014.
The second case also involves Afshari, as well as Hadi Asgari, from a 2016 arrest during what was essentially a picnic.
In the third case, Pastor Tamraz’s wife, Shamiram Issavi Khabizeh, was summoned by authorities in June 2017. Pastor Tamraz was sentenced the next month to 10 years in prison for “acting against national security.” Afshari, Agsari and Mohammadi received prison sentences of between 10 and 15 years on similar charges.
For charges of “acting against national security,” and “acting against the regime by organizing small groups, attending a seminary abroad and training church leaders and pastors to act as spies,” Shamiram was sentenced in January 2018 to five years in prison.
Iran was ranked ninth on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.
30 Pentecostal Christians Arrested for Praying in Eritrea
Eritrea’s Pentecostals have faced much persecution and detained for their faith. Recently 30 were arrested by the country’s security forces for praying. According to the BBC, Dr. Berhane Asmelash of Release Eritrea, said the Christians were arrested at three different locations around the capital city of Asmara.
The Eritrean government officially sanctioned and provided protocol status recognition to the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church, the Eritrean Catholic Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Eritrea, and Sunni Islam. All other faiths and denominations are required to undergo a registration process, including personal information on their membership to be allowed to worship. Although the Eritrean government stated that it would allow other groups to be recognized, it has refused to register applications for recognition pending since 2002, even though some of them meet the requirements. Basically, the government considers other religious groups illegal and claim they are instruments of foreign governments.
A few weeks ago, police arrested 141 Christians, including 23 men, 104 women, and 14 minors, from Asmara’s Mai Temenai area.
Eritrea’s population is approximately half Christian and half Muslim. Since 2004, U.S. State Department has recognized Eritrea as a “country of particular concern” for horrific violations of religious freedom.
Ministries host open prayer conference call for Andrew Brunson
(Voice of the Persecuted) For years, relations between the U.S. and Turkey have been deteriorating and, among other issues, critically affected by the detention of an American pastor, Andrew Brunson. Andrew has lived in Turkey for 23 years and is a pastor for the Izmir Diriliş (Resurrection) Church, a small evangelical Presbyterian congregation in the city of Izmir. He’s been unjustly detained since October 7, 2016 on charges of espionage and links to terror organizations which he firmly denies. Many believe Brunson is nothing but a political pawn in Turkey’s quest to force the U.S. to extradite Fethullah Gülen, who is considered an enemy of the Turkish government and living in self-exile in Pennsylvania for years.
During the first 18 months before his first trial hearing Andrew lost 50 lbs. and suffered extreme depression. Pastor Brunson’s first court trial hearing was on April 16, 2018, the second hearing took place on May 7; a third hearing on July 18. His fourth hearing is scheduled for October 12, 2018. The 50 year old pastor is facing a 35-year prison sentence if convicted by the Turkish court.
Through U.S. pressure, many hoped that Andrew would be released at the previous hearing on 18 July, but the judge ordered Andrew stay in detention. Reports claim that following an international outcry, the court ruled on July 25 that Andrew could be released from prison and be kept under house arrest due to health concerns.
On October 2, Ismail Cem Halavurt, Andrew’s lawyer, took Andrew’s case to the Constitutional Court hoping the claims against Andrew will be rejected and Andrew released from house arrest.
Turkish Christians and friends of Andrew Brunson are requesting prayer for the upcoming hearing.
Details for the call are below. Please, join us and let us remember all those who are in the shadow of the cross.
Your brother in Christ,
Serving Jesus as Prayer Director of Voice of the Persecuted and Persecution Watch.
Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. Mark 11:24
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Christians in Iran Seized from Homes, including Violent Imprisonment of Pastor
(Morning Star News) – Three Christians in Iran were arrested from their homes following the violent arrest of pastor Yousef Nadarkhani on Sunday (July 22), according to advocacy group Middle East Concern (MEC).
Pastor Nadarkhani, a convert from Islam like the others arrested, was awaiting a summons to begin a 10-year prison sentence after his appeal of a conviction for “propagating house churches” and promoting “Zionist Christianity” was upheld in May.
“Around 10 police officers arrived at the house and physically assaulted Yousef’s son when he opened the door to them,” MEC reported. “Both Yousef and his son were tasered, despite offering no resistance. The manner of their arrest was probably an attempt to intimidate the Christian community, but their friends report that the church has not given in to fear.”
Pastor Nadarkhani was sentenced on July 6, 2017, along with fellow converts from Islam Yasser Mossayebzadeh, Mohammadreza Omidi and Saheb Fadaie. Mossayebzadeh was arrested from his home today, and Omidi and Fadaie were arrested from their homes yesterday evening (July 24), according to MEC.
Pastor Nadarkhani ad Omidi were also sentenced to two years of internal exile, according to MEC.
“Both will serve this sentence in the south of Iran, far away from their families in Rasht,” the group reported in a press statement.
The three Christians arrested today and yesterday have been taken to Evin Prison in Tehran to join Pastor Nadarkhani, who has been put in a “quarantine” ward normally reserved as a form of punishment, according to MEC.
“Please pray that the Lord will comfort and strengthen those arrested and their families and that the Christian community in Iran will trust the Lord and not be intimidated,” MEC’s statement read, also requesting prayer that “Iranian authorities will treat converts and other religious minorities with respect, and that they and their families will not be wrongly and aggressively handled.”
The four Christians were arrested in Rasht on May 13, 2016 during a series of raids by security agents on Christian homes, according to advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW). They were sentenced by Judge Ahmadzadeh, head judge of the 26th Branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Court in Tehran, who is accused of miscarriages of justice and is subject to financial sanctions in the United Kingdom, according to CSW.
“Their appeal hearing on 13 December 2017 took place before Judge Hassan Babaee and Judge Ahmad Zargar, both of whom are alleged to have played prominent roles in the crackdown on freedom of expression in Iran,” CSW said in a press statement.
Judge Zargar, a Hojjatolislam (clerical position immediately below an ayatollah), was among several Iranian officials deemed responsible or complicit in serious human rights violations in 2012, according to CSW. He was also one of six judges accused in 2014 of lacking judicial impartiality and overseeing unjust trials of journalists, lawyers, political activists and members of Iran’s ethnic and religious minorities, the group reported.
“The national security charges leveled against these men were spurious, and their sentences are excessive, amounting to a criminalization of Christian practice,” CSW Chief Operating Officer Scot Bower said in the press statement. “We are calling for the unconditional release of Pastor Nadarkhani, and for his sentence and those of Mr. Omidi, Mr. Mossayebzadeh and Mr. Fadaie to be quashed.”
Pastor Nardarkhani was also arrested in 2009 after going to his children’s school to question Islam’s exclusive place in religious education for children, which he said was unconstitutional. He was charged with apostasy and sentenced to death in 2010, a decision that was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2011.
On Sept. 8, 2012, he was released from prison following his acquittal on apostasy charges but was found guilty on charges of evangelizing. He returned to prison on Dec. 25, 2012 to complete a three-year sentence for evangelism and was released on Jan 7, 2013.
Iran is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantees the right to change one’s religion and the freedom of religion. Furthermore, Article 23 of the Iranian Constitution states that “the investigation of individuals’ beliefs is forbidden, and no one may be molested or taken to task simply for holding a certain belief.”
Iran ranked 10th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2018 World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.