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Pastor in Nepal Jailed for More than Three Months Released on Bail

Pastor Keshab Raj Acharya and his wife Junu after his release on bail in Nepal. (Morning Star News)

(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.

Six Christians among 54,000 released from prison

Amin Khaki and Mahrokh Ghanbari have been granted 36 days’ leave from prison.—Mary Mohammadi is out on bail, while Ramiel Bet-Tamraz was released three weeks ahead of schedule.

Six Christians were among the more than 54,000 prisoners released from custody in Iran over the past week, as part of efforts to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

Article18 has already reported on the early release of Assyrian-Iranian Christian Ramiel Bet-Tamraz and the release on bail of Christian convert Fatemeh (Mary) Mohammadi on Wednesday last week. Another Christian convert who cannot be named was also released that day.

Then on Monday, 2 March, three more Christian converts were given 36 days’ leave from prison: Rokhsareh (Mahrokh) Ghanbari, who is serving a one-year sentence; Amin Khaki, whose sentence is 14 months; and a third convert who also cannot be identified.

Mahrokh was forced to submit 30 million tomans for bail (around $2,000) – the same as Mary Mohammadi – and Amin 50 million (around ($3,000).

Rights groups have been calling for the release of all political prisoners for weeks, noting that prisons in China, where the virus first emerged, became a hotbed for the disease.

The UN’s Special Rapporteur on Iran highlighted in his most recent report that the country’s overcrowded prisons are a “source of infections and ill-health” and the “spread of infectious and communicable diseases”.

Succumbing to the growing pressure, on Monday Iran’s judiciary spokesman, Gholamhossein Esmaili, announced that more than 54,000 prisoners who had tested negative for the coronavirus had been released on bail.

The leave did not apply to security prisoners serving sentences of more than five years, Mr Esmaili said, which could explain why more Christian prisoners of conscience were not freed.

Five Christians are currently serving ten-year sentences on security-related charges – Nasser Navard Gol-TapehYousef NadarkhaniZaman (Saheb) FadaieMohammad Ali Mossayezbazeh, and Mohammad Reza Omidi.

Left to right: Saheb Fadaei, Yousef Nadarkhani, Mohammad Ali Mossayebzadeh and Mohammad Reza Omidi.

Another five – Abdolreza (Matthias) Haghnejad, Mohammad (Shahrooz) Eslamdoust, Babak Hosseinzadeh, Mehdi Khatibi, and Behnam Akhlaghi – have been detained since July last year. They are appealing against five-year sentences.

It is not clear, however, why there has been no furlough for Christian convert Fatemeh (Aylar) Bakhtari, who, like Mahrokh, is serving a one-year sentence.

The families of detainees have called for more prisoners to be released, including those serving longer sentences, with the sister of an imprisoned environmentalist noting that the virus “is unaware of [the length of] sentences when it infects people”.

Counting the cost

Iran has recorded the highest number of deaths (92) from the virus outside of China.

Several senior Iranian figures have been infected, including 23 MPs and the Vice President for women and family affairs, Masoumeh Ebtekar, while a member of the Expediency Council, Mohammad Mirmohammadi – reportedly a close confidant of the Supreme Leader – has died.

Iran rejected an offer of assistance from the United States, but a team of World Health Organization officials have been allowed into the country.

The government has not confirmed any cases of the virus in its prisons, though there have been claims of infections at several prisons.

An open letter by 100 Sunni prisoners in Rajaei Shahr Prison in Karaj claimed the authorities were not doing enough to combat the spread of the virus.

They said they had not been provided with masks, gloves and disinfectant, as requested, and were refused temporary leave.

Kidnapped Baptist Pastor in Nigeria Freed after 17 Days of Torture

Muslim Fulani herdsmen injured Baptist pastor Elisha Noma while holding him captive. (Morning Star News)

Nigeria (Morning Star News) – A Baptist pastor kidnapped and tortured last month in Nigeria was released over the weekend after his family and Christian leaders paid a ransom, sources said.

Muslim Fulani herdsmen in Kaduna state who abducted the Rev. Elisha Noma on Aug. 14 received 3 million naira (US$8,181) before freeing him on Saturday (Aug. 31), the chairman of the state chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) told Morning Star News.

“He was released after a ransom was paid following a series of negotiations with the bandits on the ransom,” the Rev. Joseph Hayab told Morning Star News in a text message. “We thank God for his mercies. We pray for God’s intervention in the calamity that seems to have befallen us as a nation.”

Pastor Noma, 60, of the Baptist Church Ungwan Makeri in Kaduna, identified the kidnappers as armed herdsmen. After his release, he received medical treatment for injuries while in captivity.

His left hand was broken, and his captors switched on their phone to let his family hear him cry in pain as they beat, cut and burned him to compel them to pay the ransom, according to CAN. He was left with scars from burns on his head and face.

In August alone, more than 40 pastors in Nigeria were either kidnapped or suffered some form of violence from herdsmen or Boko Haram terrorists, according to figures obtained from CAN.

“We will also continue to call on the government and the security agencies to do everything within their powers to stop the increasing spate of criminality across the country, especially the increasing wave of kidnappings in Kaduna state,” Pastor Hayab told Morning Star News.

James Kantiyok, a deacon at the kidnapped pastor’s church, expressed joy over his release in spite of mistreatment while in captivity.

“We can’t hold back our joy for his freedom, despite all he went through,” Kantihok told Morning Star News. “Let’s all pray for his total recovery as he is currently receiving medical treatment. We thank you all for praying with the family and the church.”

About 20 Muslim Fulani herdsmen kidnapped Pastor Noma and his son, Emmanual Noma, after storming their home at about 1 a.m. on Aug. 14. They released the pastor’s son a few hours later with a demand to raise 20 million naira (US$55,155) in ransom.

The kidnappers later lowered the demand to 7 million naira (US$19,304), Pastor Hayap told Morning Star News at that time.

In the city of Kaduna on Aug. 4, Fulani herdsmen killed pastor Jeremiah Omolewa of Living Faith Church in the Romi New Extension area of the city and kidnapped his wife, a church source told Morning Star News. Attacked along the Kaduna-Abuja highway on their way to Abuja, he was killed when the herdsmen shot at their car after the pastor finished leading three services at his church, the source said.

Pastor Omolewa’s wife was released after the church paid 3 million naira (US$8,273) to the herdsmen as ransom, the source said. A press statement from the church reported that the ransom was paid after negotiations with the herdsmen brought the amount down from 10 million naira (US$27,577). She was released on the Aug. 8 at about 10 p.m.

Nigeria ranked 12th on Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of countries where Christians suffer the most persecution.

Turkish Court Rules To Free Andrew Brunson

Andrew Brunson released by Turkish Court

(Voice of the Persecuted) A Turkish court has ordered the release of US Pastor Andrew Brunson. After two long years of detention on false charges, Andrew will be coming home and able to dance at his daughter’s wedding. Brunson and his wife, originally from North Carolina, moved to Turkey 23 years ago. Andrew led the Izmir Resurrection Church with a congregation of about 25. The couple had raised their family of three children in Turkey and had applied for permanent residency.

Case background: On Oct. 7, the couple was called to a local police station never imagining there was anything to be worried about. They went to the police station thinking they were finally approved for residency. At the station, they were initially told to leave the country because Andrew was accused of receiving funds from abroad to fund missionary initiatives that Turkey claimed would endanger the security of the country with their activities. Later, the Turkish press reported that the decree of expulsion for the Evangelical pastor had been transformed into arrest after a secret witness accused him of having ties with a terror organization. Later, more secret witnesses accused him of espionage. Many believed he was a political pawn used to force the US to extradite Fethullah Gülen who is considered an enemy of the Turkish government and living in self-exile in Pennsylvania for years.

Andrew spent much of his time in a cell with limited contact and his health deteriorated. Andrew lost 50 lbs., told he was forgotten and suffered from depression. The only thing that sustained him was his faith in God and love for his family.

Trial hearings: During the last 3 trials, Andrew shared his love for Christ and the Turkish people. He firmly denied all accusations against him and said, “My service that I have spent my life on, has now turned upside down. I was never ashamed to be a server of Jesus, but these claims are shameful and disgusting.” After the last hearing in July, he was taken back to prison, but due to health concerns he was released under house arrest and put under a travel ban. At today’s hearing, the Turkish prosecutor asked that Brunson be given a 10 year prison sentence,

During the today’s hearing it was reported that three witnesses withdrew their statements against Brunson after reports that the U.S. and Turkey were negotiating a secret deal for his release. Another report shared of the four witnesses who had earlier testified against Brunson, one claimed reading the allegations in the news, another said he was misunderstood by the judge, and the last two claimed that they first heard the allegations from one another. While the trial was ongoing, Former Turkish member of parliament Aykan Erdemir said that witnesses who have appeared at the hearing are now changing their testimony. This would clear the way for the judge to dismiss the case. Turkey has been suffering by the U.S. economic sanctions placed on the country when Brunson wasn’t released at the last hearing. Turkish agencies began reporting his release would be a partial unblocking of the terrible U.S.-Turkish relationship.

Today, Andrew told the court, “I am and innocent man. I love Jesus. I love Turkey.” Witnesses at the hearing shared that Pastor Brunson wept when the court ruling was announced. We expect many happy tears are flowing with his in the Body of Christ, globally.

Homecoming: The U.S. military is expected to fly Andrew back to the United States., U.S. officials told Reuters that Brunson could return to the United States as soon as Friday. A Pentagon spokeswoman told Reuters that the expected plan involved flying Brunson through Germany on the way back to America but did not specify the timing.

Our Victory in Christ

Giving God all the glory, Christians around the world are rejoicing and singing praise to the Lord for this victory. Andrew’s release is an answer to many fervent prayers. We are thankful to all those who allowed the Lord to guide them for his release. Voice of the Persecuted and Persecution Watch would like to thank those who prayed on yesterday’s prayer conference call event for Andrew. What beautiful prayer call full of joy and anticipation for what the Lord is doing. It felt more like a family reunion, in love and agreement, with some we’ve never met. The top key words throughout the day were, forward and dance. Lois Kanalos of Voice of the Persecuted said, “I kept seeing Andrew dancing in the courtroom like David for the Lord! I imagine he did, if only in his heart. Now he and the church in Turkey can move FORWARD…onward soldiers!”

We will continue to pray for Andrew’s transition and healing from his ordeal. Let us also pray for the church in Turkey to be bold and a shining light in the darkness.

Now in this present age or later in glory…victory!
(Romans 8: 26-39) What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written,

“For Your sake we are being put to death all day long;
We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

NIGERIA – Kidnapped religious sisters released

(Agenzia Fides) – “We are happy; to God be the glory”, said Sister Agatha Osarekhoe, Superior General of the Sisters of the Eucharistic Heart of Christ, announcing the release of the three sisters and three reverend sisters abducted on 13 November 2017 in the State of Edo, in southern Nigeria (see Fides 18/12/2017). “One was said to have been released on Saturday, 6 January while the others on Sunday 7. Now they are fine. They are receiving some medical check-up in a hospital”, she said.

The first to be released was Veronica Ajayi, around 6 pm on Saturday 6 January. The three sisters, Sister Roseline Isiocha, Sister Aloysius Ajayi, Sister Frances Udi, were released along with two others on Sunday, January 7 at noon.
On November 13, the six religious women had been forcibly taken by some armed men who had invaded their residence in Iguoriakhi. The criminals went away with six of them in a speed boat.

According to the local press, the kidnappers were said to have later demanded a ransom of N20 million (about $ 54.00). However, the Superior General stated that no ransom was paid: “No ransom was paid. We know that the Police did their best because they are aware. They had to do their work. The most important thing is that our sisters are free”.

The police commissioner, Johnson Kokumo, said that the sisters were rescued during an operation by policemen from the command. “Police operatives closed in on the daredevil kidnappers and they had no other option than to release the reverend sisters”.

On Sunday, December 17 after the Angelus Pope Francis had launched an appeal for the release of the religious with these words: “From the heart, I unite myself to the appeal of the Bishops of Nigeria for the liberation of the six Sisters of the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus, kidnapped roughly a month ago from the convent in Iguoriakhi”. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 9/1/2018)

Blasphemy charges against 2 Christians and a Hindu in Pakistan

(Voice of the Persecuted) Our foreign correspondent (Asia) reported to Voice of the Persecuted (VOP) that blasphemy charges were laid against Bhola Ram, a 45-year old Hindu man, Vishal Tariq (18) and Adil Saleem Masih (25), both Christians. All three were employed at Civil Hospital Dunga Bunga as sweepers.

Bhola Ram, a government employee, is the main suspect in the case. He was relocated from Chak Panj Kosi, Southern Punjab to Donga Bunga. Ram had been transferred to work at Civil Hospital Dunga Bunga and an employees’ quarter was sanctioned for his stay. Among other things, he found the quarters filled with hospital records. He asked Dr. Kashif Nazir, the doctor in charge, about the records and was told to move them to the next room.

After Ram moved the records, he gathered all the trash and took it outside to be burned. While the trash was on fire, he saw what appeared to be pages containing verses of the Quran and he panicked. Not able move fast enough, due to a previously broken leg, he asked the two Christian boys to get the pages out of the fire.

VOP’s correspondent said,

“It’s worth noting that the Christians were so afraid of the situation that they risked themselves by going directly into the flames to save the pages. As a result, the hands and feet of both boys were burned.”

The report continued that a female health worker reported that Bhola Ram and the boys had burned pages of the Quran. Like wildfire, the news spread quickly causing journalists and locals to rush to the scene. It was alleged that the 3 accused were beaten by the people, but they denied it under pressure from the police.

FIR (police report) accused for blasphemy

The initial police report (FIR no. 1014/2017) was registered on September 28, 2017 against Bhola Ram and Vishal Tariq under section 295-B (Blasphemy law), 435, 201 and 109 of the Pakistani penal code. Muhammad Farooq, sub inspector at the police station, was the complainant. Adil Saleem Masih was not named in the report as one of the accused, but still alleged to be part of the incident. The FIR claimed the complainant received a call from a local journalist about the incident. When the police arrived at the scene, they were briefed of the situation and asked Dr. Nazir to write a statement and submit it to the police. In his statement, Dr. Nazir deliberately didn’t mention the burning of pages containing Quranic verses.

Ata-ur-Rehman, a district police officer (DPO) of Bahawalnagar, dismissed the FIR due to the support of the local lawyer community. They argued that Bhola Ram, being illiterate, could’nt have done what he was accused of. Religious groups present insisted the matter be brought to investigation, but DPO Ata ur Rehman maintained his position.

This is only one event where the accused have been freed without any damage, but there is no surety that they will be safe from violence or murder at the hands of extremists, warned the VOP correspondent.

Life-and-death Issue in Pakistan

Pakistan’s blasphemy cases have often evoked anger among groups in the majority Muslim country. This has led to extreme violence by large vigilante mobs and hardliners. Sadly, some have been murdered though later found innocent. Such was the case with Shahzad Masih (28yr) and his pregnant wife, Shama (25yr) who were brutally tortured, thrown into a brick kiln furnace and burned to death in an act of sheer barbarism by a vicious mob. The couple had three young children. See our report 

Often the accused are continually considered guilty of blasphemy even though they have been exonerated from all charges. AMNESTY International shared that Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are often used against religious minorities and others who are the target of false accusations, while emboldening vigilantes prepared to threaten or kill the accused.

The report, “As good as dead”: The impact of the blasphemy laws in Pakistan, shows how people accused of blasphemy face a grueling struggle to establish their innocence. Even if a person is acquitted of the charges against them and released, usually after long delays, they can still face threats to their life. View report 

We witnessed this in the case of a young, mentally-challenged girl falsely accused of blasphemy. Rimsha Masih was arrested in August 2012 and accused of burning the pages of some Islamic texts. She was jailed after angry crowds threatened to burn Christian homes in the Islamabad Christian neighborhood where her family lived. The charge against Rimsha was brought to the attention of the global community and caused international outcry. The case against her later collapsed after police were informed the cleric of the mosque in Rimsha’s area had planted the burned pages on her. Pakistani courts eventually threw out the charges citing a lack of evidence, which angered many.  The cleric was arrested for the false accusation, but later released without penalty, again, due to lack of evidence.

Following the infamous blasphemy case over 400 Christian families from her neighborhood were forced to flee due to serious threats. Rimsha, who had faced the possibility of the death penalty, was secretly evacuated from the country and given asylum in Canada where she now resides with her family.

Please pray for our brothers and sisters in Pakistan and for those who’ve fled persecution to seek asylum, but now face extreme hardship and discrimination in places such as Thailand.

VOP is on the ground in Thailand. Together with your generous help, we can reach the goal to alleviate horrific suffering. In darkness and desperation, let us serve in love, with open arms and giving hands to provide light and hope.

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BREAKING NEWS: Iran Pastor Irani Released From Prison

Pastor-Behnam-Irani-with-family

Pastor Behnam Irani with his family

TEHRAN, IRAN (BosNewsLife)– Iranian pastor Behnam Irani has been released from prison after serving some six years behind bars for charges linked to his Christian activities, friends with close knowledge about the situation told BosNewsLife Tuesday, October 18.

“Irani has been released from prison and is now free,” confirmed advocacy group Present Truth Ministries (PTM), which closely followed the case. “We thank you all for your prayers. The Lord has preserved him in a mighty way!”, added PTM in a statement.

The 43-year-old Irani of Karaj city began a one-year prison term in 2011 but was later told he would also have to serve a five-year, previously suspended, sentence for “crimes against national security”.___________

Pastor Irani has had serious health issues, his family feared he would not survive. Today, Voice of the Persecuted rejoices with him, his wife, Christina and their children. Thank you to all who faithfully prayed with us for his release. May God protect and heal this family.

Police Rescue 13 Year Old Abducted And Forcibly Converted To Islam

nigeria girl rescued

(Voice of the Persecuted) NIGERIA: Boko Haram are not the only culprits abducting young girls. While visiting her relatives at their family compound in Siri village, thirteen -year-old Alheri Bawa went with one of her cousins to stay the weekend with another cousin in Bauchi city.

When she didn’t return, her father, Bawa Buba is an ordained Elder of Seventh-day Adventist Church contacted his family but was told she was visiting with his nephew, Mal Dauda Bawa in Bauchi city. He called Dauda Buba to see if his daughter was still with him. He was told that Alheri was converted to Islam and he would not be seeing her anytime soon. The father was shocked and thought it was a joke. He asked his nephew why he didn’t discuss it with him and that his daughter never mentioned the intent to convert. The nephew told him that he should understand and allow his daughter to remain with him. Bawa Buba along with his pastor and another Elder from the church traveled and met his nephew at the gate of his home. He was told that the issue was no longer family, but religious. That he should put family aside and accept the fact, or go to the Sharia Commission as only they had the power to release his daughter.

While they were talking, his daughter came out excited to seeing her father and wanted to go home with him. He held her hands and asked her to enter the pastor’s car. As she was going, Mal Dauda Buba rushed and held onto her hijab and told her that she is irresponsible and would not leave with father unless the sharia commission was there, since they were aware of her decision. Bawa Buba said his daughter shouted “Na FASA, Na FASA”which translates to “I’m no longer interested.” Both her father and cousin held onto the girl. Bawa said the place was instantly filled with hoodlums who wanted to turn the issue into a religious crisis. They threatened to burn the pastor’s car.  Mal Dauda was shouting, “this religious issue, not family. He brought his church people.”

Some Muslim leaders in the area came and expressed their disapproval towards Mal Dauda’s action as unIslamic, but he insisted that he would not let her go. Bawa Buba said they told his pastor to take him out of the place. “I was no longer in my right mind because of the pains and trauma I have been through and my daughter’s willingness to follow me. I was ready to die with my daughter in my hand,” he said.

The crowd was increasing in number and tensions were high. Her father explained, “The Muslim elders begged my pastor to take me away and that I should not worry. They said police would return Alheri, because my nephew’s actions and the and the others gathering were not Islam.” His pastor dragged Bawa Buba by force and drove away from the scene.

Buba relayed, “We went to GRA Division Police station and laid our complaints. The police were quick in action at the beginning. They attached a policeman to us who later arrested Mal Dauda and brought him to the station.

His nephew was asked to explain his side. Mal Dauda then made a call to the Sharia Commission and they requested to speak with the police. After they spoke, his nephew was called to the  counter by Inspector in charge. Bawa said his nephew spoke boldly. Afterward, the police disregarded the case, treating it as a civil dispute. Bawa Buba was told to go to court and request for the custody of his daughter.

The father shared in a letter, “My 13-year old daughter is abducted, Islamized and forced to stay with a criminal and the police called it a civil case. We were [told] by the DCO to hire a lawyer and go to court over my daughter.”

“Were is the money to file a case? Which court should I go to? Sharia Court? I’m in trauma and pain. All I want is the custody of my daughter, Alheri Grace Bawa. Pls sir, use your office to return my daughter back to me. I’m home in the village back to my wife and remaining 5 children as we weep and wait for justice for me and my family.”

He had no choice but to go to the media for help. He shared an open letter on news forums and in comment sections of news articles on various news agency websites. It gained much attention and aided in his daughter’s rescue. The letter can be still be found on many sites.

After much pressure from the media and international community, the Inspector-General of Police, and the Bauchi State Commissioner of Police intervened and secured his daughter’s release.  She is now reunited with her family. Her abductor, Mal Dauda Bawa is allegedly in police custody and would reportedly be charged to court soon.

Elder Bawa Buba with his wife and Pastor Rikwense Muri were at the State Command of the Nigeria Police Force to receive her.

Voice of the Persecuted is on the ground in Nigeria to care for our Christian brothers and sisters experiencing brutal persecution.

We are committed to being a VOICE for persecuted Nigerian Christians and bring them comfort, relief, and encouragement. We have committed to a long-term mission in Nigeria. When they are able to return home, we will be there to encourage and help rebuild villages and their lives. They will not be forgotten!

We want you to know that even in great hardship, they thank God and feel extremely blessed that He has kept His hand on orphan-306x4601them. They have been so encouraged and thank God for each one of you who have joined this mission through prayer and your support.

Together with your generous help, we can reach the goal to alleviate horrific suffering. In darkness and desperation, let us serve in love, with open arms and giving hands to provide light and hope.

HELP SAVE THE PERSECUTED

HELP SAVE THE PERSECUTED

Every day, we thank God that He is working through you to care for His children and to further His Kingdom! As you greatly bless others, may God continue to bless you. Thank you so much for your support. We couldn’t do it without you!
You may also send your gift to:

2740 Third St
P.O. Box 122
Trenton, MI. 48183

If the Lord is placing it on your heart and you are able, please help us to continue the mission in Nigeria. It will be a long term project. Donations always desperately needed

 

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