The country that we are going to be praying about tonight, has had a current news story that we have prayed about in the morning service but I thought It would be good to focus on Iranas a country and spend some time praying for our brothers and sisters in this country who face very real persecution from authorities.
Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani has made international news he is pictured here and is currently in prison waiting to be put to death for apostasy, that’s converting away from Islam. Pastor Youcef was originally arrested in December 2006 on the charges of apostasy and evangelism but was released two weeks later without charge. He was arrested again in 2009 and placed before a tribunal after protesting over a change in the Iranian educational policy that forced all students from a Muslim background to read from the Quran. This charged against Youcef was changed to apostasy and evangelism and in September 2010 he was sentenced to Death. This verdict came with the provision that should Youcef recant of faith and turn back to Islam the charges will be dropped. His case has been subjected to a number of appeals aswell as condemnation from Western governments. However on the 20th February the final execution order was made, once this has been confirmed according to the law his lawyers will have a final opportunity to object but Iran has previously carried out death sentence without notification.
Pastor Youcef is facing execution because he submitted to Jesus as his King turning away from Islam in a country where converts from Islam are considered apostate and do not come under the constitution of religious legal protection under Iranian law but are subject to the death penalty under Shariah law.
In Iran the constitution highlights that Christian Iranians (That is ethnic Christians born into families of Armenian and Assyrian background) are a recognised religious minority who within the limits of the law are free to perform their religious rites and ceremonies. However despite this and although formally recognised and protected by the law, they are treated as second‐class Citizens. They are subject to several forms of discrimination related to education, government jobs and services. Churches are also not allowed to be active in evangelism.
In Iran a country which is located in the Middle East, boarding the likes of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq with Tehran as its capital (shown by the star and big letters on the map). In Iran out of a population of about 74.2 million people around 0.58% are Christians, that equates to around 450,000 Christians living in Iran. Around 100,000 of these Christians are those who are ethnic Christians born into Armenian and Assyrian background protected by the law as religious minority.
That means that there are 350,000 Christians living in Iran who have been converted from Islam and the story is different because as mentioned they are not protected by the Iranian law and are still considered to be Muslim, they are subjected to raids on theirs houses and churches and the police will interrogate and put pressure them to return to Islam, and detain them for an unspecified time, varying from one day up to several years. Often, arrested Christians are not informed about the charges against them and are often denied legal representation. Furthermore, there is the risk of repercussions by Islamic fundamentalists as well as pressure by their families to return to Islam.
However despite intense persecution the church inIranis said to be one of the fastest-growing in the Muslim world.
But there is still persecution and a lot that we can be praying for just a quick search on the internet highlighted the following recent stories
Just picking out a couple of these
It was reported on the 16th February that the authorities has arrested up to Ten Christians who have converted to Islam with no information of the charges against them or where they are being held. Further to these arrests authorities have also forbidden two churches inTehran from holding services in Persian on Friday which is the main day for Christian worship. The ruling means the authorities have now put a halt to every significant Persian service in the capital. Observers say the ban is intended to contain Christian activities among the minority Armenian and Assyrian communities, where services are held in their own languages.
Another example is Fatemeh Nouri, an art student at a university in Tehran, was convicted on charges of attending a house church and activities against national security, She was arrested at her home last September and spent nearly three months behind bars. Before being sentenced to one year of deprivation of education.
There is a lot that we can be praying for
- That the rights of religious minorities to practice their faith freely in Iran will be upheld, as per the country’s commitments to international agreements.
- Pray for the strength of the 10 Muslim-background believers who have been arrested, pray that they would continue to look and trust in Jesus.
- Please pray for other Muslim background believers that they would continue to stand firm in their faith despite pressures to turn back to Islam and on-going persecution
- Give thanks for Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani for his continuing trust in Jesus, pray that his faith would be a witness to those around him
- Pray for wisdom for church leaders who have been forbidden from holding services in the language of the Iranian people.
- Give thanks that the church is growing and that people are turning to Christ, pray that the Christians inIranwould continue to be a witness to others around them.