Iran: Arrests Continue

May 18, 2012 at 6:30 am | Posted in VOM Fridays | Leave a comment
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For more news on what’s really happening to Christians around the world go to the Voice of the Martyrs website: www.persecution.com

Iran: Arrests Continue

Iranian authorities continue to raid worship meetings and arrest Christians in a systematic series of arrests that began two months ago. Authorities launched the operation in hope of countering the growth of Christianity and stamping out the house church movement. Those arrested are rarely given a reason for their arrest. Their personal property is seized, and they are often transferred to unknown locations without notification of family.

Giti Hakimpour, a 78-year-old retired Christian nurse, experienced this firsthand. Hakimpour was awoken at 6 a.m. on Feb. 22 by security forces entering her apartment in Esfahan. They interrogated her for three hours before arresting her. Authorities seized her passport, the title deed to her house and her bank account numbers, among other possessions.

Hakimpour, a member of St. Luke’s church, was detained for three days at the Esfahan Intelligence Office. Her interrogator finally requested that she receive a temporary release because of her age and recent knee surgery, which required special medical attention unavailable in prison. Continue Reading Iran: Arrests Continue…

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Iran: Persecution Continues

April 20, 2012 at 6:30 am | Posted in VOM Fridays | Leave a comment
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For more news on what’s really happening to Christians around the world go to the Voice of the Martyrs website: www.persecution.com

Iran: Persecution Continues

Authorities burst into a private home in Shiraz on Feb. 8, 2012, and arrested a group of believers who had gathered for worship. Iranians who convert from Islam to Christianity must worship in private homes because leaving Islam is forbidden by Iran’s Islamic government. Security officers confiscated Bibles, books, DVDs, teaching booklets, computers and a satellite dish.

Between seven and 10 Christian were arrested, but Mohabat News was able to confirm the identities of only seven. Those arrested include Mojtaba Hosseini, who was previously arrested in May 2008 and charged with being a Christian; Fariba Nazemian, Homayoung Shokoohi and their 17-year-old son, Nima; a woman named Sharifeh Dookh; and two other men, Vahid Hakkani and Masoud Golrooyan. The whereabouts of these believers is unknown. Continue Reading Iran: Persecution Continues…

Persecution Fridays – Iran – Government Takes Child

October 14, 2011 at 6:30 am | Posted in VOM Fridays | Leave a comment
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For more news on what’s really happening to Christians around the world go to the Voice of the Martyrs website: www.persecution.com

Iran: Government Takes Child

Agents of Iran’s intelligence ministry recently took a Christian couple’s adopted child, demanding that the couple file a complaint against other Christians being held in prison, according to Mohabat News. The couple was taken to the hospital because of emotional stress caused by the loss of their child. “This is the first time I have ever seen this tactic — taking a child hostage,” said a VOM contact. “In the past, it is always the parents.”

The Christian couple legally adopted their child after years of waiting, according to Mohabat News. Security officers reportedly took the child as a way to pressure the Christian family and other Christian converts. Mohabat News reports that the security agents threatened the couple, saying, “If you want your child back, you must file a complaint against your fellow Christians in prison.”

Within the past year, Christians have been arrested, falsely charged and imprisoned for extensive periods of time. House and church raids are common occurrences, and the Christian community faces continual threats and pressure. Please pray that this Christian couple will get their child back soon and that they will rely on God during this time of extreme emotional stress.

Persecution Fridays – Iran – Crackdown on Bibles

August 26, 2011 at 7:04 pm | Posted in VOM Fridays | Leave a comment
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For more news on what’s really happening to Christians around the world go to the Voice of the Martyrs website: www.persecution.com

Iran: Crackdown on Bibles

The Iranian government is showing increasing concern about the large quantities of Bibles entering the country, according to VOM contacts.

Government advisor Dr. Majid Abhari recently announced the seizure of 6,500 copies of the Bible between the cities of Zanjan and Abhar in northwest Iran, according to Mohabat News. He accused the missionaries in charge of the operation of using money and propaganda to influence people in Iran, specifically youth.

“With regards to the activities of these Christian missionaries to deceive people, especially youngsters, they have begun a huge campaign by spending huge sums and false propaganda for deceiving the public,” Abhari told a government news agency.

Bible confiscation is common in Iran. Prior to this event, police officers and revolutionary guards seized and burned 300 Bibles on a routine bus inspection in November 2010.

Abhari expressed concerns about the large quantity of Bibles recently imported and circulated in Iran. He said, “These books were made with the best paper in the world [and were] pocket size. The important point in this issue that should be considered by intelligence, judicial and religious agencies is that all religions are strengthening their power to confront Islam.”

Many government officials believe the purpose of Christians is to directly confront Islam, reports a VOM contact. According to VOM contacts, Iranian officials have always been against Muslim conversions to Christianity. However, three decades of extensive propaganda against Christianity has not deterred many Iranians from seeking the gospel.

Persecution Fridays – Iran

July 22, 2011 at 9:38 am | Posted in VOM Fridays | Leave a comment
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For more news on what’s really happening to Christians around the world go to the Voice of the Martyrs website: www.persecution.com

Iran: Life in Prison

In March 2009, Christian roommates Maryam Rustampoor, 29, and Marzieh Amirizadeh, 32, were charged by the Iranian state with being “anti-government activists.” They spent 259 days in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison before being released in November 2009.

In the first interview since their release, the two discussed their life in prison with Sam Yeghnazar of Elam Ministries. Continue Reading Persecution Fridays – Iran…

Persecution Fridays – Iran

June 24, 2011 at 6:30 am | Posted in VOM Fridays | Leave a comment
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For more news on what’s really happening to Christians around the world go to the Voice of the Martyrs website: www.persecution.com

Iran: Cleric Admits Failures

Iran’s religious leaders continue to denounce Christianity in their speeches and meetings. In an April 2011 speech, Islamist hardliner Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi, who is known as a mastermind of the government’s strategy against Christians, called for greater government action against Christians in Iran. Yazdi admitted that government actions aimed at destroying Christianity have thus far failed.

“In connection with the growth of Christianity in some of the provinces, the actions taken by the government and the judicial authorities and the massive funding of such programs have not achieved the desired results,” Yazdi said during a meeting with the heads of the Islamic Propagation Center of Qum. Yazdi, who is famous for his extremist Shiite beliefs, blamed an undisciplined attitude and lack of proper supervision for the government’s failure to contain Christianity. “Today there are many websites that are fighting against Islamic ideology, and one must consider that responding to these sites is a very valuable thing,” Yazdi said.

In a speech last year, one year after the tumultuous presidential election in Iran, Yazdi called the widespread protests in response to the election a “menace.” According to Mohabat News, Yazdi demanded that “this country-wide menace must be controlled like a virus.” He then accused the republic’s enemies — those protesting the elections — of anarchy and of allowing “false religions” like house-church Christianity to spread.

Another religious leader, Grand Ayatollah Jafar Sobhani, has also warned against the ever-increasing activities of Christians, according to Mohabat News. Sobhani lamented the fact that 600 people have converted to Christianity in one city.

Mohabat News reports that Christian persecution has subsided in Iran as infighting continues between the religious elite and government officials. However, the ayatollahs’ recent warnings have increased public indignation and hatred against Christians and other religious minorities.

Persecution Fridays: Iran – “Dismantle Evangelism”

March 25, 2011 at 6:30 am | Posted in VOM Fridays | Leave a comment
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For more news on what’s really happening to Christians around the world go to the Voice of the Martyrs website: www.persecution.com

Iran: Dismantle Evangelism

Iran’s Religious Leaders Continue Public Attacks on Christianity

Ayatollah Vahid Khorasani spoke out against Christianity and evangelism during a recent religious class at the Islamic seminary in Qom, Iran. On Wednesday, March 9, Khorasani stated, “People [in Iran] have become Christians, and Shiite youths are being misled by Christianity.” His statements were published on the government website “Ayandeh.”

Khorasani told his students, “There is no one to tell to the government officials what this misled and distracted Christian evangelism is doing even in Qom.” Qom, an important religious city for Shiites, is home to the largest center for Shiite scholarship in the world. “Christian-deviated teachings are being diverted to our nation,” Khorasani said. “If the authorities even assume that something is going to shake their power, they will confront it with full force, but they do nothing against these evangelists who are misleading our Shiite youth population.”

Khorasani joins several other religious and political leaders in acknowledging the rapid growth of Christianity in Iran and criticizing the government’s inaction. During an October 2010 visit to Qom, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, warned against the growth of house churches in Iran. He called house churches “enemies of Islam.” Using similar rhetoric, the governor of Tehran Province, Morteza Tamaddon, has called Christians “radicals who want to corrupt and divert the body of Islam.”

The inflammatory words of Iran’s leaders seem to reflect a rising fear of Christianity within the government. In recent months, Christians in Iran have faced a systematic wave of arrests, and new converts from Islam have been especially targeted. More than 200 Christians have been imprisoned since Christmas. To date, 20 of them have seen no progress in their cases, and they continue to face difficult circumstances inside detention centers.

Evidence of the Iranian government’s disdain for Christianity continues to mount. During a routine inspection of a bus at a border crossing recently, the office of Contraband Search and Seizure, along with members of the revolutionary guard, discovered two boxes containing 300 New Testaments each. The revolutionary guards seized the boxes and burned the Bibles.

Persecution Fridays: Cuba

March 4, 2011 at 10:17 am | Posted in VOM Fridays | Leave a comment
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For more news on what’s really happening to Christians around the world go to the Voice of the Martyrs website: www.persecution.com 

Cuba: Persecution Increases

Pastors and Christian leaders in Cuba are reporting a shift in how the government treats Christians. The government appears to have moved away from higher profile forms of oppression, such as threatening to shut down or destroy churches, and is now focusing pressure on church leaders, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).

Church leaders both within and outside of the Cuban Council of Churches (CCC) report receiving frequent visits from state security agents and Cuban Communist Party (CCP) officials. The CCC is an umbrella organization representing Protestant churches. These visits and meetings seem to have the intent of intimidating church leaders and making them aware they are under close surveillance.

In October 2010, Pastor Homero Carbonell decided to resign as leader of La Trinidad First Baptist Church in Santa Clara after prolonged government pressure and threats, according to CSW. He hoped giving up his leadership position would alleviate some of the demands on the congregation, but nothing has changed.

Pastor Carbonell, a respected high-level denominational leader, denounced the government persecution in an open letter, according to CSW. He wrote that spurious accusations against him, including allegations that he is associated with the counterrevolution, brought a series of penalties to his church. The pastor also described how the Religious Affairs Office has treated the church over the past three years. In one meeting with the Religious Affairs Office, officials told Pastor Carbonell to “behave himself.”

CSW reports that the government’s attention on Pastor Carbonell and his church may have been prompted by the church’s refusal to expel family members of political prisoners and members of human rights or pro-democracy groups.

Religious groups in Cuba are under the authority of the Religious Affairs Office of the CCP’s Central Committee, rather than a government body. Church leaders have complained for years about difficulties dealing with the Religious Affairs Office, especially with regard to permission for church repair or construction. Many of VOM’s partners in Cuba have faced conflict with authorities while building or repairing churches. Some get around requirements by constructing structures with roofs but no walls.

Bibles and Christian literature may be imported into the country only through the Cuban Council of Churches, which, according to CSW, represents a minority of churches. This limitation has led to a severe shortage of religious materials in Cuba. VOM friends help bring Bibles and other materials into the country through other channels and also sponsor a clandestine printing press for Christian literature.

Persecution Friday: Iran

February 11, 2011 at 8:10 pm | Posted in VOM Fridays | Leave a comment
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For more news on what’s really happening to Christians around the world go to the Voice of the Martyrs website: www.persecution.com 

 Iran: Seven Christians Released

Seven Iranian Christians were released from prison on bail on Saturday, Jan. 29. Four women were released from Tehran’s Evin prison, and two men and a woman were released in the city of Isfahan three days earlier. The seven spent one month in prison after being arrested along with 31 other Christians on Dec. 26, 2010. Some of the other 31 have since been released. All were arrested simply because they are Christians.

The seven reported they spent 34 days in solitary confinement and endured hours of interrogation. They were tortured psychologically. It is likely that the other 26 Christians still in prison are in solitary confinement and are also facing interrogation.

Two of those who remain in prison are Rasool and Maryam Abdolahi, whose arrests left their two children to live as orphans. While Maryam was able to call her children from prison, the traumatized children have not heard from their father in more than 34 days. All of the other prisoners were able to call their families. Church leaders are extremely worried about Rasool.

Iran Christians
21 of the 33 Christians arrested.
(click to enlarge)

At least 26 other Christians are still in prison, including Yousef Nadarkhani, who was sentenced to death for apostasy. Two couples, Vahik and Sonia Abrahamian and Srash and Arezoo Kermanjani, have been in prison in Hamadan for nearly four months. Two others, Mojtaba Keshavarz and Shahin Rostami, have been held in Arak for more than three months. Church members are concerned for their health. Sonia is suffering from the poor conditions in prison, and Shahin is diabetic.

The women released in Tehran were Ladan Nouri, Nasrin Hosseini-nia, Anahita Zare and Sara Akhavan. Sara Akhavan’s family gave up their trade license in exchange for her bail, and if authorities decide she has broken bail, the family’s livelihood will be gone. Sadly, the trade license was not valuable enough to secure bail for Sara’s sister, Leila, who remains in prison. Rafi Nadipoor, Basir Amini and Yasaman Yar-Ahmadi were released in Isfahan.

Continue to pray for Christians in Iran, who face extreme pressure under the government’s new policy of “religious cleansing.” “We felt [your] presence alongside us,” said an Iranian Christian who spent months in prison. “Don’t think that your prayers are unimportant.”

Persecution Fridays: Iran

February 4, 2011 at 10:49 am | Posted in VOM Fridays | Leave a comment
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For more news on what’s really happening to Christians around the world go to the Voice of the Martyrs website: www.persecution.com 

Iran: Government Cracks Down

Since Christmas, more than 70 Christians have been arrested in Iran in a large, well-coordinated strike. Most of those arrested belong to the house church movement. Many were released from custody, but a dozen or more remain in detention. Those charged with trying to convert Muslims face the possibility of a death sentence. Officials say that more detentions are possible, and Tehran’s governor said in a recent speech that evangelicals are “corrupt and deviant.”

According to a Washington Times report, Saman Kamvar of the Iranian Christian News Agency attributes the increased persecution of evangelicals to remarks made last year by Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. Khamenei denounced the house church movement during a speech on Oct. 19, warning Iranians against the “network of house churches” that “threaten Islamic faith and deceive young Muslims.”

Christians, including traditional groups such as Armenians, Assyrians and Chaldeans, make up less than 1 percent of the population. About 0.2 percent are evangelical Christians, and many of those are part of the house church movement. Because the Iranian government cannot monitor them, house churches present a greater threat than historically established churches.

VOM works closely with house churches in Iran, supporting them with literature, Bibles and other ministry tools. Contacts tell us that Iranians are very open to the gospel right now, after a generation of living under the heavy hand of Islam. House churches are growing daily as Iranians trust Christ with their lives. Pray that these recent arrests will only strengthen the commitment of new Christians. Pray that house church leaders who are under surveillance will find creative ways to continue sharing the gospel.

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