Thursday, August 9, 2012

Church barely dodges bombing

(Photo courtesy of Open Doors USA)

Nigeria (MNN) ― Revival Church in Central Nigeria just barely avoided a bomb attack on Tuesday, one of many moves against Christians in the country.

The bomb was discovered and safely removed by Nigeria’s Anti-bomb unit. So far, no groups have claimed the attempted attack.

This discovery came right on the tail of an attack the day before. Shooters surrounded Deeper Life Church in Central Nigeria, blocked the church entrance with a van, and murdered 19 believers. The pastor was among those killed.
While no group has claimed these attacks, the pattern matches that of the Muslim extremist group Boko Haram.

Carl Moeller with Open Doors USA says the targeting of Christians is part of an agenda. “This is an intentional effort on the part of the Muslim extremists to drive Christians completely out of the country, particularly out of the northern part of the country.”

Moeller says, “These attacks are an escalation of the violence that has plagued Nigeria along this north-south dividing line for years. It is accelerating at a rate that is very troubling.”

Boko Haram gives no indication of letting up on their attacks. Over the weekend, Boko Haram’s leader Abubakar Shekau released a video clip online. On the video, he demands that Nigerian Christian President Goodluck Jonathan “repent and forsake Christianity.” Shekau stated that if President Jonathan does not convert or resign, Boko Haram’s violent campaign will continue.

Reuben Abati, the presidential spokesman, dismissed the threat as attempted blackmail. But Boko Haram has been very systematic with carrying out their activities.

Such intimidation has failed to stomp out the faithfulness of Nigerian Christians. If anything, it has fanned the flame of devotion.

“As the Gospel spreads, it comes in contact with more and more hostile forces. They persecute those [who] are bringing the Good News of Christ,” says Moeller. “As persecution comes, Christians are forced to deal with the fact that superficial faith won’t cut, and so their faith becomes deeper and stronger. That of course encourages them to more boldly witness. This cycle continues.”

Open Doors has been working with the Nigerian church to bring encouragement and to help rebuild. According to Moeller, “It’s a daunting challenge because there’s so much violence in the area. Open Doors is often the primary organization going in when others are coming out.”

Projects include training churches to stand strong before violence occurs, and where violence occurs; rebuilding sanctuaries, replacing Bibles and books, and providing trauma counseling.

“We are there as a shoulder to cry on in many cases,” Moeller says. “But also with the hope of Christ in the midst of that trauma, Christ can actually come in and through the Holy Spirit heal the deep wounds that are caused by it.”

Open Doors also gives a voice to persecuted Nigerian Christians. They are actively involved in the media and present their case before authorities in Washington D.C. and the United Nations.

Moeller asks for prayer. “Pray for the church in Nigeria…that they would pray for those who persecute them, not attack them. And then that they would be able to rebuild and continue to bring the hope of Jesus Christ to their fellow countrymen.”

Saudi woman claims Christ in historic video

"Maryam," a Saudi Arbian citizen,
 in this video tells the world she's now a Christian.

Saudi Arabia (MNN) ―Mission Network News hardly ever talks about ministry in Saudi Arabia. It's not because it's not happening. It is. But it's one of the most difficult places to be a Christian, let alone do ministry. That's what makes this next story so profound.

"Maryam" is a Saudi woman, and she's done something so unusual she's taking the internet by storm. According to Mahabat News, she is the first modern day Saudi woman to announce her faith in Jesus Christ on YouTube.

Todd Nettleton with Voice of the Martyrs is amazed. "To see a Saudi woman put her face--even though it's veiled, but to put her face on the internet and say, 'I'm not a Muslim any more. I'm a Christian now.' She basically is signing her own death warrant."

According to reports, this video has made Saudi officials extremely angry. It is to the extent that they called to take necessary measures to deal with Christian evangelism in Saudi Arabia. Nettleton says, "It's being talked about even at the highest levels of the government. [They're saying], 'Hey wait a minute, our young people are leaving Islam. They're following Christianity. We've got to put a stop to it.' And over 1 million people have already watched the video on YouTube."

Nettleton tells about his thoughts when he saw this. "The first thought I had was the incredible courage it took to do that. The second thought is just the excitement that even in Saudi Arabia, which we don't talk about it very often, God is reaching people. Muslims are having dreams and visions. They're seeing Jesus Christ, and they're coming to know Him and believe in Him."

In any western nation, this wouldn't be a big deal. In Saudi Arabia, however, "The Saudi government says Saudis are 100% Muslim. And so, she basically is renouncing that and putting a target, really, on her back."

Why is Saudi Arabia rejecting all other religions? Nettleton suggests, "The Saudi government bills themselves as the guardian of Islam's holy sites--not only to guard those sites in a security sense, but also to guard those sites spiritually and not allow Christianity to even have a foothold on the Arabian Peninsula."

Nettleton is issuing a call to prayer, especially now. "It is the middle of Ramadan. Muslims all over the Arabian Peninsula are fasting and praying and seeking God. Let us pray that they find Him, just as this lady did in a dream when Jesus came to her. Let us pray that many more Muslims will meet Jesus."

While this is a surprising story coming out of Saudi Arabia, it's not the only story in the Middle East. The Mohabat report also indicates that a Kuwaiti prince has given his heart to Christ. Nettleton isn't surprised. "You know, as we see the Gospel coming into some of these countries, it's only natural that it will reach all walks of life. So when we see political leaders or people within the royal family, obviously that's very exciting because they are in positions of influence, and they have a chance to really make a difference. So it's a hopeful sign."

What kind of work is VOM doing in Saudi Arabia? Nettleton says, "VOM is involved in several ways in work on the Arabian Peninsula, but I can't really tell you any more than that."

You can support VOM's work financially. At the very least, $60 provides 10 Bibles to Christians in this area of the world. Support them by clicking here.

Good news coming out of New York for Christians

(Photo courtesy InterVarsity Christian Fellowship)

USA (ICF) ― InterVarsity's chapter at the State University of New York at Buffalo (UB) is once again functioning as a recognized student organization following a July 28th decision by UB's Student Wide Judiciary (SWJ). The chapter was de-recognized by the Student Association Senate on April 15, 2012. The de-recognition followed the resignation of the chapter treasurer, who stepped down from his leadership position after revealing that he did not agree with InterVarsity's Doctrinal Basis.

SWJ ruled that UB's Student Association Senate improperly failed to distinguish between leadership requirements and membership requirements. InterVarsity chapter activities are open to all students. The 16-page ruling said that "it is common sense, not discrimination, for a religious group to want its leaders to agree with its core beliefs."

InterVarsity chapter leaders were pleased to learn of their restoration to the campus community. "We hope the SWJ decision sets a precedent that protects all groups on campus and creates a genuinely diverse campus environment that values differences," said co-president Nicholas C. D'Angelo. "The chapter remained focused and united during this time. Having our presence on campus challenged served to strengthen awareness of our mission and our commitment to the mission."

Alec Hill, president of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA, was hopeful that the Buffalo decision indicated a trend that other colleges and universities would embrace. "InterVarsity believes that a diverse campus environment requires the presence of groups which authentically and faithfully reflect religious beliefs," said Hill. "Groups which cannot communicate or embody their creedal commitments cannot contribute to a truthful and robust dialogue."

InterVarsity Christian Fellowship is a campus ministry which has been actively involved with students and faculty on U.S. college and university campuses for more than 71 years. InterVarsity currently has more than 890 chapters on more than 575 campuses, ranging from Ivy League schools to community colleges. More information about InterVarsity's campus access concerns is posted

Egypt: Christian vulnerability grows as security declines

By Elizabeth Kendal
Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) 171 
Special to ASSIST News Service

AUSTRALIA (ANS) -- The rigours of Ramadan observance ensure that as Ramadan progresses frustration accumulates. This, merged with religious zeal, produces an incendiary mix. On Wednesday 25 July a dispute erupted in the village of Dahshur on the southern outskirts of Cairo, after a Coptic launderer inadvertently singed the shirt of his Muslim client. The Muslim agreed to return in the evening to settle the claim but returned in the afternoon with a vengeful mob. With a large crowd of armed Muslims besieging his home and laundrette, the Copt threw a Molotov cocktail from the roof. It hit and severely burnt a Muslim youth passing by. When he died in hospital on 1 August, Muslim Brotherhood clerics, instead of rising up as peacemakers, incited Islamic hysteria and vowed collective punishment. The ensuing Islamic pogrom left 16 Copts injured, numerous Coptic homes and businesses torched and the only church in the village vandalised. This violence included threats to shoot all Christians dead and convinced some 120 Christian families they had no choice but to flee. Only one elderly Christian woman remained, receiving sanctuary in the home of a Muslim neighbour.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Eleven Pakistani Christian Nurses have been ‘deliberately poisoned’ in Karachi ‘because of their faith’

By Shamim Masih
Special to ASSIST News Service


KARACHI, PAKISTAN (ANS) -- Eleven Pakistani Christian student nurses were allegedly deliberately poisoned with mercury on Sunday, July 29, 2012, at the Civil Hospital in Karachi.
According to one of the affected nurses, a colleague had made the tea for them and after 10pm they immediately fell ill after drinking it.

The nurses were taken to the Civil Hospital’s emergency ward and sent back after treatment. They developed complications the next morning and had to be taken to the hospital again.
Three student nurses were in very critical situation two went in ICU and one is on ventilator rest five is now in general ward. All the student nurses were Christians.

Chief Nursing Superintendent Mrs. Nasreen Gill said that a First Information Report (FIR) has been launched against unknown person and added that they are investigating how this incident took place and stated that they will do “a crystal clean investigation.”

Rumors initially suggested that the poisoning occurred as the nurses were drinking tea while their Muslim colleagues were fasting during the Islamic holy month of Ramzan (or Ramadan).
This is not first time that Christian nurses have been victims in Pakistan and before this incident there have been many other incidents of this kind.

The local media of Pakistan is not exposing this news and none of the Pakistani TV channels are featuring this story.

First Saudi Woman publicly announces her Faith in Christ

By Michael Ireland
Senior International Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

SAUDI ARABIA (ANS) -- According to Mohabat News ( ) , internet sources as well as independent Shi'ite websites that promote Shi'ite thoughts and beliefs in Iran, reported last week that a Saudi woman who introduced herself as "Maryam" announced in a video published on the internet that she has forsaken Islam and converted to Christianity.
Apparently, she is the first Saudi-Arabian woman to become a Christian.

The new convert said in the published video that she hasn't removed her Hijab for fear of her life and to keep her identity unknown.

Maryam reveals her conversion to Christianity in a video. (Courtesy: Mohabat News).
The publishing of the video on the internet has angered Saudi officials and Muftis. They highly criticized the video and called urgently for necessary measures to stop evangelism in Saudi Arabia.

Mohabat News says this has made Saudi officials extremely angry.

“It is to the extent that they called to take necessary measures to deal with Christian evangelism in Saudi Arabia,” the news agency said.

According to the news agency: “It must be said that this is not the first time that a Saudi-Arabian citizen has converted to Christianity. Similar situations have happened before, but 28-year-old Maryam is the first Saudi woman to publicly announce in a published video that she has left Islam and converted to Christianity.”

In the short video, Maryam says: "I have quit the darkness of Wahhabi Islam and entered the light of Christianity. I dreamt that I needed to do this. Jesus Christ came to visit me in my dream and gave me the name of Maryam (Arabic pronunciation of Mary)."
She added, "The morality police's treatment caused me to not take fasting and prayer seriously and to eventually convert to Christianity."

Mohabat News explains that prior to this, an Arabic-language satellite TV channel, Al-Haqiqa, which broadcasts Christian programs to the Arab world, published an audio file and attributed it to a Kuwaiti prince, "Abdollah Al-sabah."
Mohabat News says the TV channel claimed that the Kuwaiti prince was a member of the ruling family in Kuwait. In the audio file, a man believed to be prince "Abdollah Al-sabah" said that he had newly left Islam and converted to Christianity.

Also, the news agency says that Vatican officials confirmed in 2007 that they are negotiating with Saudi princes to establish a Catholic church in Saudi Arabia. However, Saudi religious leaders strongly objected to the plan.

Saudi Arabia, with a population of 26 million, is one hundred percent Muslim. However, reports coming out of the country as well as other Arabic countries, indicate that the tendency towards Christianity is increasing in these countries, the news agency said.

The country imposes an extremely strict form of Sharia law. The official religion in Saudi Arabia is Wahhabi Islam which is an extreme version of Islam.
The country's monarchy regime claims that their constitution is totally based on the Quran and Sharia law. According to Sharia law, anyone who leaves Islam may be killed. Thus, most of those who have converted to another religion keep it secret.

Terror spreads to Central Nigeria

Nigeria (MNN) ― There's been yet another attack on churches in Nigeria.

According to police, gunmen fired on a Bible study at Deeper Life Church in central Nigeria Monday, killing at least 19 people--including the pastor--and wounding others. Hours later, bombers struck a primary school in Lokoja, the capital of Kogi state. There's also been an unconfirmed media report of another bomb discovered at the Revival Church in the same area.
The attacks represent a move into the central region of the country. Although no one has claimed it, the attack fits the style of Boko Haram, a radical Islamist sect.

Boko Haram, whose name in Hausa means "Western education is sacrilege," is responsible for more than 660 killings this year alone in Nigeria, many of them at churches.

In preparation for this story, Christian Aid Mission Africa Director Rae Burnett spoke with the head of the mission agency they support to ask about the latest incident. While not dismissive of the tragedy, he indicated that there's more violence than what occasionally gets reported in the media. "'If we told you every time an attack occurs, or every time that shots are fired or bombs are thrown, cars are hijacked or people are just killed, I would do nothing but sit at my computer.'"

The tension levels are reaching critical mass. "Everybody is fearful--" explains Burnett, "Christians and non-Christians because you can be at the wrong place at the wrong time. It's not just churches that are being attacked."

Boko Haram has a singular focus: to re-create Nigeria as an Islamic state, instill Sharia law, and eradicate the Christian population. Despite U.S. sanctions imposed on three leaders of the group, they appear unfazed. In fact, says Burnett, "Just this past week they threatened the president and said that he has to convert to Islam and rule under Sharia."

The conundrum: the attacks open doors for the Gospel, but also have been problematic. This particular ministry partner also indicated that because they're using resources to assist the attack victims in multiple areas, they can't maintain the work goals they wanted to achieve. 
Even so, Burnett says, "These missionaries are even more committed to expending every ounce of their own lives for the Gospel of the Lord, so they're not at all intimidated."

The work of this ministry partner has now expanded geographically to cover most of the Islamic north of Nigeria. With 100 missionaries to oversee, there's a lot at stake. Burnett explains: "The headquarters is in extreme danger because people do know what it is. Tthey hardly even go to their office, but he needs to have a headquarters in which to operate."   

Christian Aid Mission helped buy land for a new building, but then funds ran dry. The partner reports that more than 50 pastors and missionary leaders have so far died at the hands of Boko Haram.Burnett says, "This is really a crucial thing for them. They're in extreme danger where they are now. It has nothing to do with the missionary leaving the field. It's not the field. It's the headquarters of the ministry. None of the missionaries have left the field and their places of ministry."

Syrian defections prove chaos reigns

(Images courtesy EFCA) Syria

Syria (MNN) ― Over the weekend, the Assad regime took some serious hits in Syria.

"The measures of uncertainty as senior government officials are leaving kind of points in the direction of destabilization," says Mark Lewis, TouchGlobal Director (humanitarian wing of the Evangelical Free Church). The latest reports indicate Syria's prime minister and his family defected to Jordan.

A senior U.S. official says it appears that at least three other top government ministers also left, and rebels bombed a government-run television studio. An American official traveling with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Africa called on other senior members of the Syrian government and military to break with President Bashar Assad.

Clinton will stop in Turkey for talks on Syria in four days' time. In the meantime, the government unleashed its fury on Aleppo. In Damascus, the regime's grip on the city was challenged by guerilla warfare-styled attacks, executed by militia.

Although some news reports cite these events as proof that Assad's regime is "crumbling," Lewis says they've heard this before. The message their team hears is far from "it's almost over." "We sense that there is just going to be a continued season of instability in the country. It may even last for years as a new government comes in. Then, people will [say] 'this is what I wanted,' and there'll be more uprisings or transition. It just seems like a situation that is going to be uncertain and destabilized for a continued period of time."

The Evangelical Free Church, in partnership with other ministries and local churches, has been responding to the crisis. Lewis says, "On the Jordanian side, we're hearing 1000 people a day are leaving Syria and crossing into Jordan. And I would expect those numbers are probably similar in Lebanon, but I don't have any specific numbers."

The bigger picture: two million Syrians are affected by the conflict, including 1 million internally displaced people. As many as 130,000 Syrians are living as refugees in neighboring countries, according to UNOCHA Humanitarian Bulletin, Issue 05, 3 Aug 2012.

Many refugees are living in primitive conditions, Lewis notes. "[We're] seeking to get blankets, food and other basic supplies into people's hands as they figure out what life is going to look like in the next days, weeks, or months."

For those left in Syria, water, and electricity have been scarce, and the factories have laid off most of the people. Food and goods have more than doubled in price, and in many areas there has been fighting in the streets . 

Yet God has their partners in position to take relief into the desperate people trying to survive. Lewis explains, "Our ministry partners are on the ground doing a whole lot of outreach and pre-evangelism, relationship building. Our hope is that, long-term, this will lead to a great church-planting opportunity."

That's not necessarily an unrealistic goal. Lewis says, "Disciple-making efforts can occur within a refugee population. Eventually, those people would be able to go back home, and there could be this 'seeding' of the church. That's kind of a long-term vision."

$50 provides food for a family for a month. ReachGlobal's goal is to raise at least $30,000 to allow their partners to serve 600 families. $10 provides a blanket: they're trying to raise enough funds to get 500 blankets into the refugee camps. 

What else can you do? You can pray. Lewis asks for prayer for safety for their partners. Also, "Pray for a fresh openness of the Gospel. People's hearts can either be hardened, or the Lord will work in them and there will be an openness as they seek answers to questions like, 'Why now?'"

75 dead from ethnic riots

India (MNN) ― Ethnic rioting between the Bodo tribespeople and Muslims in the Indian state of Assam has left 75 dead and 500 villages in ashes.

The attacks started a month ago on July 6 after a Muslim man in Assam was shot and killed.

Since then, a leader from each group has been killed. Four Bodo people were found brutally murdered by machetes.
The feud between the immigrant Muslims and the Bodo tribespeople runs deep over land disputes in Northeastern India. But such violence from the feud is now at a new level.

Gospel for Asia (GFA) calls the violence in Assam a “major national crisis.”

400,000 villagers in Assam have fled for their lives. 235 relief camps have been set up for displaced people.
Several GFA churches for Bodo Christians have been destroyed. On top of that, rioters have also devastated 15 believers’ homes.

GFA has around 60 congregations in a danger zone where violence is occurring. They also have 70 missionaries in the region.

Compassion Services through GFA are working to bring aid relief to displaced villagers and victims. As they bring the aid, GFA says they are seeking to give people the hope of Christ in this time of trial.

The ethnic rioting piggybacks on flooding that hit the Bodo region earlier. GFA missionaries are still helping many recover from both disasters. They ask for prayer.

Please pray for the safety of Christians and villagers in Assam. Pray for peace to come to the region.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Islamic Appeal Court Upholds Six Year Prison Term for Imprisoned Christian

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

IRAN (ANS) -- Farshid Fat'hi was one of the multitudes of Christian activists arrested by the security agencies of the Islamic Republic during Christmas 2010.

Farshid Fat'hi
Now, according to the Farsi Christian News Network (FCNN) quoting the Harana News Agency from Tehran, Fat’hi’s six years prison term has been upheld by the country’s Court of Appeals.

FCNN commented that Fat’hi’s human rights, freedom of expression and religious freedom have “trampled and crushed.”

Also a house church organizer, FCNN said Fat’hi, from Tehran, was charged with “acting against national security through membership of the Christian organization Ilam, collection of funds and propaganda against the Islamic Regime by helping spread Christianity in the country.”

FCNN said despite large bail paid at the time of his arrest, Fat’hi was denied freedom and throughout the legal process, had no access to defense. Neither was he allowed to view charges brought against him, in either the original trial, or the Appeal Court.

FCNN said Harana pointed out a number of national laws and international treaties that the Islamic Ministry of Justice had “blatantly ignored and/or broken.” They included, Islamic Republic Constitution, The International Treaty on Human Rights and The United Nations International Convention on Civil and Political tights.

For example, FCNN said Article 23 of the Islamic Republic Constitution reads, “The investigation of individuals’ beliefs is forbidden, and no one may be molested or taken to task simply for holding a certain belief.”

FCNN’s said Fat’hi’s prison term has shocked Iranians nationwide, Christians and non-Christians alike.

FCNN added that a number of human rights groups and activists, both inside the country and in the free world, have expressed their shock and outrage at Fat’hi’s sentence, and called for his immediate release.

FCNN said, “Farshid Fat’hi is, now more than ever, in need of you and Church’s support and prayers. His sense of pride in the service of God is shared by all Iranian-Christians. United in Christ, we call for his immediate freedom from this grossly unfair sentence.”

Islamic leaders in Nigeria urge Boko Haram to end violence against Christians

By Dan Wooding, who was born in Nigeria
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

NIGERIA (ANS) -- Islamic scholars and leaders in Nigeria have urged militant group Boko Haram to end its violent campaign against Christians and other targets in the country.
Boko Haram militants (Photo: Barnabas Fund)
According to UK-based Barnabas Fund (, Boko Haram is fighting to establish an Islamic state in Northern Nigeria.

Speaking at a lecture as part of the National Council of Muslim Youth Organizations’ Ramadan activities, they called for a ceasefire from the group.

One of the speakers, Sayid Bagher Seyed Jaradi, the Acting Cultural Consulate of the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran, said this was “urgently expected for the sake of humanity, credibility of the Islamic religion and peaceful co-existence among Nigerians”.

He said that the violence being perpetrated by Boko Haram “not only pitched the non-Muslims against the Muslims, but questioned the sanctity of the religion”.

He added: “They [Boko Haram] should realize that the merciless killings of innocent people, including non-Muslims, across Nigeria, is not known and acceptable by any law or religious tenets across the globe. They should be enlightened or reminded that the basic preaching of Islamic religion is peace, which can never be achieved when we are hostile to our brothers and sisters, including the non-Muslims.

Barnabas Fund went on to say that speaking out against Boko Haram is a brave move, as other Muslim leaders who have opposed their activities have been targeted by the group.

Boko Haram has this year stepped up its violent campaign to establish an Islamic state in Northern Nigeria, attacking Christians in particular but also others, including the security forces.

The group recently said, “We will not end our attacks until we have an Islamic state.” They had previously declared “war” against Christians, saying in March that they were planning coordinated attacks to “eradicate Christians from certain parts of the country”.

A spokesperson for Barnabas Fund said, “Many Sundays have seen churches in the North and Middle Belt bombed during services, and scores of Christians have been killed.

“In Boko Haram’s latest assault, more than 50 Christians were burned alive when militants bombed a pastor’s house where they had sought refuge as the group raided twelve villages in Plateau State.”

Urgent Prayer Once Again Needed for Assam

From K.P. Yohannan
Founder & President
Gospel for Asia

CARROLLTON, TX (ANS) -- Assam’s longtime ethnic feud between the Bodo tribe and Muslim immigrants from Bangladesh erupted into violence July 6 when a local Muslim man was shot and killed. Nearly a month later, the situation continues to worsen.

In the ensuing riots in this northeastern state of India, a leader from each group was shot, four Bodo people were found hacked to death and 500 villages were burned.
This decades-old fight has become a major national crisis.

So far, 235 relief camps have been established for nearly 400,000 displaced people, and 57 people have lost their lives.

We need desperate prayer for God to intervene as lives are lost and suffering becomes acute. In the Bodo region, our missionaries are still helping many recover from the devastation of recent flooding.

We have well over 1,000 churches in the state of Assam, but we have some 60 congregations close to where the fighting is taking place. Rioters attacking Bodo Christians have destroyed several of our churches as well as 15 believers' homes. Please pray for God to bring peace to this situation.

Please also pray for the safety of our 70 missionaries serving in the immediate region. Our Compassion Services teams are diligently working to meet the basic needs of the victims of this crisis while sharing the hope of Christ.

Finally, pray for our leaders in this area, that they will be able to make the right decisions in responding to the immediate needs this conflict presents.

Thank you for joining us at the feet of the Lord and trusting He will be faithful to those who cry out in His name.

As the Lord leads, please prayerfully consider donating toward our Compassion Services ministry to bring Jesus' love to the suffering and needy.

Your brother in Christ, K.P. Yohannan (

Gospel for Asia is an evangelical mission organization based in Carrollton, Texas, involved in sharing the love of Jesus across South Asia.

“Unsubstantiated Charges” Raised against Five Imprisoned Christians

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

IRAN (ANS) -- Five Christian converts have been held in Adel-Abad prison in Shiraz for six months.

The five imprisoned Christians
Iranian Christian News Agency, Mohabat News, reported that authorities are attempting to raise unsubstantiated charges against these Christians to heighten the pressure on them. By doing this, Mohabat News said, they are also attempting to intimidate other Christian groups.

Mohabat News said Fariba Nazemian, Mojtaba Hosseini, Homayoun Shokouhi, Mohammad-Reza Partoei (Kourosh) and Vahid Hakkani were told by the court that no decision will be made on issues concerning their case for the next two months.

Mohabat News said it was unclear who was present in the court session, and whether or not the detainees were allowed to hire an attorney or not.

However, Mohabat News said, the imprisoned believers were asked if they had reverted from Christianity back to Islam. The news service said court officials also insulted the Christians and claimed they had created a new sect which was not Gospel-based, Armenian or Assyrian.
In addition, Mohabat News said, authorities claimed that the imprisoned Christians had burned a copy of the Quran in the home of one of their friends.

Mohabat News commented, “It is obvious that this is a false claim brought up only to intimidate the detained Christian converts, and to magnify their charges in court. They were also told to defend themselves against the charge of having political contacts with foreign countries.”

Mohabat News assessed the validity of these claims. The news service said to bring more pressure on Christians when dealing with their cases, the Iranian judicial and security system has often attempted to create a negative view of Christians (and change public opinion and the international community's view) by labeling them as political and referring to house churches as political meetings.

Mohabat News said authorities also charge Christians detainees with spying for Israel and having contacts with foreigners. That, Mohabat News said, helps authorities achieve their goal of convicting Christians.

Authorities have also been known to add the charge of “insulting sacred figures” to their cases. Mohabat News said dozens of Facebook users who are currently held in Evin prison were also charged with this offense.

Mohabat News said reports received by the agency say the five Christians were separated and transferred to different areas of the prison last week. Mohabat News commented, “These wards are known to have poor hygiene conditions, and the guards mistreat and insult their prisoners.”

According to the reports, Mohabat News said, authorities are not following the legal process in dealing with these five Christians. Judicial authorities were also heard saying that bail would not be considered.

Mohabat News said, “Although their situation is still unclear six months after their arrest, there is no doubt that the Christians' only crime is related to their faith in Jesus Christ.”

The news service continued, “Therefore we call on human rights groups as well as groups and organizations advocating on behalf of Christian prisoners, to spread the news and make the situation of these Christian detainees known. (Also), to condemn these interrogation courts and call on security and judicial authorities of the Islamic Republic to secure the Christians' immediate release.”