Faith Focus – Iranian pastors 04/03/2012
As the world watches Iran's nuclear programme, arrests and prosecutions of church leaders and other Christians are continuing at an alarming rate.
Since June 2010, hundreds of Christians have been detained across Iran. Some have been tortured, suffering sleep deprivation and solitary confinement. Some have been subjected to repeated interrogations, in attempts to persuade them to renounce their faith. Some are still in prison. Others are out on exorbitant bail awaiting the date for a trial that will most likely culminate in their imprisonment.
Pastor Nadarkhani was arrested in 2009 and sentenced to death for apostasy in 2010. After further legal wrangling in 2011 during which the pastor thrice refused to recant his faith life, his case was eventually referred to Iran's Supreme Leader, as international pressure mounted on his behalf. Towards the end of 2011, authorities once again failed to persuade the pastor to exchange his faith for freedom, amidst unconfirmed reports that his case had been passed on to the head of the Iranian judiciary, and that execution had been delayed for up to a year to allow more time to convince him to renounce Christianity.
Another church leader, Pastor Behnam Irani, is in prison after being convicted of ‘apostasy' (leaving Islam), and ‘action against national security'. He has experienced psychological torture and physical assault, injuring him so severely that he has difficulty walking. He was assaulted and arrested while leading a house church service in April 2010, and is now serving a five year sentence.
Farshid Fathi-Malayeri, an evangelical church leader, has been detained without charge since 26 December 2010, and was kept in solitary confinement for a large part of his incarceration. When his family raised the equivalent of £120,000 demanded as bail for his release, the authorities still kept him in prison.
In December, Iranian authorities raided the Christmas celebrations of a church in southern Iran, herding every single person, including the Sunday School children, into buses. They were interrogated and threatened. Most of them were released, but the senior pastor three church leaders, are still being held.
That all who are detained unjustly in Iran would be released without charge;
That the Church would be built up spiritually, finding strength under persecution;
That Iran will become a nation where no faith or ethnic group faces discrimination or persecution.