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Three Christians freed from Iranian jail; pastor held

Country/Region: Iran, Middle East and North Africa

Vahik-Abrahamian-and-Sonia-Keshish-Avanesian_4X3.jpg
Sonia Keshish-Avanesian is now free but her husband, Pastor Vahik Abrahamian,
remains in prison

Three Christians have been released from prison in Iran after 239 days behind bars, but a pastor who was arrested with them remains in detention.

Sonia Keshish-Avanesian, Arash Kermanjani and his wife Arezo Teymouri were set free from Hamadan state prison on 30 April. It is not known why Sonia's husband, Pastor Vahik Abrahamian, was kept in detention. Both couples were brought before a court on 28 April, where their lawyers were allowed to present their defence at length, after which a judge ordered their release.

Arash-Kermanjani_small_4X3.jpg
Arash Kermanjani
Arezo-Teymouri_small_4X3.jpg
Arezo Teymouri

They had been arrested together at the Abrahamians' home in Hamadan on 4 September 2010, apparently in connection with a small demonstration in the city. They were accused of a variety of offences including being connected with exiled opposition sources, propagating Christianity in Iran, opposing the Islamic Republic and the formation of opposition groups in and out of the country, allegations that their family and friends said were absurd and ludicrous.

 

The quartet were reportedly held in isolation, suffering intense physical abuse and psychological pressure at the Ministry of Islamic Guidance prison for 40 days before being moved to Hamadan prison. Sonia was pregnant at the time of her arrest but suffered a miscarriage while in prison.

Friends who have seen Sonia, Arash and Arezo since their release say they have lost a lot of weight and feel very weak.

Crackdown continues

The Iranian government's crackdown on Christians, in particular the growing house church movement, continues. Eleven Christians are awaiting the verdict of their trial on 1 May for "activities against the [Islamic] Order" and for drinking alcohol. These charges relate to their involvement in a house church gathering and consuming communion wine.

Six Christians, who were previously sentenced to a year in prison for crimes against the Islamic order, were due to stand trial for a further charge of blasphemy last month, but the hearing was adjourned twice to allow prosecutors more time to gather additional evidence.

Since June 2010, the arrests of 254 Christians in 33 Iranian cities have been confirmed; the actual number is thought to be much higher.

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Daily prayer

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  • “Jesus Christ performed tremendous miracles in all our lives through this Shalom Camp.” A pastor spoke of how God had worked through a Barnabas-sponsored weekend Bible camp for persecuted Christians in Sri Lanka. The camp was attended by believers from five different churches that had been the target of threats or attacks by Buddhist or Hindu extremists. The participants heard teaching on the Biblical basis for persecution and took part in group discussions; they came away refreshed and encouraged, and for many the camp was a time of great spiritual renewal. Give thanks to the Lord for the peace He has brought to these persecuted believers, and ask that the weekend will continue to bear much fruit in their lives. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed 11 hours ago

  • Pray for a church leader in Sri Lanka, S.S. Johnpillai, who was threatened at gunpoint by attackers who claimed to be Special Forces officers. The minister was in a hut next to his church building in Guadalupe, Trincomolee when, he said, the men “appeared out of nowhere”. The intruders put a gun to Johnpillai’s head and accused him of holding a Communion service in honour of the founder of the Tamil Tigers, the government’s opponents in the country’s long and bloody civil war. The government had that day made it a criminal offence to commemorate the group. The gunmen ignored Johnpillai’s protests that he had not dedicated Communion to the group’s founder, and they threatened to shoot him. Ask the Lord to support and strengthen Johnpillai as he recovers from this terrifying ordeal. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Tue, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Lift up to the Lord persecuted Christians in Sri Lanka, where at least 65 anti-Christian incidents took place during 2013, including repeat attacks on several believers and their property in October 2013. However, a Sri Lankan government minister from a Buddhist nationalist party denied the accounts, saying that they might be “made up”. The minister claimed that Sri Lankans are “one family … trying to live together after a long civil war”. Pray that the Sri Lankan government will recognise the danger that our brothers and sisters face from militant Buddhists and that the authorities will provide effective protection for vulnerable Christians. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Mon, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Condemned Christian mother Aasia Bibi’s final appeal hearing is scheduled to take place tomorrow (14 April) having been deferred twice. She was sentenced to death for blasphemy in November 2010 having been falsely accused of insulting Muhammad following an argument with Muslim co-workers. Aasia has been languishing in jail since the accusation was made in June 2009. Pray that her appeal will finally go ahead and that the judges will have the courage to acquit and release Aasia; there are concerns that they may give in to pressure from hardline Islamists who have been calling for her execution. Pray that Aasia, her husband and children will know the Lord’s peace as they await the verdict. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sun, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Indians have started going to the polls this week in a general election that is taking place in phases until 12 May. The ruling, secular Congress party is expected to be defeated by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). This would be an ominous outcome for the country’s Christian minority. The BJP has given support to extremist groups that attack Christians; states under the party’s rule have generally experienced a rise in anti-Christian violence. It has introduced anti-conversion laws on a state level, and has pledged to introduce national legislation to curb "missionary" activity and end proselytising if elected nationally. Pray for wisdom for Indians as they vote and that the outcome will result in a just government that upholds the rights and freedoms of all citizens. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sat, Apr 2014 00:00

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