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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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  • Cry out to the Lord for 33 Christians who have been sentenced to death in North Korea. The believers are thought to have been working alongside Kim Jeong-Wook, a South Korean missionary who was arrested in October 2013. Jeong-Wook has admitted trying to “create a network of house churches in North Korea” and was also said to be carrying Bibles and other Christian literature. His alleged associates are accused of trying to overthrow the government and of receiving a large sum of money for the construction of 500 house churches. Pray that these executions will not be carried out and that international pressure will be brought to bear on North Korea to release Kim Jeong-Wook and to cease its intense anti-Christian persecution. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed 9 hours ago

  • Praise God for the release of John Short, an Australian missionary who was detained in North Korea for distributing Christian leaflets. John, who is 75 and based in Hong Kong, was reported to security officials in Pyongyang after he was spotted leaving a Christian leaflet at a Buddhist temple, an act that is illegal in North Korea. Further Korean-language Christian pamphlets were subsequently found in his hotel room. John, who was released on 3 March after two weeks in custody, was required to sign a confession probably scripted by the authorities. Other foreign missionaries arrested in North Korea have been given long prison sentences. Give thanks to God that John has escaped further punishment, and pray for him as he recovers from his traumatic ordeal. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Thu, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Pray for Barnabas Fund partners in South Sudan who have been supporting Christians forced from their homes by violence. Conflict between supporters of President Salva Kiir and his sacked deputy Riek Machar in December and January displaced around 860,000 people. Churches were burned down and a number of pastors killed, while many people lost their belongings and were left destitute. Give thanks that churches in and around the capital, Juba, were able to provide food and other essentials to many families with help from Barnabas. Pray that they may continue to be salt and light in their country at this unstable time (Matthew 5:13-16), and that it will soon be safe for displaced Christians to return home. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Wed, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Pray for the residents of a mainly Christian village in Borno state, Northern Nigeria, in the aftermath of a horrific attack by Boko Haram militants on 15 February. Ask for God’s comfort for the relatives and friends of the 106 people in Izghe who were gunned down and slaughtered in their houses or in the open as they tried to flee. Pray for strength for the numerous residents who were wounded or whose properties were looted and torched. Pray too for the many Christians who fled into the neighbouring state after the attack, and ask that the Christian community in the North of Nigeria will be preserved in the face of Islamist violence. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Tue, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Violent attacks by militants from the Islamist group Boko Haram continue unabated in Northern Nigeria. On one horrendous day of violence on 26 January, at least 138 people were killed. A church in Wada Chakawa village in Adamawa state was targeted; the attackers locked the congregation inside and then detonated bombs, shooting and cutting the throats of people who tried to escape. They then went on a four-hour rampage in the village. Later the same day, Kawuri village in neighbouring Borno state was burned to the ground. Boko Haram is fighting to establish an Islamic state, and Christians are among its main targets. Pray that the Nigerian authorities will succeed in containing its insurgency. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Mon, Apr 2014 00:00

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