Updates on the persecuted Church – 19 September 2023

19 September 2023

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Iranian pastor released early from prison; Rights organisation catalogues war crimes committed by Myanmar military; Nigerian pastor among three abducted in Plateau State

Pastor Joseph Shahbazian outside Evin Prison after being released on 13 September [Image credit: Article 18]

  • On 13 September Iranian-Armenian pastor Joseph Shahbazian, 59, was “pardoned” and released after spending 13 months in Tehran’s Evin Prison. Joseph was originally sentenced to ten years imprisonment for holding church meetings in his home, thus “forming and operating illegal organisations with the aim of disrupting the security of the country”. The sentence was reduced to two years in May 2023. Joseph suffered ill health during his imprisonment. It is not known if his release is related to his state of health. Give thanks for Joseph’s release and pray that he will receive the medical aid he needs to recover fully. Pray that he will be soon able to resume his ministry to build up the church in Iran.
  • The Myanmar military has been accused of committing war crimes by deliberately attacking churches, hospitals and schools where displaced people were sheltering in Christian-majority Chin State. The Chin Human Rights Organisation claims 95 religious buildings, mostly churches, have been hit by shelling in the region since the military seized power in a coup in February 2021. Five hospitals and clinics and four schools have also been destroyed, it said. Pray for protection for churches, hospitals and schools in Chin State, and for people seeking shelter from military attack.
  • Nigerian pastor Usman Umaru was kidnapped from his church in the Jos East Local Government Area of Plateau State on 13 September. He was abducted along with two other people when gunmen attacked the church in the the Maigemu community in the early hours. Security services have been searching the area in an effort to find and free the victims. Pray that Pastor Usman and his companions are released swiftly and unharmed. Ask that kidnappers are thwarted in their plots to target pastors and Christians in Nigeria’s Middle Belt.

Related Countries

Iran, Myanmar (Burma), Nigeria