Updates on the persecuted Church – 9 January 2024

9 January 2024

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Iranian Christian convert arrested on Christmas Eve; Another Iranian convert summoned to begin her sentence; Airstrike on Myanmar churches kills at least 15; Attacks on Christian communities in Borno and Yobe states, Nigeria, leave more than 20 dead

Mina Khajavi was summoned to begin her sentence on 3 January [Image credit: Article 18]

  • An Iranian Christian convert remains in detention after being arrested on Christmas Eve, 24 December 2023. Esmaeil Narimanpour’s home in Dezful in western Iran was raided in a search conducted without a warrant, and Christian books were confiscated. He was allowed to telephone his family on Christmas Day to inform them that he was being held in Ahvaz, around 100 miles south of Dezful. Esmaeil was among several converts cleared of “propaganda” charges in 2021 but subsequently forced to attend Islamic classes. Pray for Esmaeil’s release from detention and that he will quickly be reunited with his family and not subject to further harassment.
  • Another Iranian Christian convert received notice to begin her sentence in Evin Prison, Tehran, on 3 January. Mina Khajavi, 60, was summoned to begin a six-year sentence for “acting against national security by promoting ‘Zionist’ Christianity”. This is typical of the kind of accusation made against Iranian believers just for being active in “house churches”. She was arrested in 2020 and sentenced in 2022 alongside Malihe Nazari, also sentenced to six years, and Pastor Joseph Shahbazian, who received a ten-year term. Both Joseph and Malihe were released early from their sentences in 2023. However, Mina was deemed unfit to begin her sentence when her ankle was broken after she was run over by a car, an incident that has caused her to have metal plates fitted and walk with a limp. She was required to present herself to the prison within five days of the notice. Ask the Lord to sustain Mina in this ordeal. Pray that He will intervene to bring about her early release and that her medical needs will be fully addressed.
  • At least 15 people were killed in an air strike by the Myanmar military (Tatmadaw) that targeted two church buildings in Khampat township in Sagaing Region. The strike hit a village in the township at around 10.15 am on Sunday 7 January. One witness said that eight children were among the dead. Witnesses reported that as many as 30 people were injured. Pray for an end to the targeted air strikes on Christians in Myanmar. Ask that the Lord will draw close to His people in their grief and provide healing to those wounded.  
  • Fourteen men were killed in co-ordinated attacks by Islamist militants on Christian communities in Chibok Local Government Area in Borno State, north-eastern Nigeria on New Year’s Day, 1 January 2024. The attacks in Gatamwarwa and Ntisha followed a raid in Pemi on 19 December 2023 in which three men were killed. One woman was abducted in the Ntisha attack. Several shops were burned down in the raids. In neighbouring Yobe State Islamist terrorists Boko Haram are suspected of murdering Pastor Luka Levong in Geidam on 5 January. Pastor Luka was shot dead at around 2am along with Maina Abdullahi, the church’s treasurer. Four others were also killed. Several houses and a church were burned down when the terrorists invaded the community. Pray for the Lord’s comfort for the bereaved families and for the church deprived of its shepherd. Ask that they will know God’s strength and protection despite the ongoing violence.

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