Wednesday, August 4, 2010

IRAN: PERSECUTION SURGES

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 067 | Wed 04 Aug 2010

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IRAN: PERSECUTION SURGES
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Biblical revelation preaches freedom in love. Islam -- like all man-made religions -- demands submission to law. While the God of the Bible demands perfection in love, he freely provides a remedy for sin -- Jesus Christ -- and the Holy Spirit as helper. This is indeed Good News! On the other hand, while Islam demands submission to law, it provides no remedy for sin and so can only culminate in failure. Meanwhile, the dictators of Islam employ religious forces -- Revolutionary Guards, Basij, muttawa, hisba, taliban and others -- to police 'vice and virtue'. To protect their own privilege and hegemony they deny Islam's failure and deflect scrutiny from Islam by blaming the victims. Driven by apostaphobia, they strive to eliminate fitna (anything that could tempt a Muslim to doubt Islam). Sunni reformation (as in Saudi Arabia) and Shi'ite revolution (as in Iran) have only produced repressive, totalitarian police states wracked with poverty, cruelty, despair and disillusionment.

In Iran the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) was set up to defend Islam. The Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) was established to eliminate all opposition and dissent which they virtually did through purges, terrors and serial killings. When President Khatami (1997-2004) pressed for reforms in the style of 'glasnost' (openness) and 'perestroika' (restructuring) , Ayatollah Khamenei engineered his removal. Through the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad since 2005, the hegemony of the blood-stained IRGC and MOIS
hardliners of the 1980s-90s has been restored. The regime has just announced a massive boost in funding for the Basij (state-sponsored Islamic vigilantes) and will establish 7000 new Resistance Bases across Iran. All this is unsurprising, for whilst Christianity requires radical, personal, spiritual transformation, Islam merely demands the enforcement of Islamic law.

Persecution of the Church escalated through 2009, aided because the US no longer has leverage -- due to Iraq, the US now needs Iran more than Iran needs the US. As noted in RLPB 041 (3 Feb 2010), the regime is escalating repression to curtail unrest due to widespread social dissatisfaction and economic distress. A wave of persecution hit the Church in late December 2009 and early January 2010 when many Christians were harassed, interrogated, threatened and arrested. Whilst most have been released on bond, some remain incarcerated and others have been added to their number.

Pastor Behrouz (Marco) Khanjani was arrested on 11 January when he responded to a request from the authorities to come in for questioning in Chiraz. He was bailed on 17 March only to be re-arrested on 16 June. His wife, Fatemeh (Marie) Torkkajouri, was arrested the next day and placed in solitary confinement in Evin Prison. After informing Pastor Behrouz of his wife's fate, the authorities reportedly incarcerated him in 'Plate 100', a dungeon of the intelligence services in Chiraz. Their daughter Esperance is in the care of Muslim family members.

Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani was arrested in Rasht on 13 October 2009 for protesting the regime's plans to force Islamic education on all children in violation of the constitution. He has reportedly been sentenced to death. Furthermore Pastor Yousef's wife, Fatemeh (Tina) Passandideh, was arrested on 8 June 2010 and is in solitary confinement in Evin Prison. The authorities have threatened to put the couple's children, Yoel and Daniel, in an Islamic institution.

A group of 15 new believers were travelling by bus to the provincial town of Bojnoord on 18 July 2010. Security forces were informed and ambushed and arrested them in the city of Mashhad. After a week of harsh interrogation, believers who signed 'confessions' were freed on conditions including due payment of all bail. Mr Reza (48, also known as Stephen) and Mr Ehsan Behrooz (23) refused to co-operate and so remain incarcerated in the 901st branch of the Revolutionary Court in Mashhad.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT THE SPIRIT OF GOD WILL:

* fill Iranian believers with courage and faith to face persecution in a way that brings glory to God.

* fill persecuted Iranian believers with the inner peace and joy that comes from trusting the LORD, from assurance of salvation, and from the experience of God as 'sanctuary' (Isaiah 8:14a).

* give all Iranian Christians -- especially pastors -- great spiritual wisdom to be 'wise as serpents and innocent as doves' (Matthew 10:16 ESV).

* awaken multitudes of Iranian Muslims to the deficiencies of Islam (and not just Iranian economics and foreign policy) and the Good News of Jesus Christ.

* enlighten especially the Muslim relatives, friends and neighbours of Iran's persecuted Christians that they may be so shocked and challenged by Islamic injustice, and so surprised and moved by Christian grace, that they will seek love over law and find truth in Jesus Christ.