Home Middle East Iran BREAKING NEWS: Iran Christians Fear Christmas Crackdown; Pastor Still Facing Execution (BosNewsLife...

BREAKING NEWS: Iran Christians Fear Christmas Crackdown; Pastor Still Facing Execution (BosNewsLife Exclusive)

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 (DUE TO MASSIVE INTEREST BOSNEWSLIFE RECAST STORY)

By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife

Pastor Nadarkhani in jail. His wife Fatemah (right) continues to visit him, when possible.

TEHRAN, IRAN (BosNewsLife)– Evangelical Christians in Iran fear a massive crackdown by security forces around Christmas and say Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani may be executed earlier than authorities  suggest, a senior church official told BosNewsLife Monday, December 19.

Firouz Khandjani, a council member of the pastor’s Church of Iran, said Iran’s judiciary “uses the Christmas time to detain and harass Christians, thinking the world may forget the believers as everyone is busy with Christmas shopping.”

In an extensive interview Monday, December 19, he warned that official suggestions that Pastor Nadarkhani’s execution for “apostasy” or abandoning Islam, would be postponed “may be a trap to confuse the international community.”

Last week a lawyer and other observers close to the case said they learned from the court that judges were ordered to “do nothing” for one year. However, “It has become clear that Iran’s government may want to execute him earlier,” Khandjani stressed. “Saying he will be held one year more does not necessarily mean an earlier execution isn’t possible.”

Pastor Nadarkhani was detained in the city of Rasht in October 2009, while trying to register his Church of Iran home congregation, with hundreds of members in Gilan province. The Church of Iran has also several other congregations, making it one of the largest house church movements in the country.

DEATH SENTENCE

The Gilan court sentenced the 34-year-old Nadarkhani to death in November 2010. His appeal against that ruling was rejected on June 27, 2011. The Supreme Court said “he can be executed” but added it would first ask a “re-examination” by the same court that already sentenced him to death.

Khandhani, who spoke by telephone from an undisclosed location, said judges are “trying to use all means to make him recant his faith in Christ and convert him back” to Islam. With international pressure mounting, “I think judges would rather release him, but are under pressure by hardliners to execute him,” he explained.

“That’s why the court asked the Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Khameini for an opinion so they can say they are not responsible for his execution.” However, with no opinion forthcoming, they “put him in a jail with criminals such as drugs dealers, hoping that he may use drugs or accept money to become a Muslim again.”

Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani and his family's faitn in Christ remains strong, supporters say. Photo: Church of Iran for BosNewsLife
Although returning to Islam could mean avoiding execution and eventual release from prison, the pastor “has made clear he remains faithful to Christ,” Khandjani said. Nadarkhani’s wife, Fatemah, supports him and, when allowed, visits the pastor, who also has two small children, the church official added.

With Christmas approaching, Khandjani said, other Church of Iran leaders are also facing difficulties and several officials were forced to flee the country. “We decided that at least some leaders should leave, otherwise the authorities would  execute everyone,” Khandjani added.

MORE DETENTIONS

He said he knew of as many as 10 Church of Iran Christians who have been detained recently. Some, including his brother Behrouz Sadegh Khanjani, were released after paying bail of as much as $150,000. “Many Christians have lost their jobs. Others lost properties such as homes to provide bail money,” he explained.

Others being sentenced, but released on bail, include Alireza Seyyedian, who was sentenced to six years imprisonment after being baptized in neighboring Turkey. “Many Christians are baptized in secret in Turkey. In the verdict they said that the goal of Protestants is the destruction of Islam. It means if they had enough place
in prisons, they would put 500 million persons in jail.”

Leading Iranian rights activists agree. “Mr. Seyyedian’s arrest is part of a systematic assault on the rights of Protestant in Iran,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. “Imprisonment, intimidation and even threats to life have increasingly become the government’s response to Iranians who convert, join house-churches, or proselytize their faith,” Ghaemi told BosNewsLife.

Pastor Behnam Irani from the city of Karaj is among other Church of Iran held in prison.

Among several others Church of Iran leaders currently jailed are Pastor Behnam Irani from the city of Karaj and Mehdi Furutan, the acting pastor of a congregation in Shiraz, added Khandjani. Additionally, Pastors Parviz Khalaj, Mohammed “William” Belyad and Behrouz Sadegh Khandjani are due  to start serving their sentences in the southwestern city of Shiraz within a few days, he said.

“Parviz has two convictions for crimes against the order and is to serve two years. William Belyad was previously convicted of crimes against the order and sentenced to five years in prison. He will [receive an additional one year] to serve a total of 6 years. Behrouz is expected to serve one year in prison,” on related charges, explained Jason DeMars, director of advocacy group Present Truth Ministries, which has close contacts with Iranian Christians

FORMER MUSLIMS

Other devoted Iranian Christians, many of them former Muslims, are also known to be jailed in the strict Islamic nation, according to rights activists.

“The authorities have a shamefully narrow definition of religious freedom, which harms not only Protestant Christians, but also other religious groups such as Baha’i, Shai Sufis and Sunni Muslim,” stressed human rights official Ghaemi.

Those detained often face abuse, said Khandjani. “My brother was beaten and even held in total isolation for a month.”

Iranian officials have denied wrongdoing, saying they defend “Islamic values”. Christians linked the reported crackdown to concerns among Iran’s government about the spread of Christianity.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has condemned house churches.

“Islam approves Christianity in general, but with regard to the religious teachings of Christianity, unfortunately we witness the spread of Christianity among our youth,” said Ayatollah Hadi Jahangosha, an influential Islamic scholar close to the government.

AYATOLLAH CONCERNED

Earlier, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei condemned the growing house churches.

The Islamic scholar also warned about the widespread publication and distribution of Christian books for children. “One of these children books with [a] Christian subject has been published in 53 million volumes and in 128 different languages…It can even be found in the smallest towns across Iran,” he reportedly said.

Thousands of Bibles designated for local Christians are known to have been confiscated and destroyed by authorities this year alone, according to Iranian Christians familiar with the situation.

Despite the reported crackdown, there are at least 100,000 devoted Christians in Iran, many of them former Muslims, according to conservative estimates, while some church groups estimate that number to be several times higher. Officially 98 percent of Iran’s roughly 78 million people are Muslims, said the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Khandjani told BosNewsLife that his church had appealed to Christians around the world to pray and not to forget the Church of Iran. “There are all kind of efforts to divide the church. We have to pray that the base remains strong,” he said.

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BREAKING NEWS: Iran Security Forces Raid Christmas Celebrations; Pastor, Wife Detained (BosNewsLife Exclusive)

 

12 COMMENTS

  1. A song that I wrote that I pray you will deliver to Youcef Nadarkhani.
    To the tune of Jingle Bells
    Title: Gospel Bells, Gospel Bells.

    Gospel Bells, Gospel Bells, today is Christmas Day,
    Praise the Lord that Jesus died to wash my sins away eh;

    Gospel Bells, Gospel Bells, today is Christmas Day,
    Jehovah God is coming back to rule on earth one day.

    Walking in this world of sorrow, sin and shame,
    Healing those with needs, the blind the sick, the lame;

    Feeding the five thousand with just two fish and five bread,
    After dying for my sins Christ rose up from the dead.

    Gospel Bells, Gospel Bells, today is Christmas Day,
    Praise the Lord that Jesus died to wash my sins away eh;

    Gospel Bells, Gospel Bells, today is Christmas Day,
    Jehovah God is coming back to rule on earth one day

    By Kenny Merriken December 17, in the Year of our Lord 2011
    Merry Christmas

  2. I am disturbed when American Christians destroy Korans as a statement of their disagreement with Islam. I am personally offended when Iranians destroy Bibles, the inspired writings of my faith. I have heard government officials speak publicly against the former, but they sit silently by as Muslims continue their hate-filled attacks against the very utterance of salvation by grace through faith in Christ. I pray for Pastor Nadarkhani, that he will remain strong in his faith and that God will be glorified in all things. I also pray for the continued sharing of God’s grace through the message of Christ so that all may hear, so that all may believe, so that all may be saved.

  3. Warning for you, Kenny. Keep your day job, whatever that is. It is difficult even for accomplished poets to earn a living writing poetry. The doggerel you write will never earn you a red cent.

  4. Folks might find “lot’s” of truth in the literary products of others without necessarily finding literary merit there. There is poetry and there is doggerel verse. Kenny’s work falls in the latter category.

    Bone up on the formation of plurals and possessives, News Team. If you are going to be blogging, you should master the fundamentals of the language you are blogging in.

  5. Dear Bighoss,

    We should have ofcourse first checked the typo. Thanks to you the sentence became more stronger. With Biblical truth. Oh, we never said we were a blog. We prefer the term news agency.

    Best wishes,

    Stefan J. Bos, BosNewsLife

  6. Hi Stefan,

    My Google Alert on pastor Nadarkhani consistently points to your site having breaking news. Please go on revealing the truth on oppressed Christians. It helps me to understand better the spiritual warfare we are in; besides the stories of oppressed Christians holding tight to their Saviour builds my own faith as well, and last but not least such truths help the western world to put pressure on evil administrations.
    That the Christmas child may reign in our fallen world!

  7. Dear Hans,

    Thank you for your very encouraging e-mail. Indeed your words confirm what we really are trying to do. We also hope to reach those still searching for that same healing, loving faith in Christ which is so personal and promising that people, including this pastor, are even willing to die for it, if necessary. These Christian believers don’t die by harming others and themselves, as for instance Islamic extremists do. But indeed because they are persecuted for a faith the “fallen world” mainly, rejects.

    Stefan J. Bos, BosNewsLife

  8. Thanks for the updates on the status of Ps Nadarkhani. God is in control and He will bring about changes to the situationin in due time. My prayers are to Ps Nadarkhani and his family during this Chrismas time.
    The Bible says…..There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure…trials…’ 1 Peter 1:6

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