By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
TEHRAN, IRAN (BosNewsLife)– An evangelical church leader who is serving a six year prison term in one of Iran’s most notorious jails for Christian activities has told his father he refuses to condemn his enemies as the Lord “never” abandoned him.
In an emotionally-charged letter obtained by BosNewsLife, 33-year-old Farshid Fathi Malayeri wrote his father from Tehran’s Evin Prison that he senses “the fragrance of your prayers as a cool breeze on my heart and it strengthens me from afar.”
Fathi Malayeri acknowledged life behind bars is testing his faith in Christ, and that he may even die in Evin Prison, known for abuses and mistreatment.
“I spent 361 days in a locked cell, and I did not see the sunlight for days, but the mercies of the Lord were made new every morning,” he said.
“Often I have been sorrowful because of certain things, but I have never been a slave of sadness.” Though he claimed to have been “been insulted, humiliated and accused”, he stressed he “never doubted” his “identity in Christ.”
‘SOME DESERTED ME’
“Some have deserted me, some have fled from me, of course in no way I pass judgment on them,” he added. “My Lord has never left me.”
While going “through difficult days…more than ever before I have seen myself in the bosom of the Lord, which is full of love,” the pastor wrote.
“I have had a deep experience of loneliness, but I have never felt alone. Often I have been sorrowful because of certain things, but I have never been a slave of sadness.”
He admitted that he misses his father and other family members. “Probably I cannot be with you for a few years,” he explained in the letter resembling those of jailed Biblical apostles such as Paul. “However your word and exhortations are in the ear of my soul,” Fathi Malayeri said.
Yet he also spoke about his own mortality. “I hope that at the end I will be able to see you. But if the Father calls me to the eternal abode, please protect and support my family more than before, especially my children who are dearest of my heart,” he wrote his father.
“I have many things to say, but I like to say how much I love you. I miss you, our other brother and my dear aunty. I miss the little ones and their parents. Please give my greetings to my dear uncle [as] I know that with power and love he is praying for me and my family,” the evangelical church leader added.
Quoting Scripture, the pastor said: “The narrow way, that I am passing through I see as a cup that my Beloved has given me, and I will drink it to the end, whatever that end might be.”
He added that, “What really matters is that I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine. This possibly is the sweetest truth of my life that I am His and He is mine.”
He also indirectly mentioned several other Christians known to be jailed in Evin Prison. “Two of the brothers send you greetings from here. Also two sisters who are separated from us by a few high walls.”
He said he was “continuously praying” for his father, family and church members.
‘REJOICING IN LORD’
“Tell them ‘In our land the fig tree does not blossom, the produce of olive has failed. The flock is cut off from the fold. Yet we rejoice in the Lord and take joy in the God of our salvation,” he wrote.
Referring to the Bible he noted: “Neither the walls nor the barbed wires, nor the prison, nor suffering, nor loneliness, nor enemies, nor pain, nor even death separates us from the Lord and each other.”
Last year the former Muslim-turned-devoted Christian took time to write an open letter to parents of those who lost their children in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown, United States.
He said at the time he wanted to forget his own pain of being separated for several years from his children, Rosanna, 9, and Bardia, 3, to reach out to those who lost their loved ones.
In the letter obtained by BosNewsLife, he recalled that a gunman shot his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown on December 14 and slaughtered 20 first-graders and six educators. The gunman, who had also killed his mother that morning, committed suicide as police arrived.
“I really don’t know what word in the world could comfort you, what relief could be helpful for your broken heart, and which hand could clean the tears which fall from your cheeks,” the pastor said in his letter addressed to, “The fathers and mothers who lost their precious children in the Connecticut tragedy.”
“I just want to say: ‘I am so sorry and you are in my prayers’,” he added in the letter, which was released by Elam Ministries, a mission group founded by Iranian church leaders.
The Iranian church leader was fist detained in 2010 and last year sentenced to six years in prison, officially on political charges. Iranian Christians say however he was really being punished for his Christian activities and abandoning Islam.
He has been among several being targeted in raids on house churches and other Christian gatherings and was often interrogated about his church activities, according to Christians familiar with the case.
Iran’s Islamic leadership has expressed concerns about the spread of Christianity in Iran, which they view as a threat to their power base and Islamic values.
There are at least 100,000 evangelicals and possibly close to half a million Christians in Iran, according to several data monitored by BosNewsLife.