Iranian Government Launches Crackdown Against Christians
You may recall our alerts in the fall of 2009 about Maryam and Marzieh, two courageous Iranian women who suffered several months of prison and abuse because of their Christian faith but who were eventually freed thanks in part to your faithful prayers and letters on their behalf.
In addition to a number of other individuals who have been arrested in the meantime, the Iranian government is now orchestrating a deliberate and widespread crackdown on Christians and particularly a growing house church movement in the country. Accurate numbers are difficult to state, but since Christmas there have been well over 100 arrests and since last summer there have been over 200.
In a wave of arrests at Christmas and in early January approximately 100 people were arrested. Some of these have been released on bail while an unknown number remain in prison, facing isolation, brutal interrogation tactics, threats, and other physical and emotional abuse in addition to generally harsh conditions in Iran’s notorious prisons. In the latest wave of arrests in mid-February, some 45 Christians were held overnight in an apparent attempt to harass and intimidate them.
Those who remain in prison face serious threats and those who have been released on bail are not out of danger. Many have been forced to sign papers stating they will not attend church and they may yet face prosecution. In the meantime, a pastor named Yousef Nadarkhani, imprisoned since 2009, is awaiting an appeal of a death sentence.
The Iranian population is 98% Muslim with the remaining 2% a mixture of other religions which includes Christianity. Other minorities, especially Bahá’í’s, face similar repressive tactics from the authorities and the government has promised more action to come. As the world’s attention is focused on the far-reaching events unfolding in North Africa, we must not allow the Christians in Iran to be forgotten.
• for safety of the imprisoned Christians and that they would find courage and comfort during this difficult time; pray also that they would be strengthened in their faith and reliance on God through these events and that their suffering would bring glory to God;
• for the persecutors, that they would appreciate the wrongfulness of their acts and be compelled to seek truth and forgiveness; pray that they would experience the love and forgiveness of God and in turn apply their energies toward spreading peace instead of hatred;
• for the Iranian authorities, that they would appreciate how important it is for the well-being of their country as a whole, that they respect and protect the lives, security, and human rights of all their citizens regardless of their religion; and,
• for the Christian community in Iran, that in the midst of these difficult circumstances they would be filled with the love of Christ and that through their actions their Muslim neighbours and co-workers would know the meaning of true love, forgiveness, and justice and be able to experience true peace through the Prince of Peace.
How to take action:
• to the representative of Iran in your country, demanding that Iranian authorities respect international human rights standards with respect to religious freedom and that they immediately release without bail all those who are being held on account of their religious beliefs and ensure their safety; assure them that an Iran where all Iranians, regardless of their beliefs, would be able to live, work, and worship in freedom will be a strong and prosperous Iran; and,
• to the Minister for Foreign Affairs or Secretary of State in your country, urging them to continue using every means at their disposal to make treatment of religious minorities in Iran a primary focus of foreign policy in the region.
Please remember to send us a copy of your correspondence at:
Rev. Majed El Shafie
President and Founder
One Free World International
El Shafie Ministries
Mr. Kambiz Sheikh Hassani, Chargé d’Affaires, a.i.
Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran
245 Metcalfe Street
Ottawa, ON K2P 2K2
Tel: (613) 235-4726; Fax: (613) 232-5712
The Honourable Lawrence Cannon
Minister for Foreign Affairs
125 Sussex Drive
Ottawa, ON K1A 0G2
Tel.: (613) 992-5516; Fax: (613) 992-6802
In the United States:
Interests Section of the Islamic Republic of Iran
Embassy of Pakistan
2209 Wisconsin Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20007
Tel.: (202) 965-4990; Fax: (202) 965-1073
Secretary Hillary Clinton
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520
Tel.: (202) 647-4000 (Main switchboard)