Amidst a current crackdown that has crippled Iran’s house-church leadership, an imprisoned convert from Islam has managed to sneak a message of encouragement out of prison to Iran’s Christians.
31-year-old Ebrahim Firouzi was arrested in Karaj, along with two other Christians, and is serving a five-year sentence handed down in April 2015, after being convicted of crimes commonly levelled at Christians – “actions against national security, being present at an illegal gathering and collusion with foreign entities.”
In his message, he exhorted Iranian Christians to expect persecution but to continue proclaiming Christ.
“If you are courageous in God’s way, God’s grace will be with you,” stated Firouzi . “Do not fear what you are doing, and raise the banner of Jesus in the name of God.”
“If you want to do good to others, who can harm you? … Keep your conscience clean so that people will be ashamed if they cause you harm. If it is God’s will that you should suffer, it is better to suffer for doing good.”
The message comes at a particularly dark time for Christians in Iran, where the government has left few, if any, Farsi-language churches open, according to advocacy group Middle East Concern (MEC), who confirmed the authenticity of the message.
This leaves Christians with no other option but to hold meetings in homes, which are illegal and often result in heavy persecution for those who lead and attend house churches.
As Rob Duncan, MEC’s region manager for Iran said: “Now that the ‘official’ [government-allowed] churches have been closed, there is nowhere they can go to that they can freely worship the Lord, and this is something that has affected a lot of people. [The Persian speakers] are being forced into house churches; they have no practical alternative.”
In the year since Firouzi’s sentencing, Duncan said the leadership of the house church movement has been gutted. Many of the leaders have been imprisoned, and increasingly Iran has been forcing pastors into a form of self-enforced exile by harassing and pressuring them to leave.
In his message, Firouzi encouraged prayer for the shuttered churches: “I ask you to pray for the reopening of the churches in Iran that the government has closed by force, so that the sound of worship and the praise can be heard in the buildings again.”
- Give thanks for this message of encouragement to Iranian Christians, even at a time of persecution for Firouzi himself.
- Pray for Firouzi, and many church leaders like him, who are imprisoned on false charges because of their faith. Pray for them to be encouraged, as they seek to encourage others, and for courage and faith to continue to witness to their faith.
- Pray for protection for Iranian Christians, especially with the closer of government churches and the resultant pushing of the church to meet in secret.
- Pray that churches will be reopened in Iran, and that worship and praise will be heard, not only in church buildings but in streets and homes across Iran, as many come to faith in Jesus Christ.
Acts 12 vs 5: “So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.”
Source: http://fcnn.com/en, http://www.persecution.org/2016