A court in Ahvaz, Iran, has upheld prison sentences of one year for four Christians who were arrested in March 2014, and banned them from holding or attending church services for two years.
Amin Khaki, Hossein Barunzadeh, Mohammad Bahrami, and Rahman Bahman were arrested, along with four other Christians, while they were at a picnic near the city of Shush-e-Daniel, in southern Iran, on 5th March 2014.
All eight were taken away, blindfolded and interrogated by armed, plain-clothed security agents. Five of the believers were then released, but Amin Khaki, Hossein Barunzadeh and Rahman Bahman were held. Mohammad Bahrami was re-arrested a month later.
They were tried in May 2015, and last October the four men were sentenced to one year in prison for spreading Christianity in Iran, a ruling they appealed. Following a re-trial on 1st February 2016, the Ahvaz Revolutionary Court upheld their sentences.
The men’s sentences included time that they had already spent in prison. Amin Khaki had already spent eleven months in prison, but because of a previous one-year sentence that had been suspended, he still has to serve 13 months’ imprisonment.
Hossein Barunzadeh and Rahman Bahman have three months still to serve, and Mohammad Bahrami four months.
Amin Khaki is a deacon at a church in Karaj which is led by Pastor Behnam Irani, who has been serving a six-year sentence in Ghezal Hesar prison in Karaj since 2011. Pastor Irani was convicted of “actions against the state” for preaching to Muslim background Believers at a house church, and for sharing Christianity with Muslims.
Iran’s house church movement is mainly made up of Christians who have converted from Islam and their children. Only the historic Christian communities (mainly Armenians and Assyrians) are allowed to worship in church buildings.
Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said in 2010 that the house churches are a threat to Islam. They are frequently raided and many Christians are often arrested for “threatening national security”.
- Pray for these four Iranian Christians, and their families as they continue their time in prison. Pray that they, and many others like them, will know the comfort of the Holy Spirit around them and His peace within.
- Pray for opportunities to witness to their guards and to other prisoners of their faith and trust in Jesus. Pray that many others will find faith through these Christians.
- Pray for the Church in Iran, as it continues to face persecution and opposition.
- Pray for the new government of Iran, that it will look to ease the pressure off Christians and to allow freedom of worship for all people.
Colossians 4 vs 3: “At the same time pray for us as well that God will open to us a door for the word, that we may declare the mystery of Christ, for which I am in prison,”