An Iranian pastor has been released early from prison, just six months after he failed in his appeal of an additional sentence to an extra year in jail and 74 lashes for allegedly possessing alcohol in his prison cell.
Farshid Fathi, a 35-year-old father of two, was serving a six-year prison sentence in Evin Prison for “action against the regime’s security, being in contact with foreign organisations, and religious propaganda.”
He was originally arrested on December 26th, 2010, at the same time as around 60 other Christians, many belonging to house churches in Tehran and other cities. Most of them have since been released.
The governor of Tehran, Morteza Tamadon, described the detained Christians as “extremists” who “penetrate the body of Islam like corrupt and deviant people.” He added that they were trying to establish “an extreme form of Christianity, like the Taliban and Wahhabis in Islam.”
Iran’s Supreme Leader, Seyyed Ali Khamenei, made a speech in October 2010 saying that house churches should be “dealt with.” Soon after this there was a new wave of surveillance and arrests against, with leaders of house church groups, such as Farshid Fathi, especially singled out for longer detentions.
Born into a Muslim family, Fathi became a Christian at the age of 17 and at the time of his arrest he was working full-time as a pastor and leader of house churches.
Estimates from evidence provided by the American Centre for Law and Justice, Article 18 and Middle East Concern suggest that, in May 2015, there were 90 people detained in Iranian prisons on account of their Christian faith and practice.
- Give thanks for Farshid Fathi’s release from prison. Pray for him and his family as they adjust to being back together, and celebrate his being home again.
- Pray for the many Christians still in prison in Iran for their faith. Pray for hope, comfort and peace to be with them, especially this Christmas. Pray that they can witness to the truth of Jesus to their guards and officials.
- Pray for Christians in Iran, many of whom live under pressure from families and community, as well as the government,
- Pray for many in Iran to encounter Christ this Christmas, and to come to know the great Gift of Life that is Jesus.
Acts 12 vs 5: “While [he] was kept in prison, the church prayed fervently to God for him.”