Christians are being persecuted and oppressed all around the world simply because of their faith in and commitment to Jesus Christ as King of kings and Lord and lords. When I hear of their plight, I’m challenged and moved to prayer.
World magazine recently highlighted several accounts of nations where persecution is a reality. Here is one of them, written by Jamie Dean:
Less than 130 miles away, another Iranian pastor faces a severe test of strength: Benham Irani, 41, is serving six years in prison in Karaj for so-called actions against the state. His alleged crimes includes pastoring a group of converts and sharing his Christian faith with Muslims.
The pastor is languishing. In mid-August, CSW (Christian Solidarity Worldwide – my note) reported that Irani was suffering from sever bleeding due to a stomach ulcer and colon disorder. Sources told the group that prison authorities beat the pastor during the early days of his imprisonment, and that he now struggles to walk.
By late September, the Minnesota-based Present Truth Ministries reported that officials had denied Irani adequate medical care (including potentially life-saving surgery), and that the pastor was vomiting blood. Without intervention, advocates fear the husband and father of two young children could die within a few months.
Later in the article, Dean wrote:
In Iran, advocacy groups aren’t the only ones reporting Christians’ suffering. In late September, two human-rights experts from the United Nations reported that Iranian authorities were intensifying their clampdown on evangelical churches.
Ahmed Shaheed, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, estimated that Iranian authorities arbitrarily arrested and detained more than 300 Christians since June 2010. Shaheed said “scores of Christians” remained in jail “for freely practicing their religion.”
Advocacy groups believe that number is far higher. CSW reported a “steep rise” in persecution against religious minorities in Iran during 2011 and 2012. The list of developments include: “waves of arrests and detentions; regular raids on church gatherings; harsh interrogations; physical and psychological torture (including demands for recantations of faith and for information on the identities of fellow Christians); extended detentions without charge; violations of due process; convictions for ill-defined crimes or falsified political charges; and economic targeting through exorbitant bail demands.”
Many Iranian Christians, writes Dean, “don’t share their cases publicly because of the threats of Iranian authorities. Borji (Mansour Borji, and Iranian pastor in London – note of explanation mine, not the author’s) says the harassment includes authorities forcing churches to close, confiscating church property, closing mid-week Bible studies, shuttering Sunday schools, and confiscating and destroying Bibles and other Christian literature: ‘It’s an attempt suffocate the church.’ Despite the worsening crackdown, Borji says that house-church networks report growth, including increasing numbers of converts. If Bibles aren’t available, some churches rely on satellite television for Christian teaching. And they also welcome visitors, despite the risk of spies, he says: ‘Many people do not let that fear paralyze them.'” (November 3, 2012, pp. 66-67)
Hebrews 11:36-38 sums up our brothers and sisters in Christ, like these, being persecuted: “Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated – of whom the world was not worthy – wandering about deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.”
Pray for our brothers and sisters – that their persecution would end and that they would d stand firm in the face of it – and pray for yourself.