Sunday, November 14, 2010

Pray for the Persecuted Church today

Christians in Iran are reporting that Pastor Youcef Nardarkhani has been sentenced to death for what is called a “thought crime.” Pastor Youcef, a leader in the Full Gospel “Church of Iran” network, is one of several members of his church who have been imprisoned. The Iranian government has also threatened his wife with life imprisonment and has threatened to take away their two children, who are currently being cared for by relatives. Pastor Youcef was arrested in October 2009 after protesting a decision by the government requiring that his son study the Quran.

UPDATE 11/15/2010: TEHRAN, IRAN (ANS) -- An Iranian court has passed down a death sentence on a Christian pastor, who was found guilty of so-called "thought crimes."
Pastor Youcef
According to, the official verdict has now been delivered in writing to Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, stating that he is to be hung for the crime of apostasy.
Spokesman Jason DeMars of Present Truth Ministries, says: "There are 20 days to appeal the verdict, and Youcef's attorney is now beginning the process of the appeal."
The prayer burdens surrounding this development are many, DeMars said in an e-mail to ASSIST News Service.
"Please pray for Youcef, that God would grant him peace and strength in this hour, that God would move on his behalf, and that he would be delivered! Pray also for his wife and children; this is extremely difficult for them.
"We are trusting our great Lord to give her the peace that comes only from the True Comforter. Pray that the church in Iran would stand strong, that their faith would not be shaken, but that their eyes would remain fixed on Christ. Pray also for the local officials in charge of this case in Iran, that their hearts would be changed, and that they would experience salvation in Jesus Christ," he said.

On Sept. 21, nearly 200 police officers demolished a prayer room at Taishan Christian Church in Taizhou, Zhejiang province, citing a “building code violation,” according to China Aid Association. On Sept. 22, following the most recent demolition, police raided the Chen Pengyi Church in Wancheng district, Henan province, where several believers were gathered for a Bible study and training session. Police detained an American pastor and a Russian pastor as well as more than 30 attendees. One believer’s car was also confiscated.

On Oct. 20, police detained Dr. Fan Yafeng, a prominent Christian lawyer and leader of the Chinese Christian Legal Defense Association. A group of police reportedly entered Dr. Fan’s home and prevented him from leaving. When they blocked his exit, Dr. Fan struggled through the doorway. Police then shoved him and assaulted him, causing him to sprain his ankle. Police immediately took Dr. Fan to Shuangyushu Police Station in Beijing, and at last report he is still being held there. Authorities have provided little information about Dr. Fan, and his wife is very concerned as she struggles to negotiate with authorities.

Pastor Ilmurad Nurliev, who was sentenced to four years in prison on Oct. 21, will likely be sent to the Seydi labor camp. Pastor Nurliev’s sentence includes forced treatment for an alleged drug addiction, and the prison has been accused of using psychotropic (mind-altering) drugs on prisoners. Those close to Pastor Nurliev are very concerned for his health. Christians in Turkmenistan said Pastor Nurliev, a diabetic, looked “very, very pale and thin” at his trial. They said the prosecution’s witnesses were not credible and that “it was clear the whole thing was set up.” At the trial, Pastor Nurliev was surrounded by secret police, who prevented his wife from approaching him.

On Oct. 31, Islamic extremists attacked worshipers at the Syrian Catholic Church of Baghdad, killing 59 Christians and severely injuring more than 80 others. Several gunmen armed with automatic weapons and explosives entered the church during a worship service and opened fire on the worshipers. Two priests were among those killed in the attack. “[This church was attacked] because they are very active, especially among the youth and community,” VOM contacts said. “This church works closely with the United Bible Society and VOM by distributing Bibles and Action Packs in Iraq. This is the second time this church has been targeted; in 2004 it was hit with a car bomb.” A militant organization called the Islamic State of Iraq, which has links to al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia, claimed responsibility for the attack.

On Nov. 8, Asia Bibi was sentenced to death by a judge in Pakistan. The judge also fined Asia $1,190 (U.S.) and told her she had seven days to appeal the decision. Asia was arrested by police on June 19, 2009, and charged with blasphemy after she engaged in a religious discussion with co-workers. Many of the local women, including Asia, worked on the farm of Muslim landowner Muhammad Idrees. During their work, many of the Muslim women had pressured Asia to renounce Christianity and accept Islam. Her family is one of only three Christian families in a village of more than 1,500 families.
On June 19, there was an intense discussion among the women about their faith. The Muslim women told Asia about Islam, and Asia responded by telling the Muslim women that Christ died on the cross for our sins. She told them Jesus is alive. “Our Christ is the true prophet of God,” she reportedly told them.
Upon hearing this response, the Muslim women became angry and began to beat Asia. Then some men took her and locked her in a room. They announced from mosque loudspeakers that she would be punished by having her face blackened and being paraded through the village on a donkey.
Local Christians informed the police, who took Asia into custody before the Muslims could carry out their plan. She is currently being held at the police station in Nankana city. Christians there had urged the police not to file blasphemy charges, but police claimed that they had to go forward because of pressure from local Muslim leaders.