Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Behnam Irani, Benghazi persecution, Pakistan blasphemy case dismissed

Pastor Behnam Irani
IRAN - Pastor Behnam Irani is still suffering from poor health in a 40 x 40 jail cell with 40 other prisoners. Many of these prisoners are murderers, drug addicts and dealers. He has witnessed frequent fights and even murders. He has an untreated bleeding ulcer and his skin is turning a yellowish color as a result.  He is also experiencing chronic back pain so that he cannot walk without assistance. The Iranian government has denied him access to a doctor, so we cannot be sure what exactly the cause of the intestinal bleeding is.  We are unsure why the regime has denied him access to a doctor, but we suspect they hope he dies in prison.  In his five year prison sentence for crimes against national security, the judge mentioned he is also guilty of Apostasy from Islam.  It is possible he could be tried for this crime as well. Pray for Pastor Behnam and his family, for his health and safety as well as his witness in the prison.

LYBIA - Egyptian Christian businessman Sherif Ramses manages a bookstore in Benghazi. On Feb. 10th, he was arrested when authorities found his store’s inventory included Christian books. They also arrested other Benghazi believers associated with Sherif through business or as language teachers. While they all await formal charges in court, they have been accused of proselytizing Christianity, and Sherif is being physically mistreated in jail. Pray that God will protect and preserve Sherif and his Christian friends during this difficult time while facing opposition and incarceration. Ask for the amazing peace and presence of Jesus to overshadow these suffering believers and their family members. Ask God to pour out His Holy Spirit on the entire nation of Libya so many will be brought to repentance and faith in Him!

PAKISTAN - In a surprising ruling on Jan. 28th, a judge in a Punjab court threw out charges of blasphemy against Christian convert, Barkat Masih, who was accused of insulting Islam. The ruling came two months after similar charges were dismissed against the teenage girl Rimsha Masih. In Sept. of 2011, at a Hindu shrine in Barkat's native village, located on two acres of his family’s land, two frequent visitors to the shrine deliberately started an altercation with him, alleging that he had spoken badly against the Muslim prophet. Following a complaint filed by the two accusers, police arrested and charged Barkat on Oct. 1, 2011. 

Penalties for blasphemy include life imprisonment or death. While Barkat awaited trial almost 16 months in prison, 25 people submitted affidavits in his favour, defending his innocence. An investigation revealed that the two shrine visitors had actually plotted to take over Barkat's land and therefore accused him. When the accusers were unable to produce any evidence, the blasphemy charge was dismissed. "I didn't think God would rescue me from such an impossible situation," explains 56-year-old Barkat after the judgment, "but my miraculous rescue has strengthened my faith in Him." Due to threats from those in his village, Barkat and his family will have to relocate. Even the judge has taken an indefinite leave of absence since the trial, for fear of reprisal.