Iranian pastor Behnam Irani, who is serving a five-year sentence, has finally been taken to the military hospital after becoming so ill that he became unconscious within the last week.
Irani has been severely beaten while in Karaj's Ghezel Hesar Prison– allegedly for crimes against national security but really for holding house church services and leading people to Christ. He has been finding blood in his stool, Present Truth Ministries reported Monday. After the hospital visit, it was discovered that the pastor was suffering from a bleeding ulcer.
"We are thankful that he has been allowed to see a doctor and is being treated for his illness, but since the situation is so serious, we ask for your prayers for his healing," wrote Present Truth Ministries in the update.
In February, popular American pastor Rick Warren had tweeted a message urging his followers to pray for Irani: "Pray for our dear pastor Behnam Irani who's been severely beaten in prison in Iran for preaching Jesus."
The 41-year-old pastor from Karaj, Iran, became a follower of Jesus Christ in 1992, and a pastor ten years later. He has been arrested twice in connection to his house church activities, but has been charged with crimes against national security. He began serving his five-year sentence in May 2011. The father of two is regularly beaten in prison by inmates and guards and his health is failing, including starting to lose his eyesight, difficulty with walking, and now a bleeding ulcer. His family worries that he may die in prison in the next few months if his situation doesn't improve.
"CSW is deeply concerned for the health and welfare of Pastor Irani, and urges the Iranian government to ensure that he receives urgent medical attention and is protected from assault, in accordance with the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners," said U.K.-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide in a statement Tuesday.
"Though the charges against him are couched in political language, in reality Pastor Irani, like so many other Christian prisoners, has been imprisoned solely on account of his faith," the Christian persecution watchdog group said. "We continue to call on Iran to honor its obligations as a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantees freedom of religion, and to release Pastor Irani unconditionally as a matter of urgency, given his deteriorating health. We also call for the unconditional release of Pastor Nadarkhani, Pastor Farshid Fathi Malayeri and all others unjustly detained or facing execution due to flawed judicial processes."
Meanwhile, more publicly well-known Iranian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani is still in prison but his health is reportedly good. He has been imprisoned for over 1,000 days as of this month. The 35-year-old is facing death simply for converting to Christianity when he was 19, and has refused on multiple occasions to recant his faith. Nadarkhani has not been officially notified of what the charges are against him for his upcoming trial on Sept. 8.
"We wonder how the attorneys can argue a case before the court if they do not know what charges are being brought," commented the ministry. "This, once again, demonstrates the dishonesty of the Iranian legal system…"
Iran officially does not have any laws against apostasy, but in practice converts are imprisoned and pressured to recant Christianity and return to Islam. There have been several cases over the past few years of converts to Christianity being given the death sentence in Iran.