Iran's revolutionary court is believed to have sentenced 18 Christian converts to prison for their faith in a new crackdown on Christianity in the Islamic Republic, a report said.
Fox News noted that the charges include evangelism, propaganda against the regime, and creating house churches to practice their faith. It added that the total sentences come close to 24 years, but it's not known how many years each individual received, due to the lack of transparency in Iran's judicial system.
"The cruelty of Iran's dictatorial leaders knows no limits," said Saba Farzan, the German-Iranian executive director of Foreign Policy Circle, a strategy think tank in Berlin. more >>
Pastor Saeed Abedini, a U.S. citizen who has spent over two and-a-half years in an Iranian prison for his Christian faith, is marking on Thursday his 35th birthday by urging believers to pray for America's revival. The pastor noted in a letter that his birthday this year falls on the National Day of Prayer in the United States.
"As an American and as a prisoner for Christ, I have spent many hours praying and crying out to God for revival for this great nation. We all hope for the success of our nation and for America to be blessed, but without revival there can be no true success or blessing. As Ezra's cried out to God in repentance and the Israelites joined him in weeping bitterly and turning from their sin, I would like to ask you to join me in repenting and praying for revival," Abedini' letter begins.
The American Center for Law and Justice, which represents Abedini's wife, Naghmeh, and the couple's two children in Boise, Idaho, said that the letter was obtained from a family member in Iran who visited the pastor in prison last week. more >>
As the United States continues to negotiate with major world powers and Iran aimed at limiting the Middle Eastern nation's nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief, the wife of American pastor Saeed Abedini says her husband, who has been imprisoned there for more than two and a half years for his faith, is being threatened by guards that he will never be freed unless he renounces Jesus Christ.
"Last week had been quite difficult for Saeed. He has been under a lot of pressure and attack from the hardliners. The guards have also been threatening Saeed that he will never go free and additional charges (and years) will be added to his sentence (which they have done to other Christians and fellow inmates)," said the pastor's wife, Naghmeh Abedini, according to ACLJ.
"They continually threaten Saeed that the only key to his freedom is denying Christ and returning to Islam. Saeed refuses to deny Christ and continues to be a light and witness in that dark prison. These threats, coupled with the fact that there have been mass executions during the last week in Rajayee Shahr prison, have really taken their toll on Saeed. He asks for prayer for continued strength," she said. more >>
As the high-profile nuclear deal negotiations between the U.S., Iran, and several other countries entered the final scheduled day of talks on Tuesday, the American Center for Law and Justice reminded President Barack Obama of his promise to do all he can to get Iran to release imprisoned pastor Saeed Abedini.
Negotiations about the long-standing issues of lifting some of the sanctions on Iran in exchange for curbing its nuclear research program are taking place in Switzerland, though politicians have given few hints that an agreement will be reached by the end of the day.
ACLJ, which represents pastor Abedini's wife and two children in the U.S., has said that Iran's stated commitment to improve its human rights record must be demonstrated by agreeing to release the pastor. more >>
President Obama again called on Iran to release U.S. Pastor Saeed Abedini, who has been in a jail for his Christian faith for nearly two-and-a-half years, as the Middle Eastern nation celebrates the Nowruz holiday, a festival of spring and the beginning of the year in the Persian calendar.
"Today, as families across the world gather to mark this holiday, we remember those American families who are enduring painful separations from their loved ones who are imprisoned or went missing in Iran," Obama said in a statement.
"Saeed Abedini of Boise, Idaho has spent two and a half years detained in Iran on charges related to his religious beliefs. He must be returned to his wife and two young children, who needlessly continue to grow up without their father," he added. more >>
Associate Counsel Matthew Clark of the American Center for Law and Justice has said that he hopes the U.N. Human Rights Council will take up the case of pastor Saeed Abedini, who is serving an eight-year sentence for his Christian faith in Iran.
"The Human Rights Council Working Group looked at the facts, they looked at the evidence and they came to the independent conclusion, as we have, that his detention is arbitrary, that it is in violation of international law and that he should be freed," Clark said, according to One News Now, commenting on the oral intervention last week by its international affiliate, the European Centre for Law and Justice, before the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
"So the U.N. is taking steps to put out there exactly what is happening and what action needs to be taken by the Iranian government to free him." more >>