Farsi-speaking Iranian Christians have suffered a new setback after it was announced that they will no longer be allowed to attend one of the major churches in Tehran, following increased government pressure.
"The squeeze on Christians inside Iran continues. Even while [President Hassan] Rouhani spoke about religious freedom during a Christmas message last week, the clamp down on Christians, especially Muslim Background Believers, has increased," Jerry Dykstra, director of Media Relations at watchdog group Open Doors USA, shared in an email to The Christian Post on Friday.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani reached out to Christians over the Christmas holiday in three visible ways. But Christian leaders have denounced his "hollow words."
In a Christmas statement, Rouhani "wished a new year full of cooperation, peace, security and tranquility for the Christians," Fars News reported. He also reached out to Christians through his Twitter account, proclaiming, "May Jesus Christ, Prophet of love & peace, bless us all on this day. Wishing Merry #Christmas to those celebrating, esp Iranian Christians."
But some were wary of his seemingly friendly words especially as Christians, including Iranian American Christian pastor Saeed Abedini, continue to be persecuted. more >>
Naghmeh Abedini, wife of imprisoned Iranian-American pastor Saeed Abedini, delivered a heartfelt plea to lawmakers during a Congressional hearing Thursday, begging them to end her family's "nightmare" and help release her husband from the deadly Rajaï Shahr prison in Iran.
Naghmeh spoke alongside Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice, during Thursday's Joint Subcommittee Hearing, during which lawmakers sought to address the current status of Pastor Abedini and other American citizens being held in Iran. Saeed Abedini was arrested in July 2012 and charged with undermining Iran's security, although it is believed he is really being detained due to his Christian faith.
At Thursday's Congressional hearing, Naghmeh criticized the failure of the United States to bring up Abedini's imprisonment during recent nuclear talks with Iran, saying those talks were the "perfect" opportunity to negotiate her husband's release. "I feel my husband has been abandoned," she said. more >>
U.S. pastor Saeed Abedini was robbed at knifepoint at Iran's Rajai Shahr prison, the American Center for Law and Justice confirmed, sparking further fears for his life.
"Pastor Saeed is facing constant threats to his very life in the new prison. There have been several nights where he has awoken to men standing over him with knives. Pastor Saeed's 'cell' is only separated by a curtain from the rest of the violent prisoner ward he is forced to share, allowing dangerous prisoners – murderers and rapists – unfettered access to him 24 hours a day," ACLJ Executive Director Jordan Sekulow shared in an update earlier this week.
"He has also been robbed at knifepoint several times, stripping him of what few necessities he has been permitted to purchase for personal hygiene." more >>
The family of Pastor Saeed Abedini said in a recent interview that they are "devastated" that the Obama administration failed to secure Abedini's release during recent negotiation talks with Iran, in which the Middle Eastern country agreed to limit its nuclear program in exchange for lighter economic sanctions. Abedini is an American pastor who has been imprisoned in Iran over the past year for his Christian faith.
"As a wife and a mom, it's devastating," Naghmeh Abedini, the pastor's wife, told Fox News Radio. Naghmeh and her family saw these recent peace talks between Iran and the U.S. as a possible opportunity for Abedini to be released from his eight-year prison sentence. The pastor was sentenced in January 2013 under the charges of "planting house churches that are intended to undermine national security."
Naghmeh added to Fox News Radio that she now believes the U.S. has no leveraging power since making the nuclear program deal. "Iran has no incentive for them to release him. I don't think we have any more leverage. We now have to consider other avenues and having other countries speak out because our country when we could have used our leverage chose to stay silent." more >>
Israel criticized on Sunday an interim nuclear deal the United States and other world powers reached with Iran, calling it a "historic mistake." It is also a "betrayal" of U.S. Pastor Saeed Abedini, who is in an Iranian prison because of his Christian faith, said the American Center for Law and Justice, which had urged Washington to secure his release as a precondition.
"What was concluded in Geneva last night is not a historic agreement, it's a historic mistake," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, of the four-page agreement, to which Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany are also party.
Named the "Joint Plan of Action," the deal requires Iran to freeze its nuclear program for six months even as negotiators continue to push for a longer-term agreement. In return, Iran will be provided with up to $7 billion in relief from international sanctions for the duration of the interim agreement. more >>