Iranian Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani was taken back to prison on Christmas Day allegedly because of improperly completed paperwork, multiple sources have said, denying him the chance to celebrate the birth of Christ at home with his family.
Persecution watchdog groups Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) and Present Truth Ministries both reported the news, saying that pastor Nadarkhani has had to go back to Lakan Prison in Rasht to serve the remainder of his time in prison, another 40 days, and to complete paperwork that authorities say he had not filled out.
"We are disappointed to hear Pastor Nadarkhani has been returned to prison in such an irregular manner," said Mervyn Thomas, CSW's Chief Executive. more >>
Jailed Iranian pastor Behnam Irani, who was last month denied hospitalization despite his critical condition, wrote a letter from his prison cell days before Christmas, ministering to Christians in his country and thanking God for letting him share "very little of" Jesus' suffering on the cross.
"Despite the pressure and difficulties in prison, I am pleased to share, what is like a fountain, my Christian joy with you in the new Christmas days to come," wrote Irani, who is currently serving a six-year sentence, according to the letter translated by Minnesota-based Present Truth Ministries, which has missionaries and pastors working in various Middle Eastern countries.
"My brothers and sisters, I love you all. Christ has given you to me on Calvary. Even if I were sentenced to many years behind bars for the salvation of one of you, there would never be any complaint," said the pastor in his 40s in the letter, seemingly written to the people he has ministered to and Christian workers in Iran. more >>
A Christian persecution watchdog has started a new campaign pledging support for a pastor in a critical medical state and currently imprisoned in Iran, as well as the many other believers facing persecution around the world.
"As you read this, Pastor Behnam Irani's health is in critical condition and there is a very real chance he will die in Ghezel Hesar prison if he remains in his current condition," Christian Solidarity Worldwide explains in a statement shared with The Christian Post by Kiri Kankhwende, press officer for the organization.
Pastor Irani was arrested back in 2011, allegedly for acting against the interests of national security, although persecution watch groups have maintained that the real reason was for his preaching of the Gospel and leading people to Christ in the largely Islamic country. He had been leading the Church of Iran in the city of Karaj in Alborz Province, and is currently serving a six-year sentence in Ghezel Hesar prison. more >>
A U.N. special report on persecuted religious minorities in Iran has found that the Baha'i faith is the most targeted in the Islamic country, and it has warned that further economic sanctions may make life more difficult also for all people in Iran.
"By and large I would say the Baha'is are the most persecuted religious minority in Iran," Ahmed Shaheed, the U.N. special rapporteur for human rights in Iran said before a seminar at the International Peace Institute in New York on Monday.
As both President Barack Obama and GOP candidate Mitt Romney made clear in Monday night's foreign policy debate, they plan to impose further sanctions on Iran to make it more difficult for the Middle Eastern country to acquire nuclear weapon capabilities. However, Shaheed has warned that this would also have harsh consequences for everyday Iranians, as they will suffer from a lack of accessible medicine and other basic human needs. more >>
Authorities in Iran's Fars Province arrested seven Christians in a church raid on Friday, even as five other Christian converts who were detained eight months ago from the same province will face trial on Monday. Over 300 Christians have been arbitrarily arrested and detained over the last two years.
Security personnel on Friday evening raided a house church belonging to the Church of Iran denomination in the city of Shiraz, and detained seven Christians, U.K.-based charity Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) reported.
The seven, identified as Mohammad (Vahid) Roghangir, Suroush Saraie, Roxana Forughi, Eskandar Rezaie, Bijan Haghighi, Mehdi Ameruni and Shahin Lahooti, were being held in Plaque 100, the Intelligence Ministry's notorious detention center. more >>
Reports from various human rights organizations Tuesday indicate that Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, the human rights lawyer responsible for defending Iranian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, has started serving a nine-year prison sentence for allegedly acting against national security and spreading propaganda.
The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which closely followed Pastor Nadarkhani's court case and is likewise following Dadkhah's case, says that because Dadkhah represents his clients free of charge, he is being accused of "aiding and abetting" in the alleged crimes of his clients.
"In a world where persecution on the basis of faith is escalating, we must also stand with those who defend our fundamental freedoms," Tiffany Barrans, International Legal Director for the ACLJ, told The Christian Post in an emailed statement. "As the world awakened to the realities of religious persecution in Iran when the masses fought for Pastor Youcef's freedom, we must now shift our attention to defend those who defend the persecuted." more >>