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14 September 2012

Christians urged to pray for Iran

Christians urged to pray for Iran

Release International, which serves the persecuted Church worldwide, has launched a campaign to support Christians in Iran. The Acts 2/9 campaign aims to focus prayer during September onto Iran where Christians face intense persecution. One imprisoned pastor, Behnam Irani, has been badly beaten and his family fear for his life.

"The Church in Iran is one of the fastest growing in the Muslim world," says Release UK director, Colin King. "However, the Islamic republic, controlled by hard-liners, views Christians as enemies of the state – especially Christian converts.

"The authorities are carrying out a campaign of intimidation, arrest and detention – aimed mainly at church leaders. Christians are discriminated against in education, employment and property ownership. Release is calling on Christians in the UK to stand with and pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Iran."

Release has produced a downloadable video to focus prayer on Iran .

Evangelising Muslims is banned in Iran. Converts have been arrested and detained and are forced to meet in small cell groups to remain undetected. Around 17 believers – mostly from Muslim backgrounds – are detained because of their Christian faith and activities.

Release partner Lazarus Yeghnazar describes the tactics used against Christians: "They are being monitored, they are losing their jobs, they cannot get married, they cannot have their children registered as Christians, they cannot opt out to give Christian names to their sons and daughters. [They suffer every] imaginable form of harassment and pain, imprisonment, torture – and sometimes, of course, martyrdom."

Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani (pictured) was released last week, having been held since October 2009 for apostasy despite international condemnation. He was convicted in January 2011 of crimes against national security.

Pastor Behnam Irani was convicted in January 2011 of crimes against national security. Observers say he is being punished for holding house church services and leading Iranians to Christ. According to reports, he was arrested as he was conducting a Bible study for young Iranian men who had recently become Christians.

Pastor Behnam is said to be beaten regularly by cellmates and prison authorities, and now has difficulty walking. He is also unable to see well and is suffering from a bleeding ulcer, which caused him to lose consciousness. His family fear he could die.

Release's Facebook campaign page ('Release Behnam Irani') allows people to email the head of Iran's judiciary direct and appeal for clemency. The page includes a short YouTube clip of Pastor Behnam's arrest.

Release is working in Iran to train and mentor pastors; prepare women for ministry, provide Christian literature, and offer emergency support for individuals and families facing persecution.