*Representative photo used to protect identity. In May, we requested prayer as a pastor, his wife and two other church members began serving a one-year prison sentence. We are pleased to report that two of them have been released from prison! Recall that Pastor Farhad, his wife Shahnaz and two other church members, Davoud and Naser, were detained following a raid on the officially recognized Assemblies of God church in Ahvaz during a service on December 23rd, 2011. They were released on bail in January (Shahnaz), February (Farhad and Naser) and March 2012 (Davoud). On October 15th, 2012 they were convicted of “converting to Christianity, inviting Muslims to convert, and propagating against the Islamic regime through promoting Evangelical Christianity.” They were each sentenced to one year’s imprisonment and the confiscation of all their Christian materials. On May 1st, they were summoned to begin serving their sentences after a High Court rejected their appeal. The time spent in detention between their arrest and release on bail should be counted as part of the sentence. Farhad and Naser were released last week, approximately two weeks before completing their sentences. Shahnaz and Davoud remain imprisoned. The Assemblies of God church in Ahvaz remains closed. Pressures on officially recognized churches in several cities increased during 2012, with greater surveillance and restrictions imposed and with the closure of some services, especially Friday or Farsi-language services. These pressures have continued during 2013. Iranian Christians rejoice in the release of these brothers, and request our prayers that:
- Farhad and Naser will know the presence and peace of Jesus as they return to normal life
- Shahnaz and Davoud will know the presence and peace of Jesus, and be released soon
- All believers in Ahvaz will know the Spirit’s wisdom and guidance, especially concerning meeting together for worship
- Confiscated property, bail money and title deeds would be returned
- Officially recognized churches across Iran will be allowed to meet for worship, prayer, Bible teaching and fellowship
- All officials involved will love mercy, act justly, learn about Jesus and choose to follow Him.