Wanna, and fellow pastor and inmate Yohan, both identified only by a single name, were arrested at gunpoint by Laos police on January 4th for holding a “secret meeting” after they celebrated Christmas without prior approval. Six months later, Pastor Wanna has lost weight and contracted an infection under harsh prison conditions and is extremely weak, according to his family.
Wanna, pastor of an unregistered church in Nakoon village and Yohan, pastor of a similar church in nearby Tonglar village, are both the principal breadwinners for their families. Their imprisonment has left their wives and families with no means of financial support; several of Wanna’s children have since left school to find work, according to the advocacy group Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom (HRWLRF.) Prison authorities however have repeatedly told the men that they will “walk free” as soon as they sign documents renouncing their faith, HRWLRF said in a press statement. The families have appealed for advocacy as both men remain in prison on charges directly related to their faith.
Prisoner Yousef Nadarkhani, on June 22nd, had the death sentence upheld by the Iranian Supreme Court after appealing his case. Yousef, sentenced to death for apostasy, has yet to receive written confirmation of this decision, but understands that the sentence could be implemented at any time (unless he recants his Christian faith). Detained since his arrest on October 12, 2009, Yousef was found guilty on September 22, 2010 by the Revolutionary Tribunal of Gilan Province. The last known judicial execution of a Christian for apostasy in Iran occurred in December 1990 when Rev. Hossein Soodmand was hanged.
Yousef is a pastor within the Full Gospel ‘Church of Iran’ denomination in the northern city of Rasht. Yousef and his wife, Fatemeh, have two young sons. Iranian Christians thank us for our prayers and request our continued intercession at this time, asking specifically that Yousef will not be executed, that he and his family will know the presence and peace of Jesus, and that Fatemeh and the boys will be reunited soon. They also ask that Christians throughout Iran will not be intimidated but will know the Lord’s enabling and guidance and that all the officials involved will find learn about Jesus and choose to follow Him.
Heavenly Father, we come to You today echoing the prayer requests of our Iranian brethren that Yousef will not be executed. Father preserve his life, even if in prison, so like others before him, he can share the good news of Jesus to fellow inmates. Father, fill him and his family with peace at this time as they wait in the days ahead. Father, we pray the same prayer for our brothers Wanna and Yohan in prison in Laos as they endure for Your Namesake. And, for Your Church in both Iran and Laos, strengthen believers there through the power of the Holy Spirit, fill them with Your presence so that others will see You, and they too will call You Lord. Amen.
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