Wednesday, April 22, 2009

001. Iran: imprisoned Christians women in peril

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 001 | Wed 22 Apr 2009

IRAN: IMPRISONED CHRISTIAN WOMEN IN PERIL

Maryam Rostampour (27) and Marzieh Amirizadeh Esmaeilabad (30) share an apartment and are active members of Iran's Christian community. On 5 March one of the women attended a summons at the Ministry of Intelligence. Officers then took her back to her apartment, arrested both women and confiscated their computers, books, Bibles and other personal items. According to International Christian Concern (ICC), the women were taken handcuffed to Police and Security Station 137 in Gaysha, west of Tehran. On 18 March, after appearing before Branch 2 of the Revolutionary Court, Maryam and Marzieh were imprisoned without charge in Tehran's notorious Evin prison, accused of 'acting against state security' and 'taking part in illegal gatherings'. Bail was set at $US400,000. Whilst the families of the women have offered the authorities the title deeds of their homes as surety, the judge has not yet approved this.

According to Compass Direct, Maryam and Marzieh are sharing an overcrowded cell with 27 other women. When Marzieh spoke by phone to her family on 28 March, she said that both women are suffering from infection and high fever and have not received adequate medical attention. According to ICC, Marzieh told her family, 'I am dying.' On 14 April Amnesty International (AI) issued an Urgent Action appeal on behalf of the two women (UA 95-09 Iran). AI is deeply concerned that the women -- whom they note have been imprisoned without charge and are most probably prisoners of conscience imprisoned for their Christian faith and witness alone -- are not receiving adequate medical attention or due process.

There is a very real possibility that persecution of the Church will continue to escalate in Iran in line with its aspirations for Shi'ite ascendancy and the regime's desire for leadership of the Muslim world. Both aims are being pursued and advanced through dangerous anti-Semitism and defiance of the West, which includes an overt, hardline, Islamic rejection of Western-style religious liberty. Meanwhile, Iran has a negative birth rate, widespread poverty and endemic prostitution, drug addiction and suicide emanating from disillusionment and despair. Iranians need liberty; they need the gospel of Jesus Christ.

On 15 April Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad delivered a speech in Kerman, Iran, in which he mocked US President Barack Obama's offer of an 'outstretched hand': 'We say to you that you yourselves know that you are today in a position of weakness. Your hands are empty, and you can no longer promote your affairs from a position of strength. (MEMRI)' Indeed, America is in great need of co-operation from Iran and neighbouring countries to supply NATO forces in Afghanistan now that the main NATO supply-line from Peshawar (north west Pakistan) to Kabul via the Khyber Pass has been strangled by al-Qaeda-Taliban activity. At a worldly level, religious liberty advocacy for Iran is hopeless. However, 'nothing will be impossible with God' (Luke 1:37 ESV) so let us come into the courts of the Lord with confidence and faith.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR GOD TO:

* bless Maryam Rostampour and Marzieh Esmaeilabad with healing, comfort and radiant peace; may their testimony and their time in Evin Prison be blessed and used by the Holy Spirit.

* intervene to restrain any hands that would beat or torture Maryam or Marzieh; may the God of justice see that justice is delivered. 'For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him.' (Isaiah 30:18 ESV)

* liberate the Iranian people from the shackles and blindness of Islam so they might discover the joy and peace that comes from grace, and the liberty that comes with the Holy Spirit. May the truth that sets people free (John 8:32) infiltrate Iran at every level.

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SUMMARY TO USE IN BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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IMPRISONED CHRISTIAN WOMEN IN PERIL IN IRAN

Maryam Rostampour (27) and Marzieh Esmaeilabad (30) are active members of Iran's Christian community. After being arrested by officers from the Ministry of Intelligence on 5 March, they faced a hearing in a Revolutionary Court on 18 March. Accused of 'acting against state security' and 'taking part in illegal gatherings', they were then imprisoned without charge in the notorious Evin Prison, sharing an overcrowded cell with 27 other women. They are both very ill and are not receiving adequate medical attention. Amnesty International has issued an Urgent Action appeal on their behalf (AI UA 95-90 Iran). With its stance on the world's stage, advocacy for Iran seems hopeless, but we can enter the courts of the Lord -- and 'nothing will be impossible with God' (Luke 1:37 ESV).