Saeed Released; Four More Need Prayer

 

First off, a praise: Saeed Abedini has been released!

Four other Christians are facing a trial. According to Present Truth Ministries,

“Four Christians will stand trial for their faith on February 1, 2016 in the Ahwaz Khuzestan Provence Revolutionary Court in Iran; Pastor Amin Khaki, brother Daniel (Hossein) Barounzadeh, brother Mohammad Bahrami, and brother Rahman Bahmani.

TL: Rahman Bahmani, TR: Mohammad Bahrami, BL: Daniel (Hossein) Barounzadeh, BR: Amin Khaki

They were arrested during a picnic in southern Iran near the city of Danial-e Shoush. While they were holding their picnic, Iran’s secret police arrived in plain clothes with guns drawn. They attacked and injured brother Rahman Bahmani during the incident. They were held without communication and without charges for months, even being transferred from one prison to another. Despite the persecution they are facing, these brethren are standing strong in their faith.

The trial that is being held is actually a re-trial, upon appeal, after having been convicted and sentenced for spreading Christianity in Iran. The previous verdict contained details regarding the interrogations of several believers.

In the court verdict, it reveals the testimony of brother Hossein Barounzadeh. “I was born in a Muslim family and believed in Islam as I practiced it and converted to Christianity in 2005.” The verdict states, “When he was questioned if he knew that he would be considered as an apostate after he converted to Christianity, he said he knew it. When he was asked why he made his faith public, he states, ‘I was neither lying nor hurting anyone.’ When the authorities told him about his charge about advertising against the Islamic Republic, he said, ‘I did it for my own salvation…I don’t believe that Christ is merely a prophet, He is my Savior…’ During the questioning in VEVAK’s secret facility, he said, ‘I was converted through a satellite channel known as “Nejat TV”, and after that, I attended church services in Karaj (12 times).’ The verdict also states that ‘…he confessed to holding services for himself and other Muslim born people in house churches in Shoush and giving out books and CD’s.’”

The verdict goes on to say, regarding brother Rahman Bahmani, “I was converted four years ago and attended church services in Karaj, Shoush, Ahvaz and Turkey. I changed a lot. I wasn’t a good man before, and when my wife saw the changes in me, she also converted to Christianity. When people asked me how my life had changed, I tell them that Jesus healed me.”

Imagine yourself being interrogated for your faith. Imagine how you would answer such questions by an interrogator that could beat you, torture you, harm your family or even kill you. Please, do not neglect to pray for and spread the word about these believers who will stand trial very soon in Iran.”

Saeed Abedini Letter-Writing Campaign

The American Center for Law and Justice plans to send letters to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, requesting that he pressure Iran to release Pastor Saeed. General Ban Ki-moon will be meeting with the president of Iran in New York, so this is an opportune time to adamantly push for Saeed’s release.

You can sign a letter here: http://beheardproject.com/saeed#write

Pastors Yat Michael Ruot & Peter Yein Reith RELEASED

Both Sudanese pastors have been released! Here is the full report: http://aclj.org/persecuted-church/breaking-christian-pastors-michael-and-peter-released

Mariam Ibraheem (who was on death row in Sudan for her faith) was released due to international pressure, and now pastors Yat Michael Ruot & Peter Yein Reith have also been released. Many thanks to those who signed the petitions, wrote letters, and special thanks to those who prayed!

Wake Up, People *cough* Christians *cough*

Let’s face it: At times, Christians are viewed as judgmental, holier-than-thou people. It’s time we quit feeling/acting superior toward others, and here’s why:

Sin is what separates us from God. One sin doesn’t separate us farther from God than another. Lying isn’t “better” than murder, for example. We’re all sinners. We all sin. We may be tempted to think that our sin isn’t as bad as the next person’s sin, but we’ve all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) We all need God’s gift of salvation – His free gift of grace that He extends to each and every one of us. No one is better than the next person. God loves us all the same. Once we realize this, Christians won’t be viewed as such judgmental people. As Brennan Manning says in The Ragamuffin Gospel,

“Awareness of our poverty and ineptitude [the fact that we can’t do anything to earn our salvation, and that it’s only by God’s grace that we’re saved] causes us to rejoice in the gift of being called out of darkness into wondrous light and translated into the kingdom of God’s beloved Son. [The Christian who truly understands the undeserved gift of salvation] is not all exhaust and no intake. She does not impose herself on others. He listens well because he knows he has so much to learn from others. [Her understanding that she has no reason to feel superior] enables her to enter the world of the other, even when she cannot identify with that world.”

We are in as desperate need of a Savior as the next person. And remember, no sin is too great for God to forgive. God’s forgiveness extends to all who ask, and it blots out any and every sin. To think God can’t forgive your sins is to put Him in a box – a very small box. As Christians, we recognize we’re sinners. We’ve accepted God’s gift of salvation by confessing with our mouths that Jesus is Lord and believing in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead. (Romans 10:9) We didn’t do anything to deserve or earn that gift. So why do we (at times) feel… superior to others? We’re still sinners. We still make mistakes and mess up because we’re still humans. Yes, we do our best to live for Jesus, but we’re not perfect; we still sin. So why do we look down on others who sin, as if we’re somehow perfect?

Our job is to tell others about God’s free, gracious gift of salvation, that others might experience the joy we have in Christ. Let us show and share God’s love to all, remembering that we are still sinners; the only difference is we’re saved sinners whose job is to tell the world about God’s wonderful kindness and love.(Acts 20:24) We’re just beggars telling other beggars where to find bread. (D.T. Niles)

If you’re struggling with how God could forgive you for what you’ve done in the past, know this: He can, and He will, forgive you – if you ask Him. God is bigger than any and all of the mistakes you’ve made. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23, NLT)

Defense Presented

The defense has presented its case in the ongoing trial of pastors Michael and Peter in Sudan (but, for the record, their attorney didn’t have access to the pastors before the defense – a violation of international human rights laws.) Two respected witnesses were called to testify of the pastors’ innocence. Present at the trial were two representatives from Sudan’s Ministry of Justice, and other representatives from other Embassies, including a representative from the U.S. Embassy in Sudan, which is good. Closing arguments are expected on July 23rd, and a final decision is expected on August 5th. Please continue to pray.

Info from http://aclj.org/persecuted-church/pastors-michael-and-peter-present-their-defense-in-sudan

Reminder: Defense Tomorrow

This is just a reminder that the defense will present its case tomorrow, Tuesday, July 14th, in defense of pastors Michael and Peter. Please pray for wisdom for their attorney, as he hasn’t been able to meet with the pastors as much as he would’ve liked (to go over the defense and stuff.) Pray also that through the attorney’s defense, the Lord would show the Sudanese judge that these men are innocent. After the defense has presented its case, the Sudanese court will look at all the evidence, and either drop the charges or convict the pastors.

Also, prayers for peace, comfort, strength, and boldness for the attorney, the pastors, and their families, as this is understandably a stressful time. And most importantly, pray for the Lord’s will to be carried out in this situation.

Praise: Pastor Behnam Irani, Plus an Update on Asia Bibi

As we pray for the release of pastors Michael and Peter in Sudan, we can thank the Lord for the temporary release of Pastor Behnam Irani in Iran! Pastor Behnam has been able to spend time with his family for the first time in four and a half years. He’s been released for 15 days; he returns on the 19th of July. While his temporary release is a blessing, let us pray that this release becomes unconditionally permanent. He’s currently serving a six-year sentence.

Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of five, has been imprisoned for six years in Pakistan. She’s been on death row because of her faith for years; now, militants have put a bounty on her head, saying that even “if the court acquits her they will ensure the death sentence stands.” (http://aclj.org/persecuted-church/mother-of-five-on-death-row-with-bounty-on-her-head)  She’s appealed her sentence to Pakistan’s Supreme Court, but has yet to hear when her case will be heard. She’s suffering from internal bleeding, and consequently needs medical attention. Please pray for her health and for her immediate and unconditional release. Also pray that she and her family will be able to move to a safer country, away from those who want her dead.