Christian Persecution Nov/Dec 2018

IRAN—“We told them many times that Jesus is our Lord and you cannot take Him away from us,” Iranian Christian Marziyeh Amirizadeh told the audience at the recent Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom event in Washington, D.C. She was referring to the words she told her captors in Tehran’s brutal Evin Prison, where she and her friend Maryam Rostampour spent 259 days in 2009 imprisoned for their faith.

Amirizadeh and Rostampour shared their experiences of imprisonment in Iran and encouraged Christians to stand up for religious freedom and the rights of their persecuted brothers and sisters around the world. “Hundreds of Christians have been arrested by Iranian authorities and charged with disrupting national security for being a Christian and participating in home churches, receiving prison sentences of 2 to 10 years,” Rostampour said.

Amirizadeh and Rostampour were raised in Muslim families and became Christians as young adults, christianpost.com reported. They became friends when they met in 2005 in Turkey, where they studied theology together, christianpost.com reported.

They returned home to Iran in 2009, and government authorities arrested them on charges of apostasy, blasphemy, and promoting Christianity in Iran, christianpost.com reported. “Since Islam is the only official religion in Iran, government authorities forbid other religious minorities from practicing their faith,” Amirizadeh said. They deem those who leave Islam as apostates and infidels, worthy of torture and death, she said.

Iranian officials sent them to Evin Prison, notorious for its brutality and torture, and sentenced them to death by hanging. The women said they endured daily interrogations, the withholding of medical treatment that was available to other prisoners, routine threatening of their lives and their families’ lives, and the mental torture of viewing the beating and physical abuse of other prisoners.

“The only thing that helped us stand on our faith was our personal relationship with Jesus and the love of God that we have experienced in our lives,” Amirizadeh said.

The advocacy of government and Christian groups eventually provided enough international pressure to demand Iran release the women. But the women said that as the Iranian officials reluctantly set them free, they warned them they would be secretly killed in an “accidental” death, christianpost.com said. “You will die in an accident.” “Your house may catch on fire,” the officials warned, providing names of pastors whom they secretly killed after their release.

Rostampour and Amirizadeh fled Iran in 2010 after their release. “We believe we are alive today because of Jesus’ power and His miracles,” Rostampour told the Washington audience.

Despite the Iranian government’s pressure to suppress Christianity, Christianity is spreading, Rostampour said. Most Iranians are fed up with their current government, viewing it as corrupt and oppressive, christianpost.com reported.

“Our hope and prayer for our country is that one day Iran will be a free country, ruled by a democratic government,” Rostampour said. “We hope for a day when all religious minorities can meet together in peace without having the fear of getting harassed, arrested, tortured, or killed by the government.”

Iran ranks 10th on Open Doors’ 2018 World Watch List of the 50 countries where Christians experience the worst persecution.

From news reports

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