Here is a sad and very disturbing news story about how Christians are being persecuted and killed because of their Christian beliefs in Iran. I trust you will remember this story the next time you hear someone call for "understanding and tolerance," for people who may have different core values and religious beliefs.
At some point, we must stand fast and remain loyal to our beliefs and the core religious values that separate us from the vicious and hate filled people who would rather create confusion, fear and not care about destroying the lives of Christians. Pastor Wilson Issavi stands as the Daniel of the 21st century. Pastor Issavi needs our prayers for protection and deliverance from the evil rulers of Iran.
**IRAN CONTINUES PERSECUTION OF CHRISTIANS -- AG PASTOR TORTURED
Wilson Issavi, 65, pastor of The Evangelical Church of Kermanshah (Assemblies of God) in Isfahan, Iran, was arrested on February 2, 2010, by Iranian State Security shortly after he concluded a house meeting. According to Farsi Christian News Network, Issavi's wife, Medline Nazanin, says her imprisoned husband is currently in poor condition and shows obvious signs of torture.
The Iranian government has accused Issavi of "converting Muslims" a crime punishable by death under Islamic law and is holding him in an unmarked prison. Iranian intelligence officials told Nazanin her husband may be executed for his alleged actions.
"There's no casual Christianity in Iran," states Omar Belier, AG World Missions regional director for Eurasia. "Faith in Christ can result in some form of persecution, with imprisonment and even death being possible. These brothers and sisters in Christ desperately need our prayers not only for protection, but for the Holy Spirit to continue to move in that land and transform lives."
Isfahan, located about 200 miles south of Tehran, currently appears to be targeted by the Iranian government. Several Christian and other religious leaders have been arrested since Issavi was taken captive some whose whereabouts are still unknown.
Issavi's church, which has been active for 50 years, focused on ministering to the local Assyrian community. However, it was shut down by the government in early January. Since that time, Issavi had been conducting services in homes around Isfahan.
According to the 2009 International Religious Freedom report issued by the U.S. Department of State, there are an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 Assyrian Christians living in Iran and an estimated 300,000 Christians overall. However, that estimate appears to be shrinking on a daily basis as persecution increases.
In the testimony of Leonard Leo, chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) that was given before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission on February 25, 2010, USCIRF continues to recommend Iran be named a "country of particular concern" (CPC) for engaging in systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedoms. Iran has earned this dubious distinction every year since the creation of the International
Religious Freedom Act of 1998.
According to Leo, "Since 2005, the Iranian government has intensified its campaign against non-Muslim religious minorities. A consistent stream of virulent and inflammatory statements by political and religious leaders and an increase in harassment and imprisonment of, and physical attacks against, these groups indicate a renewal of the kind of oppression seen in the years immediately following the Iranian Revolution in the late 1970s.
"Christians, particularly Evangelical and other Protestants, in Iran continue to be subject to harassment, arrests, close surveillance and imprisonment," Leo testified, "many [Christians] are reported to have fled the country."
On a note of another concern, Leo reported that "official policies promoting anti-Semitism are on the rise in Iran." Stating that the Iranian president and other top political and clerical leaders have publicly denied the existence of the Holocaust, Leo says that the government even sponsored a Holocaust denial conference.
Following the testimony, Leo and the USCIRF urged the U.S. government to take further action against Iranian government officials who have engaged in particularly "severe religious freedom violations."
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