You probably did not realize this, but prior to Valentine’s Day this year, the Iranian regime banned the production of Valentine’s gifts and any celebration of the holiday. Anjem Choudary, a well-known Islamist in the UK wrote an article on Valentine’s Day a few years ago proclaiming that exchanging cards, sending roses or enjoying romantic candlelit dinners are “sordid acts influenced by the Devil.” He stated that whoever celebrates Valentine Day’s will rot in Hell.
That’s one more reason to be thankful to live in America. This past Valentine’s Day I put extra effort into showing appropriate attention to all the ladies in my life including three sisters, two daughters, one mother and one wife. My two nieces are still waiting for their cards and candy, but at least I’m making progress.
In more serious news from Iran, there is a new information source of interest to Christians. Mohabat News was launched in December by Iranian professional journalists who have excellent contacts inside Iran, and they are already shaking up the regime. A month ago Mohabat’s website was hacked and shut down by government operatives, but Mohabat personnel soon repaired and put the site back online. Then the government blocked it with filtering software, but Mohabat snuck through the filter.
One of Mohabat’s goals is to communicate news of the Iranian Church, both its progress and persecution. In 2010, several speeches by high-ranking officials complained of the growth of Christian house churches. This was a signal for a national crackdown in which at least 120 Christian leaders were arrested. Other arrests have occurred this year. At least 33 are still imprisoned.
Other sources are also tracking conditions. Compass Direct reported a statement by Elam Ministries that some Christians held in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison suffered up to 34 days in solitary confinement. “Ex-prisoners who have endured Section 209 testify it is the worst part of the whole grim experience of arrest and imprisonment. They say the mental pressure is unbearable.”
Of urgent interest is the case of Pastor Yousef Nadarkani, who was sentenced to death for apostasy on November 10. His appeal is awaiting a trial date. He has a wife and two young children. In the past, authorities have killed Iranian Christians whose plight did not receive international attention. A source close to Pastor Nadarkani has warned that he will suffer the same fate unless international pressure brings more attention to his treatment.
With Pastor Nadarkani’s case I am starting a feature titled, “Reasons we should obey Hebrews 13:3.” This will be updated occasionally.
Reason #1 Praying for imprisoned believers is one way God moves us to action.
Many Christians tend to regard prayer as a substitute for action, but consider Nehemiah. What words come to mind? Mover, shaker, initiator. But have you ever noticed that when Nehemiah moved to action, he prayed? The book of Nehemiah records nine prayers by Nehemiah and refers to two others. When Nehemiah heard bad news about Jerusalem, he poured out a fervent prayer to God, and then he moved into action. Prayer is mentioned nine times in the first chapter alone. In God’s Kingdom, prayer is how the action begins.
So, please pray for Pastor Nadarkani. If God moves you to action, join me in appealing for his release. Since Iran has no formal diplomatic relations with the U.S., you will need to contact Iran’s interests section at the Pakistani embassy in Washington by emailing to email@example.com . Tell them that we are watching Pastor Nadarkani’s case and ask that he be set free.
Think of it as a late Valentine’s gift to Iran’s Christians.