Christians charged with ‘apostasy’

He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied.

– Acts 9:4-5 [NIV]


Two Iranian Christians have officially been charged with “apostasy”, or leaving Islam, as a draft law making the death penalty mandatory for those convicted of the charge is set to be debated in Iran’s Parliament.

Mahmood Matin Azad, 52, and Arash Basirat, 44, have been in prison since May 15, when they were detained while meeting with other Christians in a park in Shiraz.

Charges are based on Article 214 of the penal code and treatise on legal affairs, the Tahrir ol Vassileh. Iran’s legal system is based on shariah (Islamic) law.

With the apostasy bill to be debated in Parliament, some Iranian Christians fear that authorities are seeking to make an example of the two prisoners or give the prospective law a “test run”.

In February this year, the Iranian Parliament proposed a draft penal code that demands a mandatory death sentence for leaving Islam. Under current Iranian law, although apostasy is considered a capital offence, punishment is left to the discretion of the judge.

Arash, who suffers from diabetes, and Matin are expected to appear in court within the next few weeks to begin their defence.

Despite many individual believers being severely oppressed by the authorities, the Church in Iran has experienced substantial growth as increasing numbers of Iranians from a Muslim background come to faith, often through satellite TV and radio broadcasts.

Source: Compass Direct

Prayer points:

1. Please pray for Mahmood and Arash as they begin their defence. Pray for wisdom and understanding for their legal team as they argue quite literally for their lives.

2. Pray that the proposed legislation, which permits Christians to be killed for reaching out to others with the love of Christ, will not be passed.

3. Pray for the impact of Christian communications through satellite TV and the internet.

Thank you for praying with us.

Communications Team


Open Doors: Iran

Tortured Christian Flees to Seek Asylum in Turkey

[Speaking to the Israelites about their enemies, Moses said:] “Do not be terrified by them, for the LORD your God, who is among you, is a great and awesome God.”

– Deuteronomy 7:21 [NIV]


Days after his release from a month of interrogations and severe torture under secret police custody, Iranian Christian Mohsen Namvar has fled across the border into Turkey with his wife and son. Namvar, 44, had been held incommunicado by a branch of Sepah (the Iranian Revolutionary Guards).

At the time of his release, Namvar was experiencing fever, severe back pain, extremely high blood pressure, uncontrollable shaking of his limbs and recurring short-term memory loss. Namvar claimed that his severe physical mistreatment stemmed from his refusal to give the police any names or information about other converts and house church groups in Iran.

In the spring of 2007, he had been arrested and severely tortured with electrical shocks, allegedly for baptising Muslims who had become Christians. Three months after back surgery for those injuries, he regained the ability to walk, but still suffered pain and discomfort.

Namvar must now wait for 11 months for an interview with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees [UNHCR] to apply for status as an asylum-seeker.

While her husband was under arrest, Namvar’s wife had been subjected to a second police ransacking of their home, repeated telephone calls filled with slander and death threats and one attempt to kidnap their son from his school. Although he earned his living as a miner, Namvar had been active in preaching and teaching the message of Christ across northern Iran since the early 1990s.

Under Iran’s hardline Shiite government, a Muslim who converts to Christianity has committed apostasy, which is punishable by death. Fellow Iranians Mahmood Matin and Arash Bandari have been jailed since May 15 in Shiraz, where they were arrested on “suspicion” of apostasy.

Under a draft law being discussed this month in the Iranian parliament, the “optional” death penalty now in force for apostasy would become obligatory.

Source: Compass Direct News

Prayer points:

  • Please pray that God would heal Namvar, both physically and mentally, from the injuries sustained while in custody
  • Pray that the time before their interview with UNHCR would pass quickly and the family would know God’s peace
  • Please pray against the proposed change in Iran’s apostasy laws to make it a capital offence
  • Remember Mahmood Matin and Arash Bandari and other Iranian Christians that are being held in custody.

Thank you for praying with us.

Open Doors- Iran


Since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.Colossians 1:9 [NIV]

Iran – Middle East

In December 1993, an Islamic judge in north of Iran condemned a zealous Christian convert from Islam, Mehdi Dibaj, to death. His crime was apostasy. Dibaj had already served ten years in prison.

Bishop Haik Hovsepian, the leader of Evangelical Christians in Iran, launched an international campaign for Dibaj’s sentence to be overturned. Haik’s campaign was successful, and Dibaj was released only a few days before his execution date.

However, in January 1994, Bishop Haik Hovsepian disappeared. 12 day later his body was found, it had been stabbed 26 times.

Since then several other Christians have been brutally tortured and put to death. Today, Iran is a theocratic republic of 69 million people. Many Christians are trying to leave the country because of local community pressure. They lose their jobs, cannot have higher education, cannot get married, and face persecution of many kinds. The government uses this pressure to weaken the Church which has existed in Iran since biblical times.

Please pray…

  • For Micah, an Iranian believer. Please pray for his well being and that of his family. He has already spent time in prison but now faces another trial and an uncertain future.
  • For the leaders of house churches and cellgroups who have great responsibility but are often new converts themselves with little experience.
  • For all the people who are involved in literature distribution and seek to overcome huge risks to ensure others can read the Word of God.

Thank you for praying with us.

Communications Team