Iran (MNN) — In April, seven Iranian Christians received a combined 32 years in prison. Two women, both leaders in small house churches, will each serve six years.
Todd Nettleton with The Voice of the Martyrs USA says the most significant sentence came against an ethnically Armenian pastor. “Anooshavan Avedian was sentenced to 10 years in prison. He just turned 60, so that would put him in prison until he is 70.”
But he isn’t done after 10 years, Nettleton says. “They added on to the sentence two more years of really what I would call internal exile. Basically, he cannot live in the city of Tehran, where he lives. He’s being sent to a very isolated, rural part of the country, far away from his family and far away from his home.”
Why did the judge add two years of exile? Nettleton says this isn’t the first time a similar sentence has been handed down. “Ibrahim Firouzi, I believe, served six years in prison. And then they said, ‘Okay, now two more years, in this rural area along the Pakistani border.’ They watched his house where he was living and they limited his internet access.”
Nettleton says the Iranian government likely wants to keep these Christians quiet beyond their prison sentences.
The other 6 Christians had all converted from Islam. But Iran views Armenians as Christians already. Nettleton says, “So it’s not a crime for an Armenian person to be a follower of Christ. In fact, it’s kind of expected that they would be. This is an Armenian pastor who was sentenced for, ‘propaganda contrary to and disturbing to the holy religion of Islam.’ That raises questions.”
Nettleton says the judge who handed down the ruling has a reputation for harshness towards Christians.
Ask God to encourage and strengthen these believers. As they appeal the rulings, pray their sentences will get reversed.
(Header photo by Masih Shahbazi: https://www.pexels.com/photo/the-gate-of-all-nations-palace-in-persepolis-iran-7760091/)