Iran (MNN) — Advocacy groups Present Truth Ministries and Release International confirmed Monday that Pastor Behnam Irani has finally been freed after spending six years imprisoned in Iran. He is reportedly in poor health from his time behind bars.
Irani was convicted of so-called crimes against national security after his house church was raided in 2010. Then, in 2014, Irani was confronted with 18 more charges, including a capital crime.
Irani’s was a religious freedom case the international community has been watching — though it is par for the course in Iran. The country became an Islamic Republic in 1979, and life has been difficult for minority religions since then.
However, Emily Fuentes with Open Doors USA says Iran’s hard-line Muslim rule has also left many citizens dissatisfied and searching for truth.
“The majority of the population [in Iran] is actually under 30, and it’s a disillusioned youth. There’s a huge problem of drug abuse in the country, they just do not agree with how the government is treating them, and there’s no opportunities for them. So it’s those that desperately need hope and desperately need light, and that’s where the Gospel comes in and why it’s so appealing to them. It offers the hope and light they’re seeking.”
There are still around 200 Christians imprisoned in Iran who need your prayers.
“First and foremost, our prayers are absolutely vital. We see amazing situations come from our prayers, prisoners who have been released in the past, early. And they also say they feel our prayers as they’re encountering these difficult times in prison,” says Fuentes.
“Prayers help them to remain strong in their faith, to witness to other prisoners. And they realize their ministry, even though it’s within prison, is still very prominent. They’re reaching out to people who haven’t heard the Gospel before, those who really need the Gospel, and people are coming to Christ in prison.”
According to Open Doors USA’s World Watch List, Iran is ranked ninth harshest country on Christians.
“The amazing news is, of all countries in the region, [Iran is] the most rapidly growing for the sake of the Gospel. The underground church is just growing at a rapid rate…. Sometimes persecution is what ignites the flame to allow the Gospel to spread in some of these countries.”
Open Doors serves and advocates for persecuted Christians around the world. Fuentes says the process of advocacy can be delicate, but the well-being and encouragement of our suffering brothers and sisters in Christ is always their aim.
“Whenever there are opportunities for an openness to talk to a government official, Open Doors does try to provide petitions and other resources. It’s just really dependent on the time and how receptive different officials are to it. Sometimes, in this country in particular, certain advocacy efforts can make it worse. So we always try to work with the timing and situation to find other avenues for people to advocate when it’ll do more good than harm.”
Pray for Christians in Iran suffering for their faith either in jail or in their communities. Ask the Holy Spirit to give them strength and encouragement as they share the light of Jesus Christ.