Iran (MNN) — Two Iranian church
leaders, Mahmood Matin-Azad and Arash Basirat, recently acquitted of apostasy
charges, learned their release was based on the false claim that they denied
their Christian faith in court.
However, both men say they openly
professed their faith during the trial. Azad
tells Compass Direct he answered honestly when the courts asked him what he was
doing. "I said, ‘I am a pastor pastoring
a house church in Iran. All my [court] papers are about Christianity — about my activity, about our church and
In spite of his testimony, Azad and Basirat
were released at the end of September. Todd Nettleton with Voice
of the Martyrs thinks there's more to the story. "This case shows a situation where
international pressure is being brought to bear, and it is making a difference.
They did not want an international outcry; they did not want a 'black eye' on
their human rights record, and so I suspect that this judge was told, 'Make
this case go away,' and he did."
Meanwhile, the Parliament is
discussing the death penalty for apostasy.
That could be a direct response to effective ministry, says
Nettleton. "The church is growing
at simply an amazing rate. That is a part of the reason the government is so
nervous about the Christians. That is part of the reason they're striking back
and changing laws. That also means more people potentially face persecution;
more people need our prayers."
These two believers may have been
exonerated, but they fear they will be re-arrested once they resume their ministry. There are also concerns that other Christians
in their church will face government harassment or outright persecution.
praying wisdom for church leaders as they continue to share the hope of Christ. Pray too for strength for those who come to
Christ, despite the threats and dangers.