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Iran Christians Pray And Fast Amid New Crackdown

(BosNewsLife) 5/25/2006 — Christians in and outside Iran launched 40 days of prayer and fasting “for the salvation” of Iran on ‘Ascension Day’, Thursday, May 25, amid concerns over reports of a government backed crackdown on Christian converts and churches in the Islamic state.

“In response to the current crisis surrounding Iran , over 120 Iranian church leaders have pledged” to participate in the prayers, said Sam Yeghnazar, President of Elam Ministries, an evangelical group aimed at strengthening and expanding churches in Iran and beyond.

The action came shortly after news emerged that an Iranian Christian who converted from Islam 33 years ago was detained by the feared secret police in northern Iran . 51-year old Ali Kaboli, could be charged for converting to Christianity, which under Iran ’s apostasy laws calls for the death penalty.

Kaboli has been held incommunicado for the past three weeks, but news of his arrest emerged this week. Among other well-known converts is lay pastor Hamid Pourmand, whose refusal to compromise his Christian faith landed him in jail in September 2004.

A long-term convert from Islam, the former army colonel is serving a three-year jail term at Tehran ’s Evin Prison for allegedly “concealing” his conversion to Christianity from the Iranian military.

CONVERT KILLED

Just six months ago, another Muslim convert to Christianity was reportedly stabbed to death in nearby Gonbad-e-Kavus, 60 miles (96 kilometers) from Gorgan. The body of Ghorban Dordi Tourani, 53, was thrown in front of his home a few hours after he was arrested from his home on November 22, 2005, investigators said.

Besides worries over persecution and growing Islamic extremism, there is also concern over Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad nuclear ambitions and his attitude towards Israel and Jews.

The 40-days of prayer, which is expected to deal with different aspects of Iranian society and what Christians see as a “spiritual battle,” has “not been a long time in planning. It was first discussed on April 21, 2006,” said Yeghnazar in remarks obtained by BosNewsLife. “Because it is important, the idea has gathered much pace. Because it is urgent, we cannot wait,” he added.

INTERNATIONAL EFFORT

“Many church leaders and prayer groups around the world, from the USA and Latin America all the way to China , have already begun to put their weight behind this prayer effort, and so the dream of seeing millions of Christians unite in prayer that God will intervene in Iran is becoming a reality,” Yeghnazar said.

Jubilee Campaign USA, another advocacy group supporting “persecuted Christians” in Iran and other countries, noted that despite the difficulties “Iranians have never been more open to the Gospel of Jesus Christ than today,” amid reports of rapidly expanding churches in and outside Iran and what it called “numerous baptisms.

A special web site www.prayforiran.com was to announce new ‘prayer points’ every day, with a slide show of images from Iran , accompanied by some Persian worship music, BosNewsLife learned.