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ICC Note: At this particularly dark time for the Iranian Church, imprisoned pastor, Ebrahim Firouzi, sends a message of strength and encouragement to the heavily persecuted Iranian Christian population. As the government has shut down almost all Farsi-language churches, Christians are forced to meet in house churches, an illegal gathering in the eyes of the Iranian Government. Firouzi, sentenced to five years in prison for his Christian beliefs, is encouraging followers of his faith to continue to do good in the sight of God and trust in His protection at this difficult time.

04/15/2016 Iran (FCNN) – In the face of a crackdown that has crippled Iran’s house-church leadership, an imprisoned convert from Islam has managed to sneak a message of encouragement to Iran’s Christians.

With Iran’s house churches mushrooming even as the government has imprisoned or harassed most pastors into exile, a Christian held in Rajai Shahr Prison in Karaj last week exhorted Iranian Christians to expect persecution but to continue proclaiming Christ.

“If you are courageous in God’s way, God’s grace will be with you,” 31-year-old Ebrahim Firouzi stated. “Do not fear what you are doing, and raise the banner of Jesus in the name of God.”

Paraphrasing encouragements by New Testament writers, Firouzi asked, “If you want to do good to others, who can harm you? … Keep your conscience clean so that people will be ashamed if they cause you harm. If it is God’s will that you should suffer, it is better to suffer for doing good.”

The message comes at a particularly dark time for Christians in Iran, where the government has left only a few if any Farsi-language churches open, according to advocacy group Middle East Concern (MEC), which confirmed the authenticity of the message. Christians have no other option but to hold meetings in homes, which are illegal and heavily persecuted.

“Now that the ‘official’ [government-allowed] churches have been closed, there is nowhere they can go to that they can freely worship the Lord, and this is something that has affected a lot of people,” said Rob Duncan, MEC’s region manager for Iran. “[The Persian speakers] are being forced into house churches; they have no practical alternative.”

Firouzi, who is serving a five-year sentence handed down in April 2015 after being convicted of crimes commonly leveled at Christians – “actions against national security, being present at an illegal gathering and collusion with foreign entities” – encouraged prayer for the shuttered churches.

“I ask you to pray for the reopening of the churches in Iran that the government has closed by force, so that the sound of worship and the praise can be heard in the buildings again,” he stated.

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