Barnabas Fund. A number of arrests and releases of Christian prisoners in Iran have caused mixed feelings among the Christian community, according to Farsi Christian News Network (FCNN). Three women (Maryam Jalali, Mitra Zahmati and Farzan Matin) were finally released on 17 March after being held for 80 days in Evin Prison, Tehran. They were arrested along with twelve other Christians on 24 December 2009 as they gathered at a private residence to celebrate Christmas. The others were released on 4 January 2010.
On 11 April Reza, an Azeri-speaking Christian, was released after spending 50 days in detention. He was arrested at his home in Tabriz and accused of “leading a home-based church, pastoral services given to members, teaching the Bible to converts” and other offences. Reports suggest that the judge from the Islamic court ordered the conditional release of Reza, but the family were unable to pay the extremely large sum; the court reduced the bail and released him, pending a future trial date. Reza has been banned from contacting his friends and fellow Christians. Maryam and Marzieh, who were released on 18 November 2009, were in court during the week of 13 April facing charges of propagating Christianity and apostasy. It is reported that both women have been in poor health since their release from prison. At the time of writing, there had been no further updates on the trial.
Despite these good news stories, FCNN have also reported on the continued imprisonment of Hamid Shafiee and Reyhaneh Aghajary, who have been held for 45 days without charge (see April Prayer Focus Update). Further bad news has included the recent detentions of Bahnam Irani, a Christian leader in Karaj arrested on 14 April, and 19-year-old Daniel Shahri, arrested at his home in Isfahan on 11 April. Thankfully, however, Daniel was released ten days later, but he still faces charges of blasphemy and spreading Christian propaganda.
• Continue to pray for Christians in prison in Iran. Pray that the Lord will be their comfort and protector during their detention. • Praise the Lord for the recent releases of a number of Iranian Christians. Pray that any charges against them will be dropped so that they will be free to continue worshipping the Lord without fear. • Pray for health and strength for Maryam and Marzieh, that they may know the presence of the Lord Jesus during their trial.