house-church leaders Reza Montazami (35) and his wife Fereshteh
Dibaj (28) confiscating their computers, Christian literature and
other items. Compass Direct (CD) reports: ‘Montazami and his wife
lead an independent house-church in Mashhad, the only known remnant
of two active Protestant Christian congregations worshipping in the
city before Iran’s Islamic revolution in 1979. Both churches were
closed by government order in the 1980s. Then in December 1990, the
government executed a Mashhad pastor, the Rev Hussein Soodmand. A
former Muslim who had become a Christian 24 years earlier, Soodmand
refused to recant his faith after four months under extreme
physical and psychological mistreatment in prison.’
Before Reza Montazami and his wife Fereshteh Dibaj were taken away
Montazami quickly phoned his mother who came and took charge of
their six-year-old daughter, Christine. The police told Montazami’s
mother that Reza and Fereshteh were being taken to a certain police
station. However they were actually delivered to a local
intelligence branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The
family has been told the couple will soon appear before a
Revolutionary Court. The nature of the charge against them is as
yet unknown. For the full story and a picture see
< http://www.compassdirect.org/ >.
Fereshteh’s father, Rev Mehdi Dibaj, spent nine years in an Iranian
prison before he was officially tried and charged with apostasy
(leaving Islam) in December 1993 and sentenced to death. (His
testimony in court can be found at
< http://www.farsinet.com/dibaj/index.html >.) Through an
international campaign, long-time friend and advocate Bishop Haik
Hovsepian-Mehr brought Mehdi Dibaj’s plight to the world. Bishop
Haik’s advocacy gained his release from prison on 16 January 1994.
On 19 January 1994 Bishop Haik disappeared. He was kidnapped and
brutally executed. Dibaj disappeared on 24 June 1994 and was
likewise executed, his body dumped in a Tehran park. Bishop Tateos
Michaellian, the Presbyterian minister who succeeded Bishop Haik as
head of the Iranian Protestant Council, disappeared on 29 June 1994
and was also executed.
The government claimed the opposition was responsible for the
deaths. However, Iranian journalist Akbar Ganji exposed the truth
that these were politically-motivated killings sanctioned by Iran’s
Deputy Intelligence Minister and carried out by a Ministry of
Intelligence and Security team under the command of Mahmoud Saeedi.
(Ganji was arrested in April 2000 and subsequently spent six years
in Evin Prison for his disclosures.) It is important to realise
that this same Mahmoud Saeedi is today the Deputy Minister of
Interior in the cabinet of President Ahmadinejad.
An uncle of Reza Montazami appealed to CD, ‘Please tell people to
pray. We believe in the power of prayer.’
PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT:
* God through his ever-present Holy Spirit will fill all those
affected by this situation – Reza and Fereshteh, their family,
their church and the wider Iranian Church – with comfort, peace
and a powerful experience of the presence of the Sovereign Lord.
* God in accordance with his promise will speak by his Spirit to
the Iranian authorities through the testimony and grace of Reza
‘But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to
say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not
be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through
you.’ (Matthew 10:19,20 NIV)
* God our deliverer (Psalm 18:2) will deliver Reza and Fereshteh,
set them free (Psalm 118:5; Psalm 146:7; Luke 4:18), restore them
to their families, church and ministries, and keep them safe.
* God will be compassionate and merciful (James 5:11) to the
Iranian people and in grace bless them with a special
outpouring of his Holy Spirit.
‘Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O
Lord. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath
remember mercy.’ (Habakkuk’s prayer – Habakkuk 3:2 NIV)
SUMMARY TO USE IN BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE:
HOUSE-CHURCH LEADERS ARRESTED IN IRAN
On 26 September Reza Montazami (35) and his wife Fereshteh Dibaj
(28), house-church leaders in Mashhad, Iran, were arrested and
taken to a branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Their
family has heard they will soon come before a Revolutionary Court.
Fereshteh is the daughter of Rev Mehdi Dibaj who was imprisoned in
Iran for nine years before being sentenced to death for apostasy.
An international advocacy campaign led by Iranian Bishop Haik
gained Mehdi Dibaj’s release in January 1994. However over the next
few months Bishop Haik, his successor Bishop Michaellian and Dibaj
were all kidnapped and murdered by a team from Iran’s secret police
under the command of Mahmoud Saeedi. Saeedi today holds the post of
Deputy Minister of Interior in the government of President
Ahmadinejad. Please pray for Reza and Fereshteh and their family,
the Iranian Church, and the authorities in Iran.
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issues, and in particular to uphold the Church
where it is suffering persecution.
RL Prayer is moderated by Ron Clough, a commissioner
of the WEA RLC and convenor of the Australian EA RLC.
Elizabeth Kendal researched and authored this message.