Our partner Persian Ministry requests prayer regarding some serious challenges for their churches in the Middle East. Here, ministry leader Tony shares how increased restrictions are making collective worship difficult for believers.
One evening in February, a small group of Christians gathered secretly to study the Bible and fellowship. Suddenly their meeting was interrupted when 20 armed guards broke into the home. Everyone was questioned, all the contact information taken from their cell phones, and six people were arrested. The others were told that they would be called at any time.
About one month earlier the same thing happened to a group of believers in another city. The elders were arrested and are still in jail. No date for a court hearing has been set.
A few days later in February, the police told the pastors of the two remaining evangelical churches in the city with services in Persian, that they were no longer allowed to hold services on Fridays. The police stayed for the service to make sure the pastors gave the announcement to their congregations. (Friday is the equivalent of our Sunday when most people are off work. Sunday is a work day, and it is rush-hour traffic during the time of the worship service. Obviously, this makes it very difficult for most of the congregation to attend.) These churches have held their weekly worship service on Friday for the last 40 years.
These churches are also being pressured to not preach in Persian but only in another language which is understood by just one percent of the population. It would appear that they are trying to strangle the life out of these churches so they too will shut down.
When the elders of one of these churches went to their various places of employment the following week, they were all fired. Their employers apologized privately, but they had to obey orders.
Elections earlier this year resulted in the extreme fundamentalists staying in power. The moderates did not even run. Shortages and inflation continue. People have to stand in long lines to purchase meat that has tripled in price over the last year.
A branch of the military is now responsible for all minorities including Christians. Most of this group have no post-secondary education but have considerable power. They closed one church and have forced the remaining Persian-speaking churches in the area to abide by new rules. It seems there is a concerted effort to close all registered and underground churches in our area and force Christians to leave.
Please pray with us for our brothers and sisters in Christ in the Middle East. Pray too for Persian Ministry as they seek to share the life-changing Gospel of Jesus Christ in this difficult environment.
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