Maryam Zargaran - It was recently reported that Maryam's physical condition has worsened, and she is again in need of urgent medical care. The stressful conditions in prison have exacerbated a congenital heart condition which can reduce the blood's oxygen levels. According to a prison mate, Maryam is also suffering from severe weight loss. In protest of denied medical treatment for the long-standing health issues, she has been on a hunger strike several times.
Since being accused of running a house church in 2013, Maryam has been imprisoned in the women's ward of Evin Detention Centre. Her sentence was also extended to make up for time required to receive medical treatment outside prison. The young woman's family believe that the harsh prison conditions, and the pressure of her pending court case, are major factors of her declining health and depressive state. To review previous reports on Maryam's situation, click here.
Ebrahim Firouzi - Ebrahim recently heard from the Iranian Court of Appeal that his five-year sentence has been upheld. The decision over his case -- made in December 2016 but only just revealed -- means he will not be released until January 2020. After his release, he will be exiled to Sarbaz, a deprived township in Sistan-Baluchestan.
Ebrahim's requests for special leave during his imprisonment have always been turned down. He has asked for leave in order to see his ailing mother who has had cancer for the past year. Due to her poor health, she was not able to visit Ebrahim in prison. In July 2016, she sent a video message to court officials stating that the stress of not seeing her son is a major contributing factor of her illness.
In June 2013, Ebrahim was charged for attempting to launch a Christian website, making contact with what officials considered "suspicious foreigners," and running online church services. His sentence for the 2013 arrest was initially supposed to be a one-year imprisonment with a two-year exile to Sarbaz. Although he should have been released in January 2015, a new case was opened against him. More information is available here.
As the Lord's mercies are new every morning, we ask Him to provide Maryam and Ebrahim the physical, emotional and spiritual strength they require for each new day. Pray that the Iranian authorities will also be touched by God's Spirit, enabling them to extend kindness and mercy toward the many believers who are presently being imprisoned for their Christian faith. In addition, please commit to Him the concerns of the prisoners' families, including Ebrahim's mother who needs His healing touch. May all of God's persecuted people in Iran be encouraged, strengthened -- and ultimately delivered from captivity -- as they faithfully love, serve and follow our Lord Jesus in the face of great trial and suffering.
Two Christian women tragically died in Eritrea on March 17th, just days after being transferred to a hospital from detention where they had been on a hunger strike. According to the Eritrean website, Erimedrek News, the two women were detained at the Wi'a military camp prior to being transported in critical condition to Massawa Hospital on March 12th. They had embarked on a hunger strike in protest of the horrific abuse they were receiving while in detention. Upon medical investigation, their bodies were allegedly marked with bruising consistent with sexual abuse.
The Eritrean government is one of the most repressive in the world. Thousands of prisoners of conscience are detained arbitrarily for indefinite periods of time in unsatisfactory facilities where conditions are life-threatening and torture is rife. A campaign of arrests targeting selected religious communities has been ongoing since 2002 when the government effectively outlawed all Christian practises not affiliated with certain denominations and Sunni Islam.
In its June 2016 report, the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on human rights in Eritrea found "reasonable grounds to believe" that crimes against humanity have been committed by state officials in a "widespread and systematic manner" since 1991. Crimes of persecution against religious groups involve all forms of abuse, including repeated rape or gang rape by detention officials.
Thank you for upholding the grieving families and friends of the two deceased Christian women. As they grieve over the tragic loss of these precious lives, may they take comfort in knowing that their loved ones are now in the glorious presence of Jesus -- where they are freed from pain, sorrow and fear.... Pray that this case will be used to expose the grave injustices and evil practices within Eritrea's prison system and, therefore, serve to bring about greatly needed change. Additionally, please intercede for the safe release of the numerous Christians remaining in captivity, and for God's wisdom and protection to be granted to all who are diligently striving to carry out the Great Commission in this repressive nation.
On March 26th, 2017, a total of 45 new believers were baptized at the Beijing Chaoyang Church. These new Christians are now attending a weekly follow-up course that will last for a duration of three months. Each of these baptismal participants are required to take the three-month course so they can learn the essentials of the Christian faith and discuss these foundational Biblical principles with the pastoral staff.
Beijing Chaoyang Church was established on September 12th, 2005, and a dedication ceremony was held in December of that same year. At the time of this report, the number of people who attend the church's Sunday services has dramatically increased from more than 600 since its inception to well over 4,000 congregants. As a result of the tremendous growth, two other baptismal services are scheduled to take place at the end of July and November of this year. Praise God for this phenomenal influx of new believers in Beijing!