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Pastor Behnam Irani

Three Christian men -- Behnam Irani, Matthias Haghnejad and Silas Rabbani -- were recently handed six-year prison sentences. These believers had earlier been accused of capital offenses, but thankfully those charges were later dropped. (For more information on the capital charges, visit this page.)

This latest verdict dictates that Pastor Behnam will serve his sentence at a prison in the northern city of Zabol, while Pastor Matthias and Silas (a deacon) will be transferred to a prison in Minab which is located by the Persian Gulf. All three are appealing their sentences. The cities of Zabol and Minab are infamous for their extremely hot climates. Moreover, the prisoners' families will be forced to travel long distances for visits, which will prove to be both financially and physically challenging.

According to religious liberty advocates, these sentences are the latest examples of the surge in oppression against religious and ethnic minorities under the Rouhani presidency. This repression has occurred despite his earlier promise to uphold the rights of religious minorities during the run up to elections last year.

While thanking God that the capital punishment charges against these three men have been dropped, let us ask Him to now be very near to these dear brothers in Christ as they each face six-year sentences. In particular, pray that they will not despair, but would continue in their faith -- established and firm -- remaining grounded in the hope of the Gospel (Colossians 1:23). May their appeals be swift and successful so that they will soon be released to their families! Until then, ask God to meet their loved ones' every need, as they now face new challenges in caring for these imprisoned men due to the extended distance of the other prison locations. Additionally, intercede on behalf of Iran's leaders and authorities, praying that many of them will come to know Christ as their Lord and Saviour.