Algeria, Iran, Sudan: 'Remember Those In Prison'


Date:  August 24, 2016

by Elizabeth Kendal 


In a ruling that has shocked Algerian churches and human rights groups, a 
judge has sentenced a Christian from Algeria's mountainous, north-eastern, 
largely Berber (non-Arab) Kabyle region to five years in prison and a large 
fine after deeming him guilty of blasphemy. Authorities arrested Slimane 
Bouhafs (49) on 31 July over a social media post in which he claimed that the 
light of Jesus was overcoming the 'lie' of Islam and its prophet in the 
Kabyle region. On 7 August Bouhafs faced court in the eastern town of Setif, 
300km east of the capital, Algiers. Though his family and an Algerian secular 
human rights organisation appointed lawyers for him, the court claimed that 
Bouhafs had decided to defend himself. In sentencing Bouhafs, the judge chose 
to deliver the maximum penalty. The Eglise Protestante d'Algerie (Protestant 
Church of Algeria) will appeal against the verdict.  


On 24 June Iranian security agents arrested three Azerbaijani Christians 
attending an engagement party in Tehran. Eldar Gurbanov (48), Yusif Farhadov 
(51), and Bahram Nasibov (37) - all from 'Word of Life' Church in Baku, 
Azerbaijan - were amongst a group of some ten arrested. Most of the group 
were later released. Also detained was Naser Navard Gol-Tapeh (45), an 
Iranian Christian convert from a Muslim background whose plight and 
whereabouts remain unknown. No charges have been filed and the men, who are 
being held separately in a prison somewhere in Tehran, have not been allowed 
access to lawyers or consular officials. There are fears the men were 'set up 
and caught in a trap'. Back in Azerbaijan, the families of the three men are 
growing increasingly anxious. Meanwhile, the National Council of Resistance 
Iran (NCRI) reports that, on 12 August, intelligence officers raided a house 
church in Isfahan, central Iran, arresting eleven Christian men and women, of 
whom ten have been identified: they are Amin Ahanin, Mohammad Alyasi, Fatemeh 
Amini, Edmund Khachaturian, Mohammad Malek Khatai, Mohsen Khoobyari, Arash 
Qodsi, Hamed Sepidkar, Samaneh Shahbazi-Far and Maryam Zonubi. No further 
information is available.  

UPDATE to RLPB 368 (27 July): Christian prisoner Maryam Naghash-Zargaran (36) 
has ended her hunger strike, possibly due to family pressure. Despairing and 
gravely ill, Maryam is not due for release until July 2017. May the Lord 
carry Maryam through this trial. 'He tends his flock like a shepherd: He 
gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart ...' 
(Isaiah 40:11 NIV)   


The trial of the Rev Hassan Abdelrahim Tawor and the Rev Kwa Shamaal, two 
Nuba pastors and leaders in the Sudanese Church of Christ (SCOC), commenced 
in Khartoum North on 21 August. [For background see RLPB 360 (7 June).] On 
trial with the two pastors are Darfuri graduate and Christian convert (Muslim 
background believer) Abdulmonem Abdumawla Issa Abdumawla, and Czech 
missionary and film-maker Petr Jasek (52). The men are accused of engaging in 
criminal activities designed to tarnish the image of Sudan's government, 
specifically of fabricating 'false' stories of Christian persecution and Nuba 
genocide. They also stand accused of conducting 'intelligence activities and 
providing material support for [Nuba] rebels in South Kordofan'. Amongst the 
various charges, those of waging war against the state (Article 51 of the 
Sudanese Criminal Code) and espionage (Article 53) carry the death penalty as 
the maximum sentence. As the grim hearing was under way, some 100 Christians 
from several denominations gathered together outside the court house and 
demonstrated their solidarity with the accused by singing hymns in the Nuba 
language. [See the blog for a video link.] The next hearing is scheduled for 
Monday 29 August.  

'Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them ...' 
(Hebrews 13:3a ESV)   


* minister to all Christians who are this day suffering in prison for their 
faith, witness or advocacy; may they be profoundly aware of the comforting 
and sustaining presence of the Lord. 'You hem me in, behind and before, 
and lay your hand upon me.' (Psalm 139:5 ESV)  

* redeem all this suffering and use it for his divine purpose and glory. May 
God take that which is intended for evil and use it for good to awaken many 
and save lives. May Christ continue to sanctify and build his Church in 
Algeria, Iran and Sudan. 'For nothing will be impossible with God.' (Luke 
1:37 ESV)  

* intervene in Algeria, Iran and Sudan to bring an end to the repression and 
injustice that inhibits the spread of the gospel. (1 Timothy 2:2-4 ESV) 

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