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EGYPT: Facebook Post Leads to Imprisonment

EGYPT: Facebook Post Leads to Imprisonment

An Egyptian court has sentenced a Coptic Christian to three years in prison after he was found guilty of “insulting Islam in the first degree”.

Abdo Adel Bebawy, 43, was accused in July of publishing a post on his Facebook page that insulted Islam. In his post, Adel had compared Islam’s prophet, Muhammad, with Jesus.

At the time of his original post, friends explained that Abdo was not very literate and did not fully understand what he had posted. Following his arrest, a mob attacked houses owned by Copts and the situation has remained tense ever since.

While the sentence is for three years, many in the community believe the harsh ruling is to prevent more mob violence. A lawyer familiar with the case anticipates that the sentence may be overturned or reduced on appeal. This appeal is expected to be heard in late December.

Sources: International Christian Concern, World Watch Monitor

  • Remember Abdo in your prayers as he now faces this sentence. Ask the Lord to strengthen and comfort him.
  • Commit to the Lord Abdo’s legal representatives; pray that the appeal will be successful.
  • May the courts and leaders of the country seek to provide safety and equality for all citizens, regardless of their religion.

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IRAN: Four Christians Sentenced to Prison for Believing in Jesus Christ

IRAN: Four Christians Sentenced to Prison for Believing in Jesus Christ

Iran’s hard-line government has sentenced four Christians to harsh prison terms for putting their faith in Jesus Christ.

Pastor Victor Bet-Tamraz and his wife Shamiram Issavi, who are ethnic Assyrian Christians, and Amin Afshar Naderi and Hadi Asgari, who are Christian converts from Islam, were sentenced to a combined total of 45 years in prison for allegedly conducting “illegal church activities” and spreading propaganda which reportedly “threaten national security.”

In 2014, Pastor Victor Bet-Tamraz was arrested when plain-clothed security forces raided his home during a Christmas party. In 2017, an Iranian Revolutionary Court sentenced him, along with Hadi Asgari, to 10 years in prison for “forming a group composed of more than two people with the purpose of disrupting national security” in relation to their church activities. The same court sentenced Amin Afshar Naderi to five years in prison for allegedly insulting Islam.

In January 2018, Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran sentenced Shamiram Issavi to five years in prison for “membership of a group with the purpose of disrupting national security” and another five years in prison for “gathering and colluding to commit crimes against national security.”

Iran, which is overwhelmingly Muslim, has a constitution that has restricted freedoms for non-Muslim citizens.

“Consequently, Christians in Iran have been a target of harassment, arbitrary arrest and detention, unfair trials, and imprisonment on national security-related charges solely because of their faith,” Amnesty International said in a statement. “In the past year alone, dozens of Christians, mostly Christian converts, have been targeted.”

The four Christians, who are currently free on bail, are awaiting the verdict of their appeal court.

Source: CBN News

  • Pray our heavenly Father will uphold these believers as they face a difficult and uncertain future. Ask Him to help them to be strong and not fearful.
  • Ask the Lord to grant them favour in their appeal.
  • Pray the church in Iran will continue to grow in love for the Lord and faithfulness to Him as they reach out to their fellow countrymen.
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IRAN: Pastor’s Son Receives Verdict

IRAN: Pastor’s Son Receives Verdict

Ramiel Bet Tamraz and a friend have each been sentenced to four months’ imprisonment for “acting against national security” by joining house churches.

Judge Ahmadzadeh oversaw the hearing on 18 June and delivered the verdict on 11 July. There is likely to be an appeal, with Ramiel’s lawyer asking for the sentence to be reduced or cancelled.

On 26 August 2016 Ramiel, a Christian from an ethnic Assyrian background, was arrested with four Christian convert friends as security officials from the Ministry of Intelligence and Security raided their picnic. They were detained in Evin Prison, Tehran, where all five men endured long periods of solitary confinement and intense interrogation. All were eventually released on bail and have since received prison sentences of varying terms.

Ramiel is the third person in his family facing court proceedings on account of his Christian identity and actions. His mother, Shamiram Isavi Khabizeh, is appealing a five-year prison sentence for “acting against national security and against the regime by organising small groups, attending a seminary abroad and training church leaders and pastors to act as spies.” His father, Pastor Victor Bet Tamraz, is appealing a ten-year prison sentence for “acting against national security.”

Source: Middle East Concern

  • Commit to the Lord the appeals. Uphold the believers and their legal representatives.
  • Pray the Lord will protect Ramiel’s family, who are facing pressure from the community.
  • Pray for those responsible for the harassment, arrests and detention of Christians. Pray they may be given an opportunity to hear and understand the Gospel.
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VIETNAM: New Religion Law Fuels Christians’ Fears

VIETNAM: New Religion Law Fuels Christians’ Fears

Vietnam’s Law on Belief and Religion, which came into force on 1 January has alarmed Christians. It insists religious groups must be registered and approved by the government. They also believe that the law’s vague wording could be exploited to limit church activities.

Despite some improvement in religious freedoms in Vietnam in recent years, Christians continue to face intense pressure, especially those who speak out against corruption and rights abuses.

Christian lawyer Nguyen Van Dai and Pastor Nguyen Trung Ton are both still in custody in Hanoi since their arrests in December 2015 and July 2017 respectively – because they have called for greater religious freedom. They have also been barred from meeting their lawyers.

About a month ago, Christian activist Maria Tran Thị Nga, a mother of two young children from Ha Nam province, was found guilty of “propaganda against the state.” She was sentenced to nine years in prison and five years under house arrest. Her harsh sentence and irregularities relating to her trial have prompted an international outcry.

Christian bloggers have also been targeted; only last week, a court in Nghe An province upheld a five-year prison sentence against Nguyen Van Oai for his pro-democracy campaigns.

Source: Release International

  • Pray for God to use His people who have spoken out about religious rights and about Him to draw many in Vietnam into a close personal relationship with Him.
  • Pray for Christians in Vietnam, especially those who are suffering, to know God’s peace and presence.
  • Pray for God to speak to the hearts of those who persecute our Christian family in Vietnam – and reveal His great love for them.

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CHINA: Christians arrested in “cult” crackdown

CHINA: Christians arrested in “cult” crackdown

A crackdown on “cults” in Yunnan province has led to mass arrests of Christians – with many now facing long jail sentences.

Six members of a church in the Lincang area have just been handed sentences of up to 13 years – after a court convicted them of being part of a “dangerous sect”.

The sentencing of Lincang Christians last week is the latest fallout of a co-ordinated campaign against the so-called Three Grades of Servants organisation which began in 2016. Officials used the campaign as a pretext to round up about 200 Christians across Yunnan: some Christians have already been convicted, while others are awaiting trial.

The authorities have recently told some of the lawyers defending church members that they are suspected of defending their clients “illegally” and that their qualifications will be “reviewed”.

Meanwhile, the Chinese judiciary in neighbouring Guizhou province is putting severe pressure on house church Christians. A court has just upheld a decision to fine Pastor Yang Hua and Pastor Su Tianfu of Huoshi Church almost $1,400,300 after decreeing that church offerings were “illegal income”.

Source: Release International

  • Please pray for justice for the six Christians from Yunnan who have just been given hefty sentences: Ju Dianhong (13 years), Liang Qin (ten years) and Zhang Hongyan, Zi Huimei, Yang Shunxiang and Zhang Shaocai, whose sentences range from four to eight years.
  • Please pray that Yunnan officials will realise the fundamental importance of religious freedom and see that Christians pose no danger to the state.
  • Ask God to flood Pastor Yang Hua’s prison cell and Su Tianfu’s home with His presence and peace. Pray that the church offerings will not have to be paid to the state.