Today’s post has been written for this blog by Kiri Kankhwende, press officer for Chrisitan Solidarity Worldwide (CSW). Please take a few moments to learn about the desperate plight of a faithful Christian brother. You can follow CSW on Twitter at @CSW_UK.
Ghezal Hesar Prison in Karaj, located to the west of the Iranian capital, Tehran, is one of Iran’s most notorious prisons. In Ward 2 of Salon 7, 600 prisoners are being held, most of them hardened criminals. Each of the 15 square metre cells holds 35 to 40 prisoners, and there are only six bathrooms for all 600 inmates. Among their number is Pastor Benham Irani, a church leader who is being held solely on account of his Christian faith.
During the first few months of his imprisonment, the pastor was held incommunicado in a small cell, where the guards would repeatedly wake him from sleep as a form of psychological torture. He was moved into a cramped room where inmates were unable to lie down to sleep, before being moved to another cell with hardened criminals. There, the pastor was beaten regularly by prison authorities and other inmates. The resulting damage to his legs aggravated an old injury Pastor Irani sustained in an accident 20 years previously. The result is that he is now barely able to walk. In addition, he has acute stomach ulcers and impaired vision. At one stage he suffered severe bleeding which caused him to lose consciousness temporarily. His health has deteriorated to the extent that those close to him believe that he will not survive another five years in prison in this condition without receiving medical treatment, which has so far been denied him.
A church leader in Iran since 2002, Pastor Benham Irani became a Christian in 1992 and is married to Christine, an Armenian Christian. The couple have two children, an 11 year-old daughter called Rebecca and a son, Adriel, who is four years old. In 2011, Pastor Irani was arrested and sentenced to six years’ imprisonment on charges of “action against the state” and “action against the order.” Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) believes that these political charges were brought against him to disguise the fact that he is being held solely on account of his faith.
This tactic is not uncommon. Over the past few months CSW has received reports of a sharp upsurge in the harassment and persecution of Christians in Iran, particularly converts, as part of what appears to be a concerted campaign targeting Christians of all denominations. Increasingly, Christians are charged with political crimes by the Iranian authorities to cover up the fact that they have been imprisoned solely on account of their Christian faith.
Pastor Irani’s health is increasingly frail. He is not getting access to the medical attention that he needs; in fact, he shouldn’t even be in prison. He is not the only Christian in prison for his faith, and unfortunately he will not be the last. CSW is advocating on behalf of Pastor Irani and other Christians in prison for their faith in Iran, but there is something we can all do to help.
Protest: CSW‘s Cry Freedom campaign this year aims to bring freedom and hope in countries where believers suffer under brutal repressive regimes, including Iran. Visit www.csw.org.uk/cryfreedom to email the head of the Iranian Judiciary to demand immediate medical treatment for the pastor and his release from prison.
Pray: Please pray for Pastor Irani’s recovery, for his family and congregation, and for the release of Pastor Irani and all other prisoners being held in Iran solely on account of their faith.