Iran Sentences 18 Christians to Prison for their Faith

It is being reported by the Christian Post that Iran’s revolutionary court is believed to have sentenced 18 Christian converts to prison for their faith in a new crackdown on Christianity in the Islamic Republic, a report said.

Fox News noted that the charges include evangelism, propaganda against the regime, and creating house churches to practice their faith. It added that the total sentences come close to 24 years, but it’s not known how many years each individual received, due to the lack of transparency in Iran’s judicial system.

“The cruelty of Iran’s dictatorial leaders knows no limits,” said Saba Farzan, the German-Iranian executive director of Foreign Policy Circle, a strategy think tank in Berlin.

A number of the imprisoned Christians were arrested in 2013, and sentenced in accordance with Article 500 of the Islamic Penal Code, which penalizes threats to Iran’s clerical leaders.

Morad Mokhtari, an Iranian convert to Christianity who fled the Islamic Republic in 2006, added: “Iranian religious authorities prefer that they [converts to Christianity] leave Iran because the authorities can’t control them,” Mokhatari said. “Just their name is evangelism. Imagine someone says he’s a Christian and has a Muslim name.”

Christians in Iran make up a tiny minority of the 78 million-strong population, and often face persecution from the government. Watchdog group Open Doors lists the country at No. 7 on its World Watch List of nations where Christians are most heavily targeted for their faith.

Open Doors points out on its website that almost all Christian activity in Iran is considered illegal, “especially when it occurs in Persian languages — from evangelism to Bible training, to publishing Scripture and Christian books or preaching in Farsi.”

It added: “In 2014, at least 75 Christians were arrested. More Christians were sentenced to prison and pressure on those detained increased, including physical and mental abuse.”

Iran’s human rights record has faced great scrutiny, especially in light of a historic nuclear deal it reached earlier this year with the U.S. and other Western nations, which promises to lift international sanctions on Iran in exchange for restricting its nuclear program.

The American Center for Law and Justice and other groups have said that the deal should not be finalized until Iran shows clear signs it is willing to improve its treatment of Christians — and release the American Christians it currently holds in its prisons, including pastor Saeed Abedini.

U.S. Senator Mark Kirt, R-Ill., has added in a statement: “The Iranian regime’s systematic persecution of Christians, as well as Baha’is, Sunni Muslims, dissenting Shiite Muslims, and other religious minorities, is getting worse not better,” Kirt said.

“This is a direct consequence of President Obama’s decision to de-link demands for improvements in religious freedom and human rights in Iran from the nuclear negotiations.”

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With many peaceful blessings

Geoffrey

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Thomas Coke (1747-1814)

 

From Brecon to the World

Thomas Coke was one of the founders of Methodism and a major contributor to the globalisation of the movement. Born in Brecon, is travelled widely and initiated the sending of missions to many countries.

Brecon in the 18th Century

When Coke was born, Brecon was one of the most important towns in Wales. It was on the route to Ireland and the final stop for the first regular coach service into Wales from London.

It held one of the four Welsh Courts of Great Sessions of a prominent market town and administrative centre. It was also an important social centre for the local gentry and landowners who built many fine houses in the town.

Early Life

Born close to St Mary’s Church in Brecon, where he  was baptised, Coke was the son of a well-to-do apothecary (early pharmacist), Bartholomew Coke, and his wife, Anne. He was educated at Christ College in Brecon and at Jesus College, Oxford and he graduated from University in 1768.

In 1775 he became a doctor of Civil Law. In Brecon he was deeply involved in town life, serving first as a councillor and then as the Bailiff in 1770.

Early Methodism

The Methodist movement began in the 18th century with the teachings of John Wesley, who believed in bringing faith back into people’s everyday lives and that salvation was available to all. He was a charismatic speaker and often preached in the open air. Methodism became popular amongst the working class, although members of all social classes at the time became involved.

Early Ministry

In 1771 Coke was ordained as a priest and became curated in the parish of South Petherton, in Somerset. He first met John Wesley in 1776 and later became an important assistant to him, beginning his lifelong commitment to the newly developing Methodist Church. On Easter Sunday in 1777, to the sound of church bells, Coke was driven from his parish because the local Rector disapproved of his Methodist ways.

Profile and Personality

At only 5’1”, Coke was a short man but he had a youthful appearance that stayed with him throughout his life. He was described as volatile and impulsive but also quick to admit when he was at fault, warm-hearted and honest. John Wesley said of Coke in 1788: ’I creep like Laos and the ground I get I keep; but the doctor (Coke) leaps like a flea and is sometimes obliged to leap back again.’

In America

In 1784, Coke was ordained Superintendent and sailed for the newly formed United States with orders to organise an independent American Methodist Church. In Baltimore, Coke met with Methodist preachers and ordained their chosen leader, Francis Asbury, as a fellow Superintendent; though they were both later styled ‘Bishop’ by the Americans, much to John Wesley’s displeasure.

Coke made nine journeys across the Atlantic Ocean, meeting with the President, George Washington, speaking out against slavery and addressing the US Congress.

Father of the Methodist Missions

In 1786, Coke landed on Antigua in the Caribbean. Impressed by the devotion and quiet endurance of the slaves he found there, he was inspired to organise and encourage Methodist missions throughout the West Indies and elsewhere.

The costs were high and Coke often financed them from his own pocket. His marriages, late in life, to Penelope Goulding Smith, from Bradford-on-Avon, in 1805, and Anne Loxdale, of Liverpool, in 1811, she died less than a year later, helped fund his work: both women were strong supporters of their husband’s ideals, before their untimely deaths.

Death and Commemoration

Coke made his final voyage in 1814, at the age of 67, leading a team of missionaries to the Indian sub-continent. On Tuesday May 3rd, he was found dead in his cabin and was buried at sea.

His loss was greatly felt by the Methodist Church and many memorials were created to commemorate his life’s achievements. In Brecon, a memorial chapel was built in 1835, to which a school was later added. Churches bearing his name can be found in the United States, Jamaica, Sri Lanka and even South Petherton, his first parish.

Methodism in the World Today

Since Coke’s day, Methodism has continued to spread across the globe and today claims over 70 million members.

Modern day Methodists, such as the late Nelson Mandela, continue Coke’s legacy of ’a life of faith in God lived in service to others.’

In December 2013, the Methodist Church of South Africa said: ’Mandela’s life demonstrated the finest characteristics of the Methodist faith: integrity tempered with graciousness; a strong ethic of industriousness; and honesty with reconciliation.’

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With many peaceful blessings

Geoffrey

PS For more information about Thomas Coke I would greatly recommend that you obtain a copy of the book by Cyril Davey entitled ‘Mad About Mission’

My Thought For Today:- Helen Keller

Imagine that you were deaf, dumb – and blind.

Helen Keller was born with all these challenges to face in her life, but she managed to travel the length and breadth of America raising much needed monies for the American Foundation For The Blind and making people aware that many people like her were often inappropriately placed in asylums.

This wonderfully inspirational lady was born into her life with seemingly insurmountable problems.

But she left the world a much much better place having discovered a great secret.

She said, “Life is an exciting business. And it is most exciting when it is lived for others.”

Do you live for others? Or just for yourself?

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With many peaceful blessings

Geoffrey

Abraham Lincoln

When Abraham Lincoln was a young lawyer he was once out riding on horseback with some fellow lawyers. At one point, on a woodland Road, they noticed a baby bird which had fallen from the nest and lay fluttering at the wayside.

After they had gone a short distance Lincoln stopped, turned back and said, “Wait for me, I shan’t be a moment.”

His friends watched as Lincoln went back to the bird, picked it up, and placed it back in the nest.

“Why did you bother to do that?” asked one of his companions.

“I can only say this,” replied Lincoln. “I feel better for doing it. I could not have slept tonight if I had thought that I had left that helpless creature on the road to die.”

It is no surprise then that he was called the American Great-heart. And he displayed the same amount of wonderful compassion throughout the rest of his life, especially when he became president of the USA.

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With many peaceful blessings

Geoffrey Keyte