Two Iranian Christians are pleading with the world to hear the cries of the Iranian people as they recounted their own ordeal of being imprisoned for their faith.
In remarks before hundreds gathered at a Wednesday afternoon plenary session at the State Department for the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, Maryam Rostampour and Marziyeh Amirizadeh explained how Jesus Christ sustained them and miraculously intervened when they were jailed. The women were born into Muslim families who became Christians as young adults; the two friends met in Turkey while studying theology in 2005.
The two women were arrested in 2009 by the Iranian regime because of their Christian faith and spent 259 days in one of the nations most notorious prisons. They were subjected to daily interrogations and mental torture, were said to have committed various offenses — apostasy, blasphemy, promoting Christianity in Iran — and were sentenced to execution by hanging. During their ordeal, Iranian officials also routinely threatened their lives and the lives of their families in order to pressure them to recant their faith, but they refused.
“Since Islam is the only official religion in Iran, government authorities forbid other religious minorities from practicing their faith,” Amirizadeh said, noting that persecution against Christians has been rising in recent years.
Men and women who leave Islam for the Christian faith are deemed “infidels” and “dirty,” she continued, and such individuals often face the death penalty and various kinds of torture.
She and Rostampour were mistreated in the prison in which they were jailed, not allowed to use certain facilities within the prison and doctors did not treat them with medication. They were coerced into participating in Islamic prayers and had no access to Bibles. While in prison they also saw prison guards physically abusing and beating others, a source of agony for them.
“The only thing that helped us stand on our faith was our personal relationship with Jesus and the love of God that we have experienced in our lives. We told them many times that Jesus is our Lord and you cannot take Him away from us,” Amirizadeh said.
Rostampour added: “We believe we are alive today because of Jesus’ power and His miracles.”
The Iranian government had to release the friends after significant international pressure from other governments, Christian ministries and advocacy groups. Yet just before they were released the intelligence officers threatened them that they would be watched daily, and told them they could not guarantee their safety, giving them names of pastors who were killed secretly after they were released from prison.
“Some of the threats were that ‘you will die in an accident’ or ‘your house may catch on fire.'”
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Brandon Showalter