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Iran: Your letters bring joy to Pastor Behnam
25 April 2017
After six years in prison, Iranian church leader Pastor Behnam Irani was finally released in October 2016. Open Doors staff recently visited him and his family to encourage them and bring them your letters.
"This is a great present for us," Pastor Behnam said, after being presented with letters and cards from 11 different countries for him and his family. Over 3,000 Open Doors supporters wrote to Pastor Behnam when he was in prison; most of these letters were sent to the prison, but they were not given to Pastor Behnam by the prison guards. The letters that weren't sent to the prison were kept by Open Doors staff to give Pastor Behnam once he was released, to ensure that some of your messages would get through.
A huge smile spread over Pastor Behnam's face as he read letters for his children and messages of love from all over the world. "This evening we will take time to look at all of these cards together," Pastor Behnam said. "We are so happy in our hearts."
Pastor Behnam, his wife Kristina, and their children Rebecca and Adriel are now living as refugees in Turkey. Pastor Behnam explained that he would like to have stayed in Iran, but he felt that God was telling him that, just as Joseph took Mary and Jesus to Egypt for safety, that he should also take his family to a safe place. "We believe that one day we will return to Iran," Pastor Behnam said. "Please pray for Iran. God has big plans for Iran. There are many people there who love Jesus Christ, but they are afraid."
Iran is number 8 on the 2017 World Watch List, and those from the Persian ethnic group are considered Muslims - it is illegal to leave Islam, and can even be punished with the death penalty, although this punishment hasn't been carried out for decades. Despite this, Christians from a Muslim background, like Pastor Behnam, make up the largest group of Christians in Iran.
It's obvious that Pastor Behnam and his family are happy to be together again - it seems as if Adriel is coming over to hug his father every ten minutes. "It's like he saved up his missed hugs and he's giving them all now," Kristina says. Adriel was just two when his father was imprisoned.
But the family continues to need our prayers. Pastor Behnam and Adriel are both suffering from acute health problems, and Rebecca is still traumatised from her father's imprisonment - every time the doorbell rings, she trembles with fear, worried that someone has come to take her father away again.
Despite all that they've been through, their faith in Jesus has not been shaken. "The Lord has always been leading us," Pastor Behnam says. "We just have to follow Him."
We are no longer accepting letters for Pastor Behnam and his family, but you can write to other persecuted believers to encourage them.
This song was written by Kristina Irani. She wrote this song the second time Pastor Behnam was arrested; it's about the comfort that God gives her, even in the most difficult circumstances, and it's called 'In the middle of the night'. Listen to this song and pray for our Iranian church family.
- For protection, provision and healing for Pastor Behnam and his family
- For a swift asylum process for the family - this can take up to two years
- For Christians in Iran, for protection, courage and strength.
More News from Iran:
- Christian Maryam Naghash Zargaran released after four years in prison
- Christians given harsh prison sentences
- What will re-election of Rouhani mean for Christians?
- Christians sentenced to 80 lashes for taking communion
- Maryam's prison sentence extended because of medical leave
Find out more about persecution in Iran.