Thursday, July 17, 2014

Imprisoned in Iran for following Jesus: Maryam and Marziyeh tell politicians

In 2009, thousands of Open Doors supporters campaigned for the release of Maryam Rostampour and Marziyeh Amirizadeh – two Iranian women imprisoned for their faith in Christ and threatened with a death sentence. Thanks to all that prayer and action, praise God, they were released! Yesterday – 16 July – both women had the opportunity to share their story with UK politicians in a meeting hosted by Naomi Long MP.

MPs and peers present listened intently as they spoke of their conversion from Islam to Christianity and their mission to share the gospel with fellow Iranians – a mission which eventually led to their imprisonment in the infamous Evin prison and the threat of death by hanging.

But even in prison, Maryam and Marziyeh knew God's presence! Under intense pressure to deny their faith, they found the strength to show the love of God to fellow prisoners and the guards. For nine months they endured their conditions until finally, under the weight of a growing international outcry, the Iranian authorities released them.

Maryam and Marziyeh shared that the actions of those who called on the Iranian authorities to release them and uphold their freedom of religion, were crucial in addressing this injustice.

Lord Anderson of Swansea was one parliamentarian who agreed with this. He also highlighted an upcoming debate in the House of Lords on 24 July, which will focus on the extent to which freedom of religion or belief is upheld internationally and will touch upon some of the issues Maryam and Marziyeh spoke about.

If you know a Peer in the House of Lords, it would be fantastic if you could write to them and encourage them to take part in this important debate – it is vital that all of Parliament, the Lords and Commons alike, engage with the issue of religious persecution.

Finally, you’ll remember that earlier this month, we told you about an event specifically aimed at engaging more Labour MPs with international religious freedom. On 8 July, Douglas Alexander MP, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, spoke passionately to a room packed full with members of civil society, the clergy, local councillors and politicians, including 14 Labour MPs. Mr Alexander clearly asserted the need to 'awaken people’s conscience to the plight of Christians around the world today who face persecution in more countries than ever before in our history'. His speech, which was given in the ‘spirit of bi-partisanship’, is available to read online.

If you invited your Labour MP or candidate to the meeting, our huge thanks for sharing the need for freedom of religion to be a cross- party issue. This is a message we are committed to and will continue to share so that all of Parliament is awakened to extreme persecution. Thank you so much for your partnership in this.

Open Doors UK, PO Box 6, Witney, OX29 6WG. Registered Charity in England and Wales No 1125684.

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