There are an estimated 450,000 Christians in Iran, out of a population of 77.2 million. Having grown up in Muslim families before converting to Christianity as young adults, Maryam Rostampour and Marziyeh Amirizadeh met at theological college in Turkey in 2005. Deciding to work together, they returned to Iran and began sharing their faith. They knew they were putting their lives on the line. Islamic laws in Iran forbid anyone from sharing their Christian beliefs, but in three years, Maryam and Marziyeh covertly put New Testaments into the hands of 20,000 of their countrymen and started two secret house churches.
In 2009, the two friends were arrested in Tehran for promoting Christianity. The official charges against them were apostasy, anti-government activity, and blasphemy, for which they were sentenced to execution by hanging. Maryam and Marziyeh would go on to spend 259 days in Evin Prison, one of the world’s most notorious jails. In that time, their physical condition deteriorated and initially, they suffered verbal abuse from the guards. They were interrogated and denied the use of public taps for drinking water and basins to wash themselves. The women lived in a world where prisoners could be executed with little notice. It was six months before they were allowed access to a lawyer.
Supporters around the world prayed for their release and writing campaigns resulted in hundreds of letters being delivered to the prison. The impact was palpable – as time went on, prisoners and guards inside Evin Prison began to ask Maryam and Marziyeh to pray for them, too. Released in 2009, they now live in the United States and have written a book about their remarkable true story; Captive in Iran. They continue to highlight the issue of Christian persecution in Iran and will visit Australia this June and July for Open Doors. The Australian Prayer Network is joining with Open Doors in Australia in promoting their visit to Australia. For more details and meetings near you, visit www.opendoors.org.au
Western Australia’s 2014 Walk and Rally for Life was held in Perth this week calling for an end to abortion in the state. Event organisers said around 700 people participated in the event which began at Kings Park. They then processed behind banners proclaiming “You, me, all of us are just grown up embryos” and “Abortion stops a beating heart: No one deserves abortion” to Parliament House where they were greeted by ten prolife members of the Western Australian Parliament. Five of the parliamentarians who came along also spoke on the night. Abortion has been legal in Western Australia since May 1998 and its estimated 134,000 unborn children have died in the sixteen years since it became legal.
It estimated more than 600 babies are aborted each year between the 20 and 34 weeks gestation because of a disability. Several people shared their personal story on the night including Peter Rowley, who has spina bifida, and how he is now caring for his elderly parents. Michelle Pearse read a delightful story from 21-year-old Caroline Crawford who has Down Syndrome and Alan Stevens shared about his two children with Fragile X Syndrome. The organisers also collected over 500 signatures on an open letter to Premier Colin Barnett calling for greater protection for the unborn in WA.
The 2014 Walk and Rally for Life was organised by the Coalition for the Defence of Human Life. The parliamentarians present included Hon Nick Goiran MLC, Member for South Metropolitan; Hon Michelle Roberts MLA, Member for Midland, Dr Graham Jacobs MLA, Member for Eyre, Margaret Quirk MLA, Member for Girrawheen, Peter Abetz MLA, Member for Southern River, Hon Kate Doust MLA, Member for South Metropolitan, Bill Johnson MLA, Member for Cannington, Glenys Godfrey MLA, Member for Belmont, Tony Krsticevic MLA, Member for Carine and Frank Alban MLA, Member for Swan Hills. Senator elect Joe Bullock was also present.
Nearly five months ago, former Hillsong Church worship pastor Darlene Zschech announced that she had breast cancer and would undergo chemotherapy. Now the popular singer and songwriter is thanking prayer warriors for their efforts during the battle. Zschech announced she has officially finished her last round of chemo and says hallelujah is the best word to describe how she feels about it. The battle isn’t over. She has now started radiation which will last six weeks. “I shall be glowing from the inside out,” she quips. “And then that’s it. Never again.” Zschech again thanks her fans for continued prayers.
“Even though I unashamedly begged for God to heal me before treatment, He said to me that as I walked through the period of treatment He would never leave me. On the days where I have felt I cannot do it anymore, I literally have felt the strength of people praying for me,” Darlene wrote on her blog. “The power of the Holy Spirit to comfort and strengthen has been beyond what I have ever experienced before. Again, I am so thankful for every one of you.”