In 2016, the news broke that four Christians had been arrested in Iran on accusations of “acting against national security through the establishment of house churches”. Three of them were Azerbaijani foreigners, and permitted to return to their home country, but the fourth was sentenced to prison time.
His name is Nasser Navard Gol-Tapeh, and he remains in prison to this day.
Nasser has spoken up about the injustice, and pointed out the inconsistencies in the sentence. Despite being charged with national security breaches, “it’s clear to all, including the prison authorities, judges, lawyers, and my fellow prisoners, that I am in prison because of my faith in Jesus Christ.” In 2018, Nasser wrote an open letter to the government officials and justice system of Iran, laying out the reasons why his sentence was unjust.
“Would it be even possible for a committed Christian – who was born and raised in Iran and whose forefathers lived in this land for thousands of years, and who is a servant to the God who has called him to a ministry of reconciliation – to act against the national security of his own country?
“Is the fellowship of a few Christian brothers and sisters in someone’s home, singing worship songs, reading the Bible and worshiping God acting against national security?
“Isn’t it a clear violation of civil and human rights, and an absolute injustice, to receive a ten-year prison sentence just for organising ‘house churches’, which is a sanctuary sanctified as a place to praise and worship God due to closure of churches in Iran?”
Nevertheless, Nasser concluded his letter by stating that “I bless those who have persecuted me and put me in jail, and I hope one day the truths of His word, which is able to build everyone up, will save them.”
In the years since he has been imprisoned, Nasser has suffered from health issues and has not received medical treatment. The authorities have refused him any temporary leave, and in late 2020 his request for a retrial was rejected.
Despite these trials, Nasser’s faith remains strong. Now 59 years old, he recently penned a poem from prison, expressing his continued trust in Christ.
“Be my guide, O Christ, in captivity;
Do not turn away from me,
So that the roaring waves of captivity do not wash me away.
May I whisper Your name to the turbulent waves of captivity,
And may this name open doors.
Who does not rejoice in watching the sunrise?
You are the perfect light,
Like your Father in the heavens.
You called us;
You brought us fresh wine.
Your word is sweet to listening ears,
But it has no place in emotionally empty souls;
It resides in the hearts of those who love you passionately.
Your burden, O Christ
Is light for anyone who carries it.
Oh how much you love mankind;
Oh how pleasant you are!
When I think of your love,
Fear turns away from me.
Whenever I want to worship you,
I do not know how to express my joy.
When I am seeking you,
Within my heart, I find you;
The rest that you give me!
Maybe I will also be worthy to hear your call;
How beautiful is your praise on my lips!
Dear ones, the ship of Christ has anchored;
Its load is eternal crowns,
And its captain is Christ.
Anchored for us to embark on it,
He accepts the heavy laden.
Cleanse me with hyssop too,
So that I can cross your boundless sea,
And this year may be a new year,
When all the faithful and the saved rejoice and worship in your lifeboat.”
Nasser is just one of many Christians around the world who are facing captivity for their faith. During the month of June, you can stand with them during the One With Them campaign. By taking the prayer pledge, you will be adding your voice to Canadian Christians who have committed to praying for our persecuted family who are imprisoned. If you would like to help strengthen a persecuted believer through a gift, you can do so here.
The author of Hebrews reminds us to “remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering” (Hebrews 13:3).
Christians like Nasser provide a beautiful example of faith in the midst of mistreatment. Will you stand One With Them?
Thanks to Article 18 for the information about Nasser’s imprisonment. Visit www.articleeighteen.com to learn more.