Hamas vs Israel: Why Their War Is Ours Too!

The recent Gaza Hamas/Israel war had the world in an ideological frenzy – with people all across the world taking a position on the conflict. And whilst Israel is not completely innocent of any guilt or wrong-doing, the blatant refusal of the liberal media and left-wing politicians to acknowledge that this nation has a right to defend itself against terrorists, is mind-boggling. It is obvious that not only is there a political agenda against this moderate Jewish state, but also a spiritual one, (namely from Islamic enemies and anti-Semitic statesmen).

A political and military war…
When the president of the Palestinian Authority stood up at the United Nations recently and accused Israel of war crimes, it appeared that the 60 day conflict was certainly not over – at least not on a political level.  But true to form, expert orator and Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, delivered an outstanding rebuttal, establishing the necessity for the world to carefully evaluate the conflict and to tread carefully in making unequivocal, moralistic judgements.

The full speech Netanyahu delivered
“Distinguished delegates, I come here from Jerusalem to speak on behalf of my people; the people of Israel. I’ve come here to speak about the dangers we face and about the opportunities we seek. I’ve come here to expose the brazen lies spoken from this very podium against my country and the brave soldiers who defend it. “Ladies and gentlemen, the people of Israel pray for peace, but our hopes and the world’s hopes for peace are in danger, because everywhere we look, militant Islam is on the march. It’s not militants or Islam – it’s militant Islam. And typically its first victims are other Muslims, but it spares no one: Christians, Jews, Yazidis, and Kurds. No creed, no faith or ethnic group is beyond its sights. And it’s rapidly spreading in every part of the world.

An Islamic goal: world domination
“You know the famous American saying, ‘all politics is local’? For the militant Islamists, all politics is global, because their ultimate goal is to dominate the world. That threat might seem exaggerated to some, since it starts out small, very like a cancer that attacks a particular part of the body. However, left unchecked, that cancer grows, metastasising over wider and wider areas. To protect the peace and security of the world, we must remove this cancer before it’s too late.
“Last week, many of the countries represented here rightly applauded President Obama for leading the effort to confront ISIS, and yet, weeks before, some of these same countries opposed Israel for confronting Hamas. They evidently don’t understand that ISIS and Hamas are branches of the same poisonous tree.
“ISIS and Hamas share a fanatical creed, which they both seek to impose well beyond the territory under their control. Listen to what ISIS’ self-declared caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, said two months ago, “A day will soon come when the Muslim will walk everywhere as a master. The Muslims will cause the world to hear and understand the meaning of terrorism – and destroy the idol of Democracy”. Khaled Mashal, the leader of Hamas, proclaims a similar vision of the future, “We say this to the West: by Allah you will be defeated. Tomorrow our nation will sit on the throne of the world”.

Hamas and ISIS share their ideals
“As Hamas’ charter so clearly states, their immediate goal is to destroy Israel, but Hamas has a broader objective. They also want a caliphate [An Islamic state led by a supreme religious and political leader known as a caliph – i.e. “successor” – to Muhammad].
“Hamas shares the global ambitions of its fellow militant Islamists, and that’s why its supporters wildly cheered in the streets of Gaza as thousands of Americans were murdered in 9/11 and why its leaders condemn the United States for killing Osama bin Laden, whom they praised as a ‘holy warrior’.
“So when it comes to their ultimate goals, Hamas is ISIS and ISIS is Hamas – and what they share in common, all militant Islamists share in common. Groups like Boko Haram in Nigeria, al-Shabab in Somalia, Hezbollah in Lebanon, al-Nusra in Syria, the Mahdi army in Iraq, and the al-Qaida branches in Yemen, Libya, the Philippines, India and elsewhere, are all working toward world domination.
They all share a fanatic ideology
“Some are radical Sunnis, some are radical Shiites, some want to restore a pre-medieval caliphate from the seventh century, and others want to trigger the apocalyptic return of an imam from the ninth century.
“They operate in different lands, they target different victims and they even kill each other in their battle for supremacy, but they all share a fanatic ideology.
“They all seek to create ever-expanding enclaves of militant Islam, where there is no freedom and no tolerance; where women are treated as chattel, Christians are decimated and minorities are subjugated, sometimes given the stark choice to convert or die. For them, anyone can be considered an infidel, including fellow Muslims.

History is repeating itself
“Ladies and gentlemen, militant Islam’s ambition to dominate the world seems mad, but so too did the global ambitions of another fanatical ideology that swept into power eight decades ago. The Nazis believed in a ‘master race’. The militant Islamists believe in a ‘master faith’. They just disagree who amongst them will be the ‘master’ of the ‘master faith’. That’s what they truly disagree about. And therefore, the question before us is whether militant Islam will have the power to realize its unbridled ambitions.

Iran pursues a global mission
“There is one place where that could soon happen; the Islamic State of Iran. For 35 years, Iran has relentlessly pursued the global mission which was set forth by its founding ruler, Ayatollah Khomeini, in these words, ‘We will export our revolution to the entire world until the cry ‘there is no god but Allah’ will echo throughout the world.’
“Ever since, the regime’s brutal enforcers, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, have done exactly that. Their current commander, General Mohammad Ali Jafari has clearly stated his goal, ‘Our imam did not limit the Islamic revolution to this country; our duty is to prepare the way for an Islamic world governmen.’

Israel is fighting everyone’s battle
“Ladies and gentlemen, the fight against militant Islam is indivisible. When militant Islam succeeds anywhere, it’s emboldened everywhere. When it suffers a blow in one place, it’s set back in every place. That’s why Israel’s fight against Hamas is not just our fight, it’s your fight. Israel is fighting a fanaticism today, that your countries may be forced to fight tomorrow.
“For 50 days this past summer, Hamas fired thousands of rockets at Israel, many of them supplied by Iran. Yet Israel also faced another challenge – a propaganda war.

Hamas uses human shields
“In an attempt to win the world’s sympathy, Hamas cynically used Palestinian civilians as human shields. It used U.N. schools, private homes, mosques and even hospitals to store and fire rockets at Israel. As Israel surgically struck at the rocket launchers and at the tunnels, Palestinian civilians were tragically, but unintentionally, killed.

A painful and awful tragedy
“There are heartrending images of casualties which were distributed, fuelling libellous charges that Israel was deliberately targeting civilians. We were not. We deeply regret every single civilian casualty.
“And the truth is this: Israel was doing everything to minimise Palestinian civilian casualties. Hamas was doing everything to maximise Israeli civilian casualties and Palestinian civilian casualties.
“Israel dropped flyers, made phone calls, sent text messages and broadcast warnings in Arabic on Palestinian television; all this to enable Palestinian civilians to evacuate targeted areas. No other country and no other army in history have gone to greater lengths to avoid casualties among the civilian population of their enemies.                

New opportunities
Ladies and gentlemen, there is a new Middle East. It presents new dangers – but also new opportunities. Israel is prepared to work with Arab partners and the international community to confront those dangers and to seize those opportunities.
“Together, we must recognize the global threat of militant Islam, the primary importance of dismantling Iran’s nuclear weapons capability and the indispensable role of Arab states in advancing peace with the Palestinians.

Speaking truth for Zion
“All this may fly in the face of conventional wisdom, but it’s the truth, and the truth must always be spoken, especially here in the United Nations. Isaiah, our great prophet of peace, said, nearly 3,000 years ago in Jerusalem, “For the sake of Zion, I will not be silent, for the sake of Jerusalem, I will not be still until her justice shines bright and her salvation glows like a flaming torch” Isaiah 62:1.
“Ladies and gentlemen, let us light a torch of truth and justice to safeguard our common future. Thank you.”
Delivered at the UN, 29 September 2014

Dispelling the myth of moral equivalence in simple form by highlighting a few obvious contrasts:

Israel is simply trying to exist and defend itself, while it is surrounded by nations (as well as Hamas in Gaza) who want to see it driven into the sea. The Hamas Charter for example specifically says Israel must be destroyed.
Israel since its inception in 1948 has been willing to make great compromises with its neighbours, while many hostile Arab leaders have demanded the expulsion of the Jews from the land.
Israel has a number of times, traded land for peace, but generally to no avail.
Israel would disappear if she were to lay down her arms, but if the hostile Islamic states laid down their arms, there would be peace in the Middle East.
Israel is the last bulwark against Islamist imperialism in the region.
Israel has approx. one million plus Arab people living within its borders, while Gaza has no Jews living there.
Israel uses weapons to defend its children, while Hamas uses children to defend its weapons.
Israel made significant and notable efforts to protect innocent civilians both in Gaza and Israel, while Hamas deliberately targeted innocent civilians both in Gaza and Israel. Setting up command and control centres in or near hospitals, schools and mosques is standard Hamas practice.
Israel is shipped tonnes of food, water, medical and humanitarian supplies into Gaza, and even treated wounded Hamas fighters; Hamas executed several of its own Palestinian citizens whom they accused of collaborating with Israel.
Israel has kept every single cease fire until Hamas has violated them – and they have violated every single truce in this conflict thus far.
Israel is the only genuinely free, democratic and pluralistic nation in the region.

Should Christians Use Alternative Medicine?

Should a Christian consider alternative Medicine?
There are various forms of alternative medicine available today. This sometimes leads to confusion among Christ­ians as to whether to consider alternative forms of medicine in place of, or in addition to, traditional forms. Many kinds of alternative medicine have their origins in non-Christian religions or anti-Christian philosophies. This leads some Christians to shun alternative medicine altogether. However, does the Bible prohibit the use of alternative medicine?

Examining the roots of the practice
There are two primary issues with this “alternative medicine is always wrong” mind-set. Firstly, much of modern traditional medicine also has its roots in non-Christian practices and philosophies. While alternative medicines, like acupuncture, may have originated in connection with Taoism, many traditional medicines originated in the ancient Greek and Roman cultures, which were just as non-Christian as ancient Taoism. The idea that unless something was invented by a Christian, it is inherently wrong, is not Biblically supportable. Many inventions and technologies that Christians have no qualms about using were invented by non-Christians.  The origin of an alternative form of medicine should not be the deciding factor in whether a Christian can consider using it.

What constitutes “alternative”?
There is no standard for determining whether a treatment is considered “alternative.”

Is chiropractic treatment considered alternative? Is the taking of herbal supplements considered alternative?
People are quick to label alternative medicines as  wrong, while failing to recognise that they themselves are using alternatives. If anything other than having surgery or swallowing a prescribed pill is considered alternative, then millions of people are already knowingly, or unknowingly, using alternative medicine.

Freedom in Christ
A key deciding factor in whether to engage in a specific course of treatment, is whether or not an alternative medicinal practice can be separated from the philosophy associated with it – [this would not prove possible for yoga, a very popular form of exercise rooted in Eastern mysticism].
[Another critical factor, is knowing (as far as possible) whether the practioner is a Christian or not. For example, there is nothing wrong with getting a massage, however if the practioner believes in reiki, and uses reiki in their treatments, it will place you in very uncomfortable position – so best check ahead of time if you have any uncertainty]. When it comes to herbal medicine, or natural medicine, we should prayerfully seek God’s will and can then follow our convictions as long as they are Biblically sound.

What does the Bible say about Aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy is considered a ‘non-traditional’ medicinal practice that uses plant extracts, especially those with odour, to treat medical and psychological ailments. These extracts (also known as essential oils) can either be administered by inhalation or applied directly to the skin. Ailments treated include skin conditions, congestion, and infection. Essential oils like lavender are also used to aid relaxation. Many essential oils can be dangerous if administered incorrectly.

Biblical references
The Bible mentions aroma and incense extensively. In Exodus 30:22-33, God instructs the Israelites to make anointing oil with myrrh, calamus, cinnamon, and cassia in a medium of olive oil, to dedicate people and furniture in the Tabernacle for God’s service. The next passage describes the incense to be used in the Tabernacle and, later, the Temple, including spices, onycha, galbanum, and frankincense. Frankincense was also to be added to the grain offering (Leviticus 2:1-2) as a “soothing aroma to the Lord.” The wise men brought frankincense and myrrh to the young Jesus (Matthew 2:11), and Mary washed Jesus’ feet in spikenard, an extremely costly ointment, “and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” John 12:3.

God made oil-containing plants
In Old Testament times, plant-based medication was viewed with ambivalence, the Israelites were to rely on God as their Healer (Exodus 15:26; Jeremiah 46:11). Priests were authorised to identify ailments but not to treat them (Leviticus 13:7,19, 49). Frankincense and myrrh were mainly used in embalming.
Today, using plant-based extracts for topical and respiratory medication is not an intrinsically New Age practice, although, like any alternative medicine, it can be combined with un-Biblical beliefs by some therapists. Having said that, there is nothing unscriptural in using plant oils to treat medical conditions and it can prove beneficial for ageing and overall well-being, particularly if administered by a Christian aromatherapist. For more info see www.rockroseministries.com

What does the Bible say about Reflexology?
Reflexology claims to reestablish circulation in weakened or diseased organs. It supposedly releases the healing qualities of nature found within the body, restoring health to the patient. Those who practice reflexology say that the body contains an energy field, invisible life force, the blockage of which can prevent healing. Reflexology, although seemingly innocent, is rooted in un-Christian Eastern beliefs, and has been rejected by doctors for lack of empirical proof.
Reflexology, made popular by the New Age movement, is based on the idea that there is a cosmic energy inside of everything, including our bodies. This energy is the very “material” of both creation and deity, and when in proper balance, humans can supposedly realise personal divinity. Such a belief in personal divinity is opposed to our Faith and the teachings of the Bible (Exodus 20:3).

It is difficult and problematic to divorce the belief from the practice
Behind the technique of reflexology lies the belief that not only do the pressure points of the foot engage specific parts of the body, but they affect the living energy within a person as well. Some people might argue that they practice reflexology without the mysticism. However, this is impossible, because, in reflexology, it is the energy that is the link between the foot and the other parts of the body. To divorce the practice from the belief is to just give a foot massage.

A Scriptural standard
The Scriptures exhort us to “test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil” (1 Thess 5:21-22). When put to the test, practices rooted in anti-Biblical beliefs, such as reflexology, clearly fail.
In fact, practising reflexology can be seen as giving approval to the all-encompassing energy teachings of such religions as New Age and Hinduism, which are diametrically opposed to Biblical Christianity. 
Whereas Scripture does not condemn alternative medicine such as reflexology specifically, the Scriptures do condemn teachings that remove God as the sole, sovereign Creator and Saviour (Exodus 20:4-5), which reflexology clearly does.

Got Questions seeks to glorify God by providing Biblical and applicable answers to spiritually related questions. For more info: www. gotquestions.org

Why Do People Leave Church?

If  one could look into the heart of a pastor after receiving a member’s resignation, you would see a number of emotions: hurt, disappointment, sadness,  anger, frustration, guilt, betrayal, rejection and maybe, in a rare case, relief.  The bottom line is that when somebody leaves, it hurts! Sadly, the painful emotions reach way beyond just the pastor. They are often experienced by the church family too.

I have found there are two types of people who leave a church:

Those you don’t want to lose
These can be people who have had a life changing experience in the church. They got saved and baptised and are growing spiritually but, for some reason, have a spiritual “speed wobble”.  In this case, the pastor needs to invest some time in their lives, to keep them in the fold. Generally they will respond positively to guidance, love and assistance.
The other group you don’t want to lose are those members, where the call of God on their lives has been recognised and who have been sponsored by the leadership, to attend Theological College for future full-time ministry.

Those who should probably leave
Sometimes, there are Christians who possess a critical spirit, or who perhaps have an issue with the church leadership. No matter what the pastor does, he is not considered good enough. Usually full of gossip, they are a hindrance to what God wants to do in the church. Some in this category also feel that, by virtue of their financial contribution or long standing membership, they ‘own’ the church.

Potential reasons people leave:
•  A poor fit
There are people who come to a church who can definitely be helped in their faith journey. However, sometimes it is evident that they do not fit the ‘culture’ of the church. Every church has its own a specific flavour or culture.  These people normally have completely different expectations to what is being offered. This ranges from areas like the music, theology, the way the church is governed, to congregational or pastoral style. 
The Gospel cuts across sociological demographics, but the truth is that people are more likely to fit in and grow when they do not have to cross significant homogenous barriers in a church. It’s soothing to claim that one’s church can be a church for anybody, but in reality your church will not be a church for everybody.

• Blatant or hidden sin
Sin can be blatant or camouflaged. Blatant sin falls into the category of public sin, like an affair, stealing, bad business practice, etc. In spite of being willing to help a member and walk the road of reconciliation, this aid is often rejected and these people leave the church, backsliding and growing cold in their relationship with God. Prodigal sons and daughters are in all churches. Sadly some people find it easier to change their beliefs, than change their behaviour.
Camouflaged sin refers to cases when the true reasons for leaving are not given to the pastor. Other reasons (usually not related to the truth) are offered, such as, “The Lord has led me to another church” or,  “I feel my season is over in this church”.
In such a case, the previous and the present congregation would not be aware of the true reasons for the resignations, which is unfair to both the congregation and their pastors. It could give the impression that the previous church or pastor was the problem, by not revealing the true motives behind the departure.
• Life interruptions
Sometimes, things happen that interrupt the normal routine of life, for example, a marriage where spouses attending separate fellowships must choose whose church to attend. A new baby also brings huge life changes in the home. Perhaps life is interrupted by moving to another suburb, causing a family to get out of church routine. Dealing with the death of a spouse may mean the surviving marriage partner feels unable to return to the church where the funeral was held. The memory is too painful so they move to another church.
• A bad experience at church
Perhaps somebody got into a serious argument with another member and they disagree so strongly that, in their eyes, leaving the church is the only answer. Business deals between members can also go sour or people take offense because they were ignored or not given enough attention. Feelings are also hurt through unfulfilled expectations concerning ministry appointments in the church.
Feeling unloved or uncared for when going through storms in life, also causes people to make a decision to leave. Others are wounded by a lack of gratitude expressed for their service in the church environment.

• Isolation
Generally people who do not build any friendships at a church within the first few weeks of attending, move on. Sometimes people are affected because their friends leave. If they don’t make new friends in the church within a short space of time, they too will leave. 
It has been found that if people have friends in the congregation, they will endure almost anything.  Even if there are changes in style, structure, service times, location or leadership, these will not affect them.  Christian fellowship has been found to be the glue that holds a local church together.
If one wants to assimilate people in the church, you have to offer them either relationships with others and/or responsibilities. A person that has a relationship with someone else in the church or a responsibility there, never feels isolated.  If people have someone who cares about them and something to do, they feel connected. 

• Boredom
Sometimes people leave because they are simply bored. Church can become routine for many. If there are three songs, the offering, and the sermon which always ends in exactly the same way, members can become frustrated.  There is nothing wrong, however, with routine. Many draw comfort from it, yet others find it boring.
For the pastor, it like walking a tightrope between consistency and variety. On one hand, you want to be consistent, but on the other you don’t want to become boring.
I feel the sound advice and the testimony found in the book ,“The Bait of Satan”, by John Bevere, will assist those who are considering leaving their church. Men and women leave churches far too readily nowadays. Rather than face difficulties and maintain hope, they run to where the grass seems greener, or where they believe there are no conflicts.  We need to face any conflicts head on, lest we leave a church offended or critical. 

Putting down roots
The Bible says in Psalm 92:13, “Those who are planted in the House of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God”.
Notice that those who flourish are “planted” in the house of the Lord. What happens to a plant if you transplant it every few months? Most know that its root system will diminish, and it will not blossom or prosper. If you keep transplanting it, the plant will die of shock! Many people go from church to church, ministry team to ministry team, trying to develop their own ministry. If God puts them in a place where they are not recognised and encouraged, they are easily offended. If they don’t agree with the way something is done, they are offended. They then leave, blaming the leadership. They are blind to any of their own character flaws and do not realise God wanted to refine and mature them through the pressure they were experiencing.
My personal encouragement to pastors, when faced with the inner hurt of losing members is this:
The call of God on your life is of more value than any disappointment.
Jesus, the greatest Pastor of all, had some of His own disciples desert him.
Unwise decisions taken by people say more about them than it does about you.
It is best to value and concentrate on the faithful members who have been with you through all the seasons of the church; apply the 80/20 principle.
When in Heaven one day, true perspective of all situations will be given us.
Jesus, the Head of the Church, has the words waiting for you, “Well done,  good and faithful servant”.

David Gernetzky has been in ministry for 32 years and is Senior Pastor of City Life Church, East London; www.elcitylife.co.za

Captive In Iran: Two Womens Battle For Freedom

By Jackie Georgiou

Maryam Rostampour and Marziyeh Amirizadeh were born into Muslim families in Iran. They met while studying Christian theology in Turkey in 2005, and realised they had become Christians at about the same time six years earlier. Deciding to join forces, they returned to Iran and began a program of mission outreach, handing out Farsi New Testaments and starting two house churches in their apartment, one for young people and the other for prostitutes.

Arrested, interrogated, imprisoned
They extended their ministry with mission trips to India, South Korea and Turkey. In 2009 they were arrested for promoting Christianity – a capital crime in Iran –  and imprisoned for 259 days in the city’s notorious Evin Prison in Tehran, a place where inmates are routinely tortured, and executions by hanging are swift and sudden. They were interrogated, intimidated by their captors, held in solitary confinement, and given a death sentence. However, instead of succumbing to fear, Rostampour and Amirizadeh chose to take the radical – and dangerous – step of sharing their faith inside the very prison meant to silence them.

Sentenced to die
The official charges were apostasy, anti-government activity, and blasphemy, for which they were sentenced to execution by hanging. As many around the world prayed for their freedom, and as a result of international lobbying, Rostampour and Amirizadeh were released in 2009 and cleared of all charges the following year. After their release, they immigrated to the United States as refugees. The ladies were recently in South Africa on a speaking tour promoting their autobiography, ‘Captive in Iran’, and speaking to various churches and Christian groups about the daily, daunting, persecution that believers, and especially women, face in Iran and the Middle East. JOY! Magazine caught up with them to find out more…

Ladies, having fled Iran and leaving behind all that you know and love, what does daily life look like today, in a foreign Western nation?
Marziyeh: Life in America is certainly worlds apart from what we know. It has its blessings and also its hardships, but I can truly say I am looked after by God.
I am currently studying International Law and working on my second book, which is about women under pressure because of Islamic laws. Maryam and I experienced firsthand the persecution and challenges in Iran, but here in the States we have our own battles – for instance, when we came over, we did not have social security numbers, which meant that we did not have basic access to services; we couldn’t see doctors because we didn’t have the necessary paperwork…it was a very testing time.

Maryam: I am not married and have no children, nor does Marziyeh. From the first day we moved to America, we had logistical and legal difficulties –  as we were not working with any specific organisations. We are completely independent and started our lives as refugees, from nothing.
We prayed and asked the Lord to help us with work, which He did – and we began helping with interpreting services for the refugees. We were using food stamps to survive and making jewellery from home, which we managed to sell. Though we did connect with various Christians, some of the churches and missionaries were trying to use our voice in a way we didn’t like; they were placing us in positions to  “sell” our story, which we found distasteful. This is not a publicity project – it is our life. We decided to trust God and after the opportunity came to publish the book, we have had several speaking engagements and have been able to sustain ourselves through the book sales. We have also been able to study further through financial aid and scholarships. It has not been easy, but we are tough and we serve a strong God who helps us. 

You are rebuilding a new life, without the support and proximity of your beloved family. How do you stay faith-filled and positive?
Maryam: Our life has many ups and downs; yet we are sure God has a plan; our lives are in His hands. It is not about our comfort; we trust His plans and His purpose. We have settled into a local church and made some good friends here. There are some lovely people (believers) who have tried to help us to understand and adapt to the culture in America. Every day has been a miracle of survival. A lovely couple gave us their apartment to live in rent-free for two years and that has been a big relief.

Marziyeh: Iran is our home and we love our country, but these days, we can’t go back and we have to look forward. If Iran became free, we would love to go home…and we hope that day will come. We don’t know what the future holds but He does…The Lord spoke to me in a dream where He told me that I need to be in America, so I must have peace.

What is Iran like today? Is it better under new leadership? The Western media seem to think so…
Maryam: Conditions have not changed at all since Ahmadinejad left and the new leader took over. The Western media have often proclaimed how moderate he is, but we believe It is just a mask and pretence. We believe the persecution of people in general has not changed and is even worsening. The number of people executed  is higher under the new president – he is deliberately misleading the West!
As a result, the younger generation is rebelling and pushing back. The government censors the internet, but people are finding ways around it. Many of the posts for freedom on Facebook have helped the Iranian people and social media definitely helps to further the cause of the oppressed Iranian women.

How often do you see your family? Are you able to return to Iran?
Marziyeh: My family still lives in Iran. We are concerned about the condition of their lives. After publishing the book, the Iranian government threatened our families, but we are hoping to bring them out to safety because the government wants to silence them. Fortunately, because of the publicity following my book, the authorities have kept their distance. Sadly, though we haven’t been able to see them and all our calls are monitored.  I don’t think we would be able to go back there without risking re-arrest.

How can people in the Western Church help women in Iran and other persecuted believers?
Maryam: We both believe there are many ways that Christians living in free countries can support those living under persecution. People have no freedom – they cannot choose how to think or worship God. There is no freedom of speech for those in Iran. They may end up in jail if they say anything against the government; we have seen many injustices and innocent people imprisoned. The government imprisons doctors, lawyers and journalists amongst others. We need to educate people. We can support the prisoners, through prayer and raising awareness of their conditions through campaigns. Prayer is great – Christians in Iran can feel the power of our prayers.

Practical offers of support
There are also practical ways to support them: sending letters to prisoners, working with Open Doors, posting on Facebook or Twitter – there are many ways to put pressure on the government. Travelling outside of the country helps to broaden your horizons. Other ways people can help include speaking in churches and raising awareness of conditions in Iran. People can purchase our book, which helps with our income and enables us to assist those still in Iran. Leaving our country was a burden, but we feel we are giving a voice to the people who are unable to speak out…and we have distributed 20 000 Bibles in Iran.
How do you feel about the future of Iran? Do you have hope?
Marziyeh: I remember when I was in prison and I could see every day how our young generation were suffering, my heart was really broken. I was praying and asking God why people are suffering every day; asking God when will it be finished in Iran and when will we have freedom?
God spoke to me in the dream. He told me, “I am giving the cruel people time to come back to me, to repent, to confess their sins. Otherwise I have to punish those cruel people”. I saw that God has His timeline. We want our freedom fast, but God is gracious and gives people time to return to God.

Maryam: We are praying for our country; for a change in leadership. We hope to see our country free, with people able to serve God freely. We pray for our families. I believe that we can see it (the freedom of Iran) one day in our lifetime. If you look at what is happening in the news, the Iranian people are tired of the Islamic rules. They are so receptive and hungry for the message of salvation. God is good and His will triumphs.

Captive In Iran can be purchased at CUM Books or to contact Open Doors for further information call 011 888 9341