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Christmas is a season where we prepare to gather with friends and family, and our brothers and sisters in Christ. Amid the rush and busyness, it's easy to forget that many do not enjoy the freedoms we take for granted. As much as we fear our own freedoms are being eroded, it's unlikely we'll be beaten, imprisoned, brutalized, or face gross injustices simply because of our faith.
This holiday season, let's remember in prayer those brothers and sisters who celebrate Christmas under threat of death or jail time. Attacks on Christians have increased throughout the fall of 2013 in many countries including Nigeria, Somalia, Kenya, Pakistan, Egypt, Syria, Tanzania, Iraq, Bangladesh, and others. Of course, this is vastly under-reported to authorities and by global media. We never hear of the daily persecution or threats Christians face, of those who are forced to flee -- those who need to leave for their own safety and lack the funds to buy even a bus ticket.
Iran Registered churches exist in Iran, but are forbidden to allow people from a Muslim background to attend their services. Some of these registered churches held services in Persian, so it was possible a Muslim could be present at a service and understand the message. The last of the Persian-speaking evangelical churches in Iran was shut down a few weeks ago. The pastor was arrested and forced to flee Iran.
Now the remaining Christian churches in Iran only conduct services in Armenian and Assyrian and these languages are not understood by the vast majority of Iranians. Despite the persecution, many store owners in Iran sell Christmas decorations because of the number of Christians who celebrate in the privacy of their homes.