Information from Elam Ministries:
Another Iranian Christian
pays the ultimate price

 
"Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that
they might gain a better resurrection... they were stoned;
they were sawn in two; they were put to death by the sword...
the world was not worthy of them."

       --Hebrews 11: 37-38.

Iranian Assemblies of God pastor Mohammad Bagher Yusefi has been 
found dead in a forest near his home city of Sari, the capital of 
the north western Iranian province Mazandaran. Mohammad Yusefi left 
his house at 6 o'clock in the morning on Saturday 28th September 
for prayer and never returned. Later that evening his family were 
contacted by the local authorities who said his body had been 
discovered hanging from a tree.  Although the authorities say they 
are investigating Yusefi's death, there can hardly be any doubt 
that he has been martyred because he was a Christian leader from 
a Muslim background. Mohammad Yusefi was the pastor of the Assemblies
of God churches in Mazandaran, and had recently been responsible for 
seeing the church grow in size in the city of Gorgan. Mohammad Yusefi 
had also raised two sons of Rev. Mehdi Dibaj while he was in prison 
for 9 years because he refused to deny his faith in Christ.

Sixty year old Rev. Dibaj was released after an international campaign, 
but was murdered three months later in similar circumstances.  Yusefi's 
body is expected to be released by the authorities today and a Christian 
funeral is planned for Saturday 5th October. 

Thirty four year old Mohammad Bagher Yusefi, was born in a Muslim family, 
but became a Christian as a young man. He was a very committed Christian,
a gifted evangelist and pastor. He became known as Ravanbakhsh which in 
Persian means "Soul Giver". Those who knew him were especially struck by 
his gentleness and humility. He loved music and wrote many indigenous 
Mazandarani Christian songs. 

Mohammad Bagher Yusefi leaves behind his wife, Akhtar, who is also a
committed Christian from a Muslim background, and two children, a 
daughter Ramsina aged 9 and a son, Stephen aged 7.  Akhtar became a 
Christian under the ministry of Rev. Hossein Soodmand who was martyred 
in 1990. The grieving family will be comforted by the prayers of 
Christians around the world as this sad news reaches them. 

According to strict Islamic law Muslims who change their religion 
should be killed. Mohammad Bagher Yusefi is the seventh Christian 
leader to be killed in Iran since the 1979 revolution. At the 
beginning of the revolution the Anglican Church, which was mainly 
made up of converts from Islam was attacked.  Rev. Sayyah the priest 
in Shiraz had his throat cut, and Bahram Deghani-Tafti, the son of 
the Anglican bishop, was shot. More recently Islamic hostility to 
Christianity has concentrated on the Assemblies God churches as 
Muslims are becoming Christians in their churches. In December 1990 
Rev. Soodmand, the leader of the church in Mashad, was executed by 
hanging in a prison in Mashad and then in January 1994 Bishop Haik 
Hovsepian Mehr and in July, the same year, Rev. Mehdi Dibaj were 
killed. Also in that year the sixty-two year old leader of the 
Presbyterian church, Rev. Tateos Michaelian, was murdered after 
taking over Bishop Hovsepian's position as Chairman of the Protestant 
Council of Ministers.

Though grieving at the moment the leaders of the church in Iran are
determined to continue the work of preaching the Gospel. They fully 
believe the words of the great early church leader, Tertullian, "that 
the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church" and are expecting 
the church to grow. 

With a population of over 65 million and influence over much of the 
Middle East and Central Asia, Iran represents a great challenge to the 
world-wide  church.

Though small and living in constant danger of persecution, the church 
in Iran has been a faithful witness. Since the 1979  Islamic Revolution 
Iranians have become responsive to the Gospel and many have become 
Christians. 

The martyrdom of Mohammad Bagher Yusefi echoes a Macedonian call 
to Christians around the world to partner Iranian Christians in 
proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ by all possible means to the 
Persian Speaking World.


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