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Pastor Mohammed Bajher Yusefi, affectionately known by his flock as "Ravanbaksh" (soul giver), was slain on Saturday September 28, 1996.

Remember those in prison, as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. Hebrews 13:3, NIV

Pastor Mohammed Bajher Yusefi, affectionately known by his flock as "Ravanbaksh" (soul giver), was slain on Saturday September 28, 1996. Pastor Yusefi had left his house in Sari at 6 a.m. to spend time in prayer, but he never returned. The Iranian authorities notified the family later that evening that his body had been found hanging from a tree in a nearby forest.

The 35-year-old pastor converted from Islam at the age of 24. After attending Bible school, he entered into full-time ministry and became pastor of the Assembly of God churches in Sari, Gorgan, and Shahr in the province of Mazandaran.

Pastor Yusefi is survived by his wife, Akhtar, who also is from a Muslim background, his 7-year-old son Stephen, and his 9-year-old daughter Ramsina. He had also raised the two sons of Rev. Mehdi Dibaj while he was in prison for 9 years, because he too had refused to deny his faith in Christ and return to Islam. Three months after Mehdi Dibaj was released from prison in June 1994, Mehdi was abducted and later found dead.

Pastor Yusefi is the fifth Christian leader in recent years to have been martyred in Iran. In addition to Mehdi Dibaj, also murdered in 1994 were Rev. Tateos Mikaelian and Rev. Haik Hovsepian-Mehr. In 1990, Rev. Hossein Soodmand was martyred. The persecution of evangelical Christians in Iran is wide-spread. Converts to Christianity are especially targeted and are arrested and tortured because of their faithfulness to Christ.

Iranian Martyrs of Church Leaders

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.

"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.

Martyred and Imprisoned Iranian ChristiansMartyred & Imprisoned Christian Leaders in Iran

  • A Documentary Film on the Untold Story of Religious Freedom In Iran
  • 2010 - Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani - Gilan, Iran - Sentenced to be executed on 10/24/2010 for Apostasy
  • 2010 - October - a young believer has died in Iran after he had been severely beaten by a relative who objected to his strong faith in Christ. He leaves behind a wife and two young children. (Reported by Elam)
  • 2010 - September 23, Nine followers of Jesus were detained in Hamedan, the capital of Hamadan province, on charges of evangelism, which potentially carriesthe death penalty under strict laws in Iran.
  • 2010 - July 24 at 9:00 p.m., 27-year-old Neshan Saeedi was spending a quiet evening at home with his wife and young daughter when plain-clothes security forces entered his house and arrested him. The security officers searched the home and seized personal belongings such as a computer, CDs containing films of Christian seminars and teachings, Christian books and Bibles, and family photo albums. As of September 09, 2010 - there is no information about the condition of Neshan.
  • 2010 - July 18, 15 Christians detained in Mashhad,Iran's second largest city, remain detained and are "under pressure pressure to recant their faith but are refusing to do so." - (Reported by The Voice of the Martyrs)
  • 2010 - April 29, Ali Golchin (29), has been held in solitary confinement in Tehran's Evin prison since he was arrested in his home town of Varamin on April 29. After weeks of appealing to the authorities, Ali's father was finally allowed access to him on June 17 -- though they were allowed only 10 minutes together. Ali was released on bail on July 25.
  • 2009 - October, Pastor Behrouz Sadegh-Khandjani - Held in prison in Shiraz, Iran - has been given limited contact with his family and his attorney.
  • 2008 - In July 2008, An Iranian Christian Couple in their 60s (Abbas Amiri & Sakineh Rahnama) died from injuries sustained when secret police raided a house church service hosted at their house and severly beat them.
  • 2007 - On April 18 2007 three members of Malatya Church in Turkey were murdered; Pastor Necati Aydin, Tilmann Geske & Ugur Yuksel. The first martyrs of the modern Turkish Church.
  • 2007 - In June, a number of Iranian Christians have been arrested and are held in unknown places, including Mr. fard from Tehran.
  • 2007 - Mr. Patrick, an Iranian Christian and a member of Church of Kermanshah was arrested in May.
  • 2007 - Several Iranian Christians from Church of Mashhad were arrested in February.
  • 2006 - 14 Iranian Christians from Church of Rasht were arrested in December.
  • 2006 - Iranian secret police began to raid and arrest leaders of the Islamic republic's indigenous "Jesus Only" movement Sunday December 10, arriving unannounced in the early morning hours to search their homes in Tehran, Karaj, Rasht and Bandar-i Anzali.
  • 2005 - Pastor Ghorbandordi Tourani - Iranian House Church Leader murdered near his house in Gonbad-e Kavous - November 22
  • 2004 - Pastor Hamid Pourmand - arrested ... sentenced to 3 years in prison ... charged with apostasy ... acquitted of apostasy ...
  • 2004 - 80 Iranian Christians Arrested, September 2004
  • 2004 - Pastor Khosroo Yusefi and his family arrested by Iranian Police on Sunday May 23, 2004
  • 2003 - International Religious Freedom Report on Iran
  • 1996 - Rev. Bagher Yusefi - Church of Sari
  • 1994 - Rev. Tateos Mikaelian - Church of Tehran
  • 1994 - Rev. Mehdi Dibaj
  • 1994 - Bishop Haik Hovsepian - Church of Tehran
  • 1990 - Rev. Hossein Soodmand - Church of Mashhad
  • 1980s - Rev. Sayyah - Church of Shiraz
  • 1980s - Bahram Deghani-Tafti, the 1st martyre of the modern Iranian Church - Son of an Anglican Bishop Hassan Dehqani-Tafti
Iranian Muslims Turn to Christ Despite Threat, Persecution!

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