News

Nasser Navard Gol-Tapeh: ‘I am in prison because of my faith in Jesus Christ’

Nasser Navard Gol-Tapeh: ‘I am in prison because of my faith in Jesus Christ’

Nasser Navard Gol-Tapeh, a Christian convert serving a 10-year sentence in Tehran’s Evin prison for “acting against national security through the establishment of house churches”, says: “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.”

Nasser, who was sentenced in May 2017 by Judge Mashallah Ahmadzadeh, head of Branch 26 of the Islamic Revolution Court in Tehran, has written an open letter to the officials of the government and the judiciary, raising three fundamental questions:

“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?”

Nasser was sentenced under Article 498 of the Islamic Penal Code, which stipulates that crimes against national security can be punished with up to ten years’ imprisonment.

After his appeal failed, Nasser’s lawyer, Hussein Ahmadi-Niyaz, told Article18: “There has been no confession, neither is there any evidence that they wanted to overthrow or undermine the security of the state.

“Throughout their interrogation process these detained Christians have emphasised that their relationship had purely a religious nature. They prayed together and spoke about the Bible.”

Nasser, who turned 57 last week, was first arrested in June 2016 alongside three Azerbaijanis at a private gathering. All four Christians were detained for over four months, including two months each in solitary confinement, before they were released after paying bail of 100 million tomans each (around $35,000). 

The Azerbaijanis returned to their homes and families after their release and will not be forced to return to Iran to serve their sentences. But on 30 January 2017, after three months on bail, Nasser was taken to Tehran’s Evin Prison to begin his sentence.

In his letter, Nasser, added: “I bless those who have persecuted me and put me in jail” and “I thank God in perfect joy and peace for considering me worthy to be here because of my faith in and witness to Jesus Christ”.

He also thanked the Christians all around the world who have prayed for him, writing: “I sincerely thank all my brothers and sisters in Christ who give me grace by helping me and offering prayers, which are like a pleasing fragrance to God.”

********************

Nasser’s letter

Thanks be to God, who in His wonderful mercy calls us to a new life in Jesus Christ for a living and lasting hope; the Father of all things good, whose name is holy.

It is written in his holy book:

“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted.” (Romans 13: 1-2)

My question to the authorities, judges and interrogators from the Ministry of Intelligence, who are the eyes of the ruling authority in my country, is this: 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?

As the charges against me in my indictment states: ‘Action against national security through the establishment of house churches’, 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?

But I praise God that He has turned all things into a blessing. This will serve to further advance the gospel. Therefore, first of all, 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. Secondly, I thank God in perfect joy and peace for considering me worthy to be here because of my faith in and witness to Jesus Christ. I trust the almighty God who is able to bring the dead to life, and I eagerly await His return. He can preserve me and keep me firm.

I sincerely thank all my brothers and sisters in Christ who give me grace by helping me and offering prayers, which are like a pleasing fragrance to God. I continuously remember them in my prayers. I know because of their prayers and the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit I will be delivered and will not be put to shame.

Servant of the Lord,

Nasser Navard

Evin Prison