Damaris Kremida/Compass Direct News

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In Iran, government halts Farsi worship

ISTANBUL, Turkey (BP) — Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence has ordered the last two officially registered churches holding Friday Farsi-language services in Tehran to discontinue them. Emmanuel Protestant Church and St. Peter’s Evangelical Church were the last two official churches offering services on Fridays in Tehran in Iran’s primary language, according to Middle East Concern (MEC). […]

UPDATE: Iranian pastor told to recant or die

ISTANBUL (BP) -- A pastor in Iran sentenced to death for refusing to recant his faith may have to wait another year in prison for a ruling on whether the sentence will be upheld, according to sources.

Harassment of Turkish Christians continues

ISTANBUL, Turkey (BP)--Though the horrific murders of three employees of a Bible publishing firm in Malatya, Turkey, in 2007 have not been replicated, a report by the Turkish Association of Protestant Churches contends that harassment continues to be a daily problem for Protestant Christians and churches in the country.

After long legal battle, Christian men found not guilty of ‘insulting Turkishness’

ISTANBUL, Turkey (BP)--After four years of legal battle in Turkey, a judge has acquitted two Christians of "insulting Turkishness" by spreading Christianity, but not without levying a hefty fine against them on another charge ...

Turkish Christians plan appeal of fine

ISTANBUL (BP)--The lawyer representing two Turkish Christians fined for "illegal collection of funds" plans to take the case to a European court because he fears the court-ordered fine sets a crippling precedent for churches.

2 Christians to be tried for ‘insulting Turkishness’

ISTANBUL, Turkey (BP)--Turkey's decision to try two Christians under a revised version of a controversial law for "insulting Turkishness" has cast a cloud over the country's record of freedom of speech and religion.       A Turkish court received a go-ahead Feb. 24 from the Ministry of Justice to try Christians Turan Topal and Hakan Tastan under the revised Article 301 law that has sparked outrage among free speech proponents because journalists, writers, activists and lawyers have been tried under it. The court had sent the case to the Ministry of Justice after the government on May 8, 2008, put into effect a series of changes -– which critics have called "cosmetic" -– to the law.       The justice ministry decision came as a surprise to Topal and Tastan and their lawyer, as missionary activities are not illegal in Turkey. Defense lawyer Haydar Polat said no concrete evidence of insulting Turkey or Islam has emerged since the case first opened two years ago.       "The trial will continue from where it left off -– to be honest, we thought they wouldn't give permission [for the case to continue]," Polat said, "because there was no persuasive evidence of 'degrading Turkishness and Islam' in the case file."       A Ministry of Justice statement claimed that approval to try the case came in response to the original statement by three young men -- Fatih Kose, Alper Eksi and Oguz Yilmaz -- that Topal and Tastan were conducting missionary activities in an effort to show that Islam was a primitive and fictitious religion that results in terrorism, and to portray Turks as a "cursed people."       Prosecutors have yet to produce any evidence indicating the defendants described Islam in these terms, and Polat said Turkey's constitution grants all citizens freedom to choose, be educated in and communicate their religion, making missionary activities legal.       "This is the point that really needs to be understood," Polat said.

Egyptian court: Muslim father gets custody of Christian boys

ISTANBUL, Turkey (BP)--Following a decision by the Appeal Court of Alexandria in Egypt to grant custody of 13-year-old Coptic Christian twins to their Muslim father, their mother lives with the fear that police will take away her children at any moment.       Kamilia Gaballah has fought with her ex-husband Medhat Ramses Labib over custody and alimony support of sons Andrew and Mario in 40 different cases since he left her and converted to Islam so that he could remarry in 1999.       The court ruled in favor of Labib Sept. 24 in spite of an Egyptian law (Article 20), which grants custody of children to their mothers until the age of 15, and a fatwa (religious ruling) from Egypt's most respected Islamic scholar, Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa, giving her custody.       "This decision was dangerous because it was not taken in accordance with Egyptian law but according to sharia [Islamic] law," said Naguib Gobraiel, Gaballah's lawyer and president of the Egyptian Union of Human Rights Organizations.       The lawyer told Compass Direct News that Egypt's civic code calls for children under the age of 15 to stay with their mother regardless of their religion, whereas sharia tends to favor the Muslim parent in such cases.       "They want to stay with their mother," Gobraiel said. "They don't know anything about Islam and sharia. They are Christians and go to church on Sundays."       The twins have publicly stated their faith, and during a test in a mandatory religious class two years ago they scribbled only, "I am a Christian" on their answer sheets and otherwise turned them in blank. The twins intend to go on a hunger strike if they are forced to live with their Muslim father, whom they hardly know, sources told Compass Direct.       "We only want one thing," Gobraiel said. "We want the law to be applied in our cases like this one, not the sharia, because the government owes us citizenship. This is a civilized, secular country, not a religious country."       The decision of the presiding judge, El Sayed El Sherbini, to give the father full custody is not even based on sharia but is purely arbitrary, Gaballah and her eldest son George Medhat Ramses contended, since the country's State Mufti had granted custody to the mother in April 2006.       "We don't want to give them to anyone or comply with the sentence" ...