We are happy to report the release of two Christians who faced long prison sentences due to their Christian faith.
Maryam Naghash Zargaran was released from prison on August 1. Maryam was arrested in January 2013 due to her involvement with underground churches. She was charged with “violating national security” and sentenced to four years in prison. In her conviction letter, the court clearly stated that her punishment was linked to her attempts to spread Christianity in Iran.
Maryam suffers from an array of health problems such as heart disease, lumbar disc disease, and osteoporosis. Many times in prison, she was denied medical care. She went on multiple hunger strikes to protest this ill treatment. The medical leave that she was allowed to take, resulted in a six-week extension of her sentence in order to make up for her time away. Even as her final release date of July 28 came, she was held four days more for unknown reasons. Maryam was finally released on August 1.
Nguyen Cong Chinh was released from prison on July 28. He is an evangelical pastor, founder of the Vietnamese People’s Evangelical Fellowship, and pro-democracy activist. Pastor Chinh was arrested in April 2011 and sentenced in June 2012 to 11 years in prison for ‘undermining national unity.’ While in prison he faced torture and solitary confinement. While Chinh was in prison, his wife was also monitored, harassed, and physically beaten by government officials.
His wife traveled and worked tirelessly to advocate for Chinh’s release. On July 28, he was released from prison on the condition of the Vietnamese regime that he leave the country. Exiled, he left Vietnam and is now in the United States.
“The Vietnamese government finally has done the right thing by releasing Pastor Chinh from prison. We welcome his admission, along with his family, to the United States. The reality is that he should not have been imprisoned in the first place for simply practicing his faith,” said USCIRF Commissioner Jackie Wolcott, who has advocated on behalf of the pastor. “Pastor Chinh was falsely charged and imprisoned and treated cruelly, as are countless other religious believers and human rights activists who continue to be harassed, detained, and tortured in Vietnam.”
We praise God for the release of these two faithful Christians! Please continue to pray for our brothers and sisters around the world who remain in chains.