Another Protestant pastor has been killed in Iran, the fourth to be murdered since January 1994. According to Iranian Christian groups in the West, Mohammed Bagher Yusefi, a 34-year-old Assemblies of God pastor, was found dead September 28 in northwest Iran. Local authorities discovered Yusefi's body hanged on a tree near his home in the province of Mazandaran.
Yusefi converted to Christianity from Islam a decade ago and was known by the Christian name Ravanbakhsh, which means "soul giver" in Farsi. Under Iran's strict Islamic regime, apostasy or abandoning Islam is a crime punishable by death.
The Great Britain-based Elam Ministries reported that Yusefi had left his house at 6 a.m. to pray in a forest but never returned. Iranian sources told the Colorado Springs-based Iranian Christians International that Yusefi had been detained by local police prior to his death.
"There can hardly be any doubt that [Yusefi] has been martyred because he was a Christian leader from a Muslim background," asserted a statement from Elam Ministries.
Yusefi, who studied theology at the Garden of Sharon Bible School in Karaj, pastored churches in the cities of Sari, Gorgan, and Ghaem-Shahr. According to Iranian Christians International, the three congregations were all underground churches that had been officially closed by the government's Ministry of Islamic Guidance. Friends described Yusefi as a "gifted evangelist" who wrote many indigenous Christian songs. Yusefi is survived by his wife, Akhtar; a daughter, 9; and a son, 7.
Yusefi had ties to several other ministers who were recently murdered in Iran. He was appointed to become a pastor in 1990 by Haik Hovsepian-Mehr, an Assemblies of God superintendent murdered in January 1994 (CT, March 7, ...1