Credit:Kara Gebhardt

We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labour prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thessalonians 1:3

“I am a follower of the great shepherd of the sheep, our Lord Jesus Christ, and I am ready to sacrifice my soul for my sheep. For me to escape from this persecution would cause the hearts of my flock to become cold and weak. And I never want to be a bad example for them. So I am ready to go to prison again and, if necessary, to give my life.”

This was Hossein’s response to the advice of an Iranian bishop that he should flee Iran, where his life was at risk as a convert from Islam to Christianity. He was the leader of a church that had been harassed and forced to close by the authorities, but Hossein continued to minister to the congregation, gathering them privately for teaching and encouragement.

In early 1990 Hossein was imprisoned, kept in solitary confinement and tortured. Churches campaigned for his release and after one month he was freed. It was at this point that Hossein was advised to leave Iran for his own safety, but he refused to abandon his flock.

Hossein was arrested again later in the year and given the choice either to renounce his Christian faith and the church he pastored, or else to be killed. He would not deny his faith so was hanged for apostasy under the sentence of a sharia court in Mashhad, Iran, on 3 December 1990. Hossein left a blind wife and four children. Cruelly, his wife was denied a last meeting with her husband before his death.

Hossein was actively involved in Christian ministry in Iran for 24 years before his martyrdom. His ministry included work for the Bible Society in Iran and also for the Christian Institute for the Blind, where he met his wife. Hossein was a fervent evangelist and became a church pastor, first in Isfahan and then in his home city of Mashhad. On several occasions he was told by Islamic mullahs to stop preaching Christ and return to Islam.

Lord, it belongs not to my care
Whether I die or live;
To love and serve Thee is my share,
And this Thy grace must give.

Christ leads me through no darker rooms
Than he went through before;
He that into God’s kingdom comes
Must enter by this door.

My knowledge of that life is small,
The eye of faith is dim;
But ‘tis enough that Christ knows all,
And I shall be with Him

Richard Baxter (1615-91)

Dr Patrick Sookhdeo is the International Director of Barnabas Fund and the Executive Director of the Oxford Centre for Religion and Public Life.