IRAN PERSECUTING EX-MUSLIM CONVERTS TO CHRISTIANITY
TEHRAN (ChurchMilitant.com) – Nineteen prominent human rights groups are urging the United Nations and the world community to protect recent converts to Christianity in Iran. From May to August of 2016, 79 Christians were arrested for their faith, according to these human rights organizations.
“The majority of those arrested were interrogated and detained for periods ranging from a few days to months,” said a collection of human rights groups. “At the time of writing some of these 79 Christians remain in detention and have still not been formally charged.”
Church Militant reached out to Robert Spencer, founder and director of Jihad Watch, whose mission is “bringing public attention to the role that jihad theology and ideology play in the modern world and to correcting popular misconceptions about the role of jihad and religion in modern-day conflicts.”
In response to the current wave of persecution in Iran, Spencer told Church Militant, “The Rouhani regime is not moderate as is claimed in the Western press. It sees evangelical house churches as a threat to the state, since the state is constituted around Islam.”
Spencer went on to say, “Converts to Christianity from Islam are treated as if they were practically traitors because they’re rejecting the foundation of the state itself.”
Church Militant also reached out to Middle East Concern, an advocacy organization for persecuted Christians in the Middle East. Robert Duncan, regional manager told Church Militant concerning the spike in arrests:
This year, however, has been exceptional and I am receiving credible information that the numbers are even higher than in the report. Since the arrests are generally conducted by MOIS [Ministry Of Intelligence and Security] agents, one suspects that either someone within the intelligence agency or from above gave orders to concentrate on containing house churches or house groups prior to the wave of arrests.
When asked how Christians are responding to persecution, Duncan commented,
Christians are having to be even more careful, especially regarding meeting together. Those who have been arrested are struggling to come up with bail demands to be set free pending a court hearing. Some of those arrested are still waiting to hear what charges are being brought against them, despite weeks of interrogation and detention. Some, inevitably, have fled the country.
As to what Christians can do to help their persecuted brethren, Duncan remarked, “Informed prayer is the primary activity anyone can and should be engaged in. People can also write to their MPs/Foreign Office asking that Iran’s (appalling) human rights record be taken into account in discussions and that the rights of Christians in Iran not be ignored.”
Spencer also talked about how Christians are responding to the negative developments in Iran. “There is little to nothing they can do. All the power, including the judiciary, is arrayed against them. They have no recourse. All they can do is pray and hope for the best.”
He’s also repeating Duncan’s request for prayer for the persecuted Christians. “Keep them in prayer,” Spencer urged. Draw public awareness [to] their plight. Pressure the bishops and political officials to speak out rather than continue their shameful silence.”
Spencer said he’s unaware of any Vatican-led efforts to reach out to the underground Catholic community in Iran.
According to Christians in Parliament, a U.K. advocacy group dedicated to supporting Christian members of Parliament and their staff members, “Christians are often arrested in private homes following house raids and taken to detention centres or prison for interrogation.”
David Yeghnazar of Elam Ministries commented, “For every person who chooses to become a Christian in Iran, you live with the knowledge that the government is against you. And that’s the story that has continued to play out under Rouhani.”
A 12-year old boy recounted his story of persecution to Christians in Parliament, commenting
They gathered everything, including the computer. Before they gathered the things they took me to a room. One of them asked me, Where are the books that your family has been giving out? They asked me if I was a Christian. I said I was, and then they hit me, and said, You had no right to become a Christian.
Islam is the official state religion in Iran.