Iran apostasy law could be devastating for Muslim background believers

By September 25, 2008

Iran (MNN) — Thousands of protesters gathers outside the United Nations building in New York telling Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to go home. Organizers said the rally was a protest against Ahmadinejad's appearance before the General Assembly and Iran's nuclear ambitions, sponsorship of terrorism, and violation of human rights. Ahmadinejad has repeatedly denied the Holocaust and threatened Israel's destruction.

Now, Iran is threatening her own people through apostasy legislation. The new law hasn't been ratified yet, but it has received overwhelming approval by Iran's parliament. It would, for the first time, formally institute the death penalty for Muslims converting to Christianity.

Johan Candelin, the director of the Religious Liberty Commission of the World Evangelical Alliance, thinks he knows why this legislation was introduced. "During the last 10 years, more people have come to Christ in Iran than during the 100 years before that — especially among young people in universities. You have networks of unregistered house churches in almost every city in Iran, and it's spreading."

Candelin says this new law is a power grab. "I think somehow, some way, they see that they are losing control over the young generation. The young is not happy at all about practical things. Daily life in Iran is getting very expensive. [Iran's government] tries to control [people] any way they can, and probably this is one of the ways they try."

The United States, the United Kingdom, European Union and others have attempted to put pressure on the Iranians without success. Now, Candelin says, "We're also trying, behind the scenes, to contact Islamic scholars and have them contact the Iranian government saying that this is not according to the Koran. If scholars could find reasons in the Koran to say that this is not Islamic, then that would be surely something they would listen to."

However, there is great support for this legislation. If it's approved, Candelin says there's just one question that remains. "Will this be applied really, or is this just a way to scare Muslims not to change their religion."

I asked Candelin if he fears there will be a large number of Muslim-background believers facing the death penalty upon the law's ratification. "That's exactly what I'm afraid will happen. So, it's a very, very dangerous situation."

Ask God to intervene and to cause the law to fail.

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