Iran persecutes religious minorities

By February 25, 2009

Iran (MNN) — Iran is fighting off accusations of
persecuting the small sect of the Baha'i. The
government arrested seven leaders of the Baha'i community nine months ago. 

The group went to prison, and access to legal counsel was denied. In a pattern true to form, the Iranian
government has since charged them with espionage.

At the same time, according to Compass Direct, the case is
still open against two converts from Islam: Jamal Galishorani and his wife,
Nadereh Jamali.

Although they were arrested January 21, they have been
released on bail, but there's been no word on formal charges. 

That's not necessarily a good thing. Iranian Christians and
rights agencies have feared that they could be charged with "apostasy," or
leaving Islam — potentially punishable by execution in the Shia Islamic

What concerns
ministries about this situation is that even though the government seems to be eying
the Baha'i right now, it won't be long before they turn their attention against

Paul Estabrooks, minister-at-large for Open Doors
says believers are already in the crucible, and the heat is expected
to intensify. "They're subject to
incredible pressure. First of all, they
have to operate under complete secrecy. Then when they are discovered–which
has happened quite frequently in this past year, their punishment is

In 2008, there were 73 documented arrests of Christians in
Iran. A source working closely with churches noted that "with elections coming
this year, there will be more arrests. The
regime rules through fear, and they want Christians to be afraid."

Estabrooks says though small, the church is vibrant. "I
spent some time with a group of young people from the Iranian church. I was
just impressed with their passion for sharing Christ. They are not worried.
Their desire is to see people come to Christ."

Pray for strength for those who come to Christ despite the
threats they may face. "The good
thing we know about increased persecution is that there is concern, and
rightfully so, that the church is growing very quickly in Iran."

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