Iran (MNN) — Just last week, September 9th, Iran's parliament voted in overwhelming favor of a bill that mandates the death penalty for apostasy.
There were 196 votes in favor, seven against the bill and two abstentions, according to Christians Solidarity Worldwide. Just days before the vote, two Christian men, Mahmood Matin-Azad and Arash Basirat, were charged with apostasy.
The two men are Christian converts from Islam. They have been detained since May 15, 2008
and are still awaiting their penalty.
Currently, apostasy is a capital offense. However, judges are free to decide what
penalty will be given. The bill will be debated from this point forward and will possibly be voted on again later. Glenn Penner of Voice of the Martyrs Canada said there is no set deadline or plan of action.
"Certainly we knew this law had been originally introduced earlier this year, and all of a sudden it just popped up again. It depends on what kind of pressure is being put on the legislators from various, particularly clerical, sources. So if someone feels this needs to be passed quickly, it will be passed quickly. If someone decides for some odd reason that it's not a priority, we may never see it again," he said.
Penner has little optimism that the bill will find difficulty in becoming law. "I
don't think that there's going to be a great deal of opposition in Iran, at least in the Parliament, to such a law. There's certainly not a strong opposition to any sort of laws that would be hindering the imposition of Sharia law in Iran."
Penner said, however, that he is optimistic that if the law is passed it will not affect evangelism directly. "It's not so much evangelism that would lead to the death penalty as those who would be accepting Christ could potentially then be hit with apostasy laws. So you know, to become a Christian in Iran is dangerous at the best of times, but I'm not convinced that this would stop somebody from becoming a Christian."
Iran is ranked third on Open Doors' World Watch list for countries with the worst persecution of Christians. The last death execution of a Christian charged for leaving Islam was August 21, 2008.