Iranian believers continue to face persecution

By February 11, 2009

Iran (MNN) — International Christian Concern notes that the crackdown on Christians in Iran is expected to increase this year. ICC reports a quote from Compass Direct News: "In 2008, there were 73 documented arrests of Christians in Iran."

Sources told Compass that charges against converts from Islam Jamal Galishorani and his wife Nadereh Jamali were still unknown; the two were recently released on bail with an open case. International human rights agencies and Iranian believers fear a ruling of apostasy — the act of leaving Islam — which is potentially punishable by execution. Another Iranian believer, incarcerated since August 2007, could also face charges of apostasy.

"The pressure is continuous," one source told Compass. "In the past, it came and went in waves." The arrest of the Galishoranis, who were said to have Bible studies in their home, is believed to be part of the increased persecution against Iran's Christians.

Mahmoude Azadeh, a 55-year-old Iranian Christian, was first arrested in June 2007 and now faces a possible charge of apostasy. He is expected to learn of exact charges tomorrow at a Mashhad court hearing. Charges could also include forming a Christian house group and propagating Christianity. Incarcerated since August 2007, Azadeh spent two months in solitary confinement. He and five others were arrested when security agents raided his house church in Nishapur; the five were released shortly after.

"With elections coming up this year, there will be more arrests," said the source. "The regime rules through fear, and they want Christians to be afraid."

The Iranian government is still debating an acceptance of proposed legislation which makes the death penalty mandatory for apostasy. Formerly, death sentences for apostasy were issued only under judicial interpretations of Islamic law. The new penal code proposes a mandatory death penalty for men who leave Islam; women convicted of apostasy would receive life in prison at most. The Iranian Parliament approved this legislation last September, and the code awaits consent from the Guardian Council.

Six conservative theologians appointed by Iran's Supreme Leader and six jurists approved by Parliament comprise the Guardian council. Pray for God's work among the council so that this proposed code wouldn't pass into law.

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