A 65-year-old Iranian woman who converted from Islam to Christianity was sentenced to prison last week, charged with “propaganda against the system” and “acting against national security.”
Mahrokh Kanbari was sentenced two days after she appeared before the Islamic Revolutionary Court in Karaj near Tehran. Friends of Kanbari who were in attendance said that the judge was rude to the defendant and humiliated her when she tried to defend herself.
On Christmas Eve 2018, three agents from Iranian intelligence raided the home of Kanbari and confiscated mobile phones, Bibles and other Christian materials.
Kanbari was then taken to intelligence offices and subjected to 10 days of intensive interrogation from morning to evening, to the distress of family and friends who thought that she would have been shown greater respect on account of her age.
Kanbari was released after submitting bail of 30 million Iranian toman (approximately $2,500).
In January, she was brought before the prosecutor to answer charges and was told by the authorities to go to a mullah to be instructed on returning to Islam.
According to International Christian Concern, Kanbari’s arrest is part of “a continued downward trend of religious freedom for Christians in Iran,” adding, “The officially Islamic government views Christianity as an inherent national security threat.”
In May, Iranian courts upheld the prison sentences of Christian converts Saheb Fadaie and Fatemeh Bakhteri, both of whom had also been found guilty of “spreading propaganda against the regime.” They were asked by presiding judges Hassan Babaee and Ahmad Zargar to renounce their faith but refused to do so.
Fadaie and Bakhteri were both involved in house churches. Fadaie was sentenced to 18 months in prison and given two years in internal exile in Nehbandan, a remote area close to the border with Afghanistan; Bakhteri was sentenced to 12 months. In delivering their sentences, the court equated discussions of Christian doctrine in house churches as an attack on Islam.
Eight Christians were arrested in Rasht in February on charges of breaching national security. Their case gained significance in that five of the Christians insisted on using a private lawyer, Moshgani Farahani. The remaining Christians — Hossein Kadivar, Kamal Naamanian and Mohammed Vafada — decided to represent themselves in court.
Upon hearing of the petition for private lawyers, the judge assigned the case reportedly flew into a rage and stopped the hearing. He ordered two of the prisoners, Pastor Matias Hagnejad and Shahrooz Eslamdous, to be transferred to Evin Prison in Tehran which has a reputation for the worst abuses towards Christians. The other three prisoners were transported to an unknown location.
By eliminating the right of minorities to select their own attorney, particularly when facing politically motivated charges, Iran has taken a significant step backward from their own constitution, which gives people the right to select their own attorney.
Furthermore, Article 13 of the Constitution of Iran states: “Zoroastrian, Jewish, and Christian Iranians are the only recognized religious minorities, who, within the limits of the law, are free to perform their religious rites and ceremonies, and to act according to their own canon in matters of personal affairs and religious education.”
“Many more are being punished for adopting a religion of their choice, which is protected under Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is party,” observed Christian Solidarity Worldwide Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas. “Moreover, the effective designation of Christian doctrine as an attack on Islam amounts to the criminalization of the Christian faith.”
Open Doors ranks Iran as ninth worst for Christian persecution on its 2019 World Watch List:
The Iranian government suppresses Christianity in fear that it might replace the Islamic way of life. Under sharia (Islamic) law, Christians who evangelize to Muslims can be thrown in prison or have their churches closed. Christian media is monitored by the government and believers using such websites or channels are tracked down. Despite this, the church in Iran continues to grow.
“Christians are forbidden from sharing their faith with non-Christians,” an Open Doors fact sheet on Iran reads. “Therefore, church services in Persian, the national language, are not allowed. Converts from Islam face persecution from the government; if they attend an underground house church, they face the constant threat of arrest.”
U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo hosted the second Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom in Washington on July 16–18.
According to the State Department’s website: “The Ministerial reaffirmed international commitments to promote religious freedom for all and focus on concrete outcomes that produce durable, positive change. A broad range of stakeholders convened to discuss challenges, identify concrete ways to combat religious persecution and discrimination and ensure greater respect for freedom of religion or belief.”
“The protection of religious freedom is central to the Trump administration’s foreign policy, and protecting this human right is an essential part of who we are as Americans,” declared Pompeo.
But PJ Media ends its coverage of Kanbari’s imprisonment by asking two questions:
Why isn’t the West inviting these [Iranian] Christians to come on over? These people aren’t safe in their own country, they’re truly persecuted … and when they come to Europe or the United States, they’ll almost certainly quickly adapt.
How strange that the left isn’t talking about them, isn’t it?
Iranian Christians, through International Christian Response, request prayer for those who recently attended court hearings and for those who are still in detention waiting to be summoned to court.
They ask for prayers that:
– The name of Jesus Christ will be honored in the court hearings and the Gospel faithfully represented.
– God will encourage those who have attended or will be attending court hearings and know His peace and strength without fear or anxiety.
– The judges will judge righteously as accountable to God and remember the commitment of Iran to uphold religious freedom.
Source » churchmilitant