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Following Armenian’s Execution, This is Not the Time to Chop Program that Rescues Christians

Washington, D.C. (April 8, 2011) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that a U.S. program that rescues persecuted Christians from Iran may end as Congress debates major cuts in the congressional budget. The program is set to be chopped just days after reports surfaced that an Armenian Christian and his Jewish wife were executed in Tehran.

The Lautenberg Amendment was established in 1989 to offer U.S. refugee status to persecuted Jews and Christians from the former Soviet Union and was expanded in 2003 to assist Christians, Baha’is and Jews in Iran. Without the program, persecuted Christians and other religious minorities in Iran will be denied the opportunity to apply for the same refugee status in the U.S. that is offered to persecuted religious minorities throughout the world.

The program was not included in any resolutions that carried over into the new year and its renewal has been delayed due to the current budget standoff in the U.S. Congress. Furthermore, Rep. Lamar Smith, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, has proposed overseeing all existing immigration related programs prior to being passed by Congress, meaning that the program will suffer further deferment, delay and possible rejection by the committee. Since its enactment 22 years ago, this noncontroversial humanitarian program has received nothing but widespread support in Congress.

As the program’s renewal hangs on a thread, persecution in Iran increases. On March 14, a Jewish-Armenian couple and three others were secretly executed in Tehran’s Evin Prison. Moreover, Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani awaits the same fate after being convicted of apostasy last September and issued the death sentence by hanging. Without the Lautenberg Amendment, imprisonments and executions of Iranian Christians and other religious minorities will heighten.  

Aidan Clay, ICC Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, “Without the assurance of the Lautenberg amendment, Iranian Christians who have fled to neighboring countries face potential deportation back to Iran. For them, returning to Iran means immediate imprisonment, and potential execution, upon arrival. This program assures religious minorities that their applications to receive refuge in the U.S. from religious persecution will be reviewed and processed. We urge the U.S. Congress, particularly Representative Lamar Smith, to save countless lives by immediately renewing the Lautenberg amendment.”

Please call Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, to express your concern: (202) 225-4236