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ICC Note:

Police raids happen often in Iran during the Christmas season, explains one Christian convert who was arrested in 2012 and sentenced to 44 months in prison. He recalls how they would decorate the house, but made sure the decorations were generic, so that if a raid occurred they could say they had simply gathered to celebrate a birthday. Celebrating Christmas while a prisoner was an especially challenging time for him. While it is unknown how many Christians suffered imprisonment because of their faith during this Christmas season, we can know that their situation is incredibly difficult and dangerous.

 

12/28/17 Iran (World Watch Monitor) –  Because converting away from Islam is illegal in Iran, house churches meet in secret and Chrismas is an “inner celebration” that takes place in people’s hearts, explains Mojtaba Hosseini, who became a Christian as an adult. He remembers one year when he and other members of their small congregation decorated the house and shared some food together. But they made sure the decorations were not Christmas-themed. “If police carried out a raid – which often happens at that time of year – we could say we were celebrating a birthday.”

In February 2012 the police raided his house church meeting and later that year he and another member were sentenced to 44 months in prison. Mojtaba was found guilty of ‘disrupting national security’ and ‘propaganda against the regime’, which related not only to his leading a house church but also to evangelism and contact with Christians outside Iran. After three years he was released from Shiraz prison on parole.

“Christmas had always been an inside celebration for me, so inside the prison I could celebrate it just the same. I would feel the joy of liberation in my heart,” which, he said, the government “is never, ever able to quench” despite separation from his family, interrogations he endured, uncertainty about the future, and sharing in a cell with “men who had committed the most terrible crimes”.

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For interviews with Claire Evans, ICC’s Regional Manager, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: [email protected].