10/22/2021 Iran (International Christian Concern) – At a recent interfaith conference held in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, Iran’s representative, Zahra Rashidbeigi, failed to address Iran’s history of religious freedom violations. Iran has a well-documented record on this score; according to the Open Doors World Watch List on Christian persecution, Iran is the 8th worst country for Christian persecution. Christians in Iran who come from a Muslim background are most vulnerable to persecution, as their conversion is seen as undermining Iran’s Islamic regime.
Rather than addressing religious freedom at home, Iran’s remarks at the conference primarily confronted issues facing the world outside Iran. In a veiled critique of Western nations, Iran opined on phenomena mostly present in the West, including a move away from religious values, a split between science and religion, the destruction of sacred places, and the imposition of sanctions.
The conference that Iran spoke at was the 19th Session of the Secretariat of the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions. The interfaith conference featured a variety of representatives from world religions. Speakers came from 20 countries spanning the Middle East, Russia, United Kingdom, Central Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and East Asia. Discussions covered subjects including post-pandemic global development, the climate crisis, and the threat of religious fanaticism and extremism.
The interfaith congress will be taking place again next September 14-15, 2022 in Nur-Sultan. Time will tell whether Iran’s external messaging on religious freedom will come to match its internal affairs, particularly concerning the persecution of Christians in the nation.
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