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11/12/2021 Iran (International Christian Concern) – Iranian Christians of Muslim backgrounds often face intense persecution following their conversion and even jail time. Yet Christians who decide to convert to Islam are received drastically differently by the government.

Christians who are not of Assyrian or Armenian descent but seek to participate in church are driven to house churches as their only option. And yet many converts, including Babak Hosseinzadeh, Behnam Akhlaghi, and Zaman Saheb Fadaie, are charged with “acting against national security” for their membership. Christian activity is viewed as a threat to national safety and undermining the regime.

Recent changes to the Iranian Penal Code allow for more severe legal discrimination against Christians. Article 499 imposes prison sentences and fines for insulting “divine religions or Islamic schools of thought recognized under the Constitutions with the intent to cause violence or tensions in the society.” Article 500 penalizes those who conduct “any deviant educational or proselytizing activity that contradicts or interferes with the sacred law of Islam.”

Contrasted with the conversion of a Christian man to Islam, the difference is quite stark. A 30-year-old man originally from Mauritius Island converted to Islam at Imam Reza holy shrine in northeast Iran. He shared his testimony, having learned about Islam growing up and by personal study. The Deputy Office for Foreign Pilgrims’ Affairs of Astan Quds Razav hosted the ceremony and celebrated the conversion, offering cultural gifts and a conversion certificate.

Christian converts remain heavily persecuted in Iran, facing heavy fines and prison sentences.

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