07/20/2022 Iran (International Christian Concern) – In the Muslim-dominated state of Iran, courts have recently targeted four more Christians for house-church activities. One Christian victim is Rahmat Rostamipour. Authorities arrested him in April. During his initial arrest, government agents seized his family’s phones, ID cards, tablets used for school, and other personal belongings. They also interrogated his wife for hours the next day. Two months ago in May, the courts sentenced him to five years of deprivation of social rights and a fine of 6 million tomans for “engaging in educational activities contrary to the holy religion of Islam by establishing house-churches.” This punishment is relatively light but still labels Rahmat with a criminal record and deprives him of a month’s worth of wages via the fine.
In another, even more proximate case, three Christian house-church members are standing trial today, on July 19, for a crime that they have already been convicted of. In their previous trial, the three men, Ahmad Sarparast, Morteza Mashoodkari, and Ayoob Poor-Rezazadeh, were sentenced to five years in prison. The crime in both their previous and present trials and for which they face significant jail time is “engaging in propaganda and education of deviant beliefs contrary to the holy Sharia.” The three men argued in a July 5 hearing that they “reserve the right to have a place for prayer and collective worship.”
Though Iran’s constitution does recognize Christianity as a minority faith in the country, authorities do not recognize the Christianity of converts. These converts are not allowed to attend the churches of established Christian communities, such as Armenian and Assyrian Christians, leaving them with nowhere to gather for communal worship and prayer other than house-churches. But the unsanctioned nature of these house churches makes them vulnerable to government persecution, labeling them as offensive to Islam and a threat to national security. We pray that Christian house churches in Iran would find relief from the harsh persecution that they presently face and that members of house churches threatened with legal repercussions would find justice.
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