Christians In Iran Punished Harshly for Drinking Communion Wine

In a country where 98 percent of Iranians are Muslim, it can be dangerous, and at times deadly, to be a Christian. For those who have converted from Islam to Christianity, life can be especially cruel. Take for example, the lives of these four men: Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, and Deacons Mohammadreza Omidi, Yasser Mossayebzadeh and Saheb Fadaie. They were sentenced to ten years in prison for what the Iranian government calls promoting Christianity.

According to the human rights organization, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), the men were arrested on May 13, 2016 while raids were being carried out on Christian homes by security service agents.

In 2010 Pastor Nadarkhani was sentenced to death by the Iranian government for apostasy. Two years later, he was released from prison after court officials acquitted him of the charges. He was later arrested for evangelizing but was released one year later. He is now one of four men sentenced to ten years in prison.

The 26th branch of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran charged all four men with “acting against national security.” This is a sentence that is used by the Iranian government to punish those who have different political or religious views, especially converts. The Iranian government will use this charge, instead of apostasy, to stay under the radar of human rights organizations who track the persecution of Christians. This also lessens their chances of being condemned by other countries.

While the number of Christians being arrested has decreased, the sentences are becoming harsher. According to the regional director of human rights organization, Middle East Concern (MEC), sentences that used to be less than two years are now ten years.

A representative from MEC says, “There is a lot of pressure on church leaders to leave the country. It’s difficult because we have so few trained church leaders remaining in the country now.”

One judge in particular has become infamous for handing out harsh sentences. Abolghasem Salavati who serves on the 15th Branch of the Revolutionary Court, often accuses Christians of making “foolish claims.”

According to a CSW press release, “He is also known for delivering lengthy prison sentences and ordering that defendants be lashed. In many cases, he has ordered the execution of defendants.”

In the last three months, Judge Ahmadzadeh has issued sentences anywhere from five years to 15 years in prison for at least 16 Christians in Iran.

Four of the Christians he has sentenced include: Nasser Navard Goltape, Yusif Farhadov, Eldar Gurbanov, and Bahram Nasibov. All four men were sentenced to ten years in prison because they allegedly “acted against national security with the intention of overthrowing the state in a soft war.” The harsh sentence was given without any physical evidence of wrongdoing.

Judge Ahmadzadeh based his charges on Iran’s Islamic Penal Code Article 48 which states, “Anyone, with any ideology, who establishes or directs a group, society, or branch, inside or outside the country, with any name or title, that constitutes more than two individuals and aims to perturb the security of the country… shall be sentenced to two to ten years imprisonment.”

The four men were arrested after they had traveled to Tehran to visit some of their Christian friends. After their arrest, they spent two months in solitary confinement before being moved. During their time in prison, they were interrogated on a regular basis. In October of that same year, all four men were released on bail.

Besides being arrested for promoting Christianity, Christians in Iran who have converted from Islam can also be punished for taking communion. Along with being arrested for “acting against national security,” three of the men mentioned earlier, Omidi, Mossayebzadeh, and Fadaie were also punished with 80 lashes each for the partaking of communion wine. Their trial for these charges lasted only ten minutes.

Muslims are not allowed to drink alcohol so when a Christian who converted from Islam drinks communion wine, it is against the law because they are still considered by the Iranian government to be Muslim.

Iran has been ranked the 8th toughest country in the world for a Christian to live. Despite this fact, that although not very big, the church in Iran is one of the fastest-growing in the world. According to the Christian support organization, Open Doors, there are approximately 450,000 Christians in Iran. Some, however, believe that number is closer to one million. Iran has a total population of 80.3 million.

~ Christian Patriot Daily


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