Persecution of Iranian Christians continues, especially against converts: Report

(Photo: Ecumenical News / Peter Kenny)Iranian dissident Marina Nemat testifies during a side event at the United Nations in Geneva on October 30, 2014

The number of Christians in Iran facing unprovoked arrests and other violations of religious freedom continues to rise, according to recent reports, which claim that most victims of the Islamic Republic's persecution remain "faceless."

  • Government restrictions on religion stay high across the world as terrorism declines: Report
  • Anti-Semitism on rise worldwide, in US, Europe; anti-Muslim hatred widespread: US report
  • Pope Francis denounces religious fanaticism in city reduced to rubble when ISIS persecuted Christians and other faiths
  • Iranian dissident film clinches Berlinale Ecumenical Jury Prize
  • World ecumenical and evangelical leaders, Pope Francis urge U.S. and Iran to wind down conflict
  • U.S. faith leaders issue call for diplomacy, not war, with Iran
  • Iran must ensure rights of Christian minority say UN experts
  • Baha'is laud 'unprecedented UN resolution' calling halt to Yemen harassment
  • UN condemns Iran's harassment of its religious minorities, particularly Bahá'ís

The annual report titled "Faceless Victims: Rights Violations Against Christians in Iran," was put out by four Christian advocacy groups, Article 18, Open Doors, Middle East Concern and CSW and has been presented to the British parliament.

It says that Christians who actively practice their faith, especially converts, are more frequently subject to persecution at the hands of the state.

Article18, is an advocacy organization that seeks to ensure Iran's compliance with national and international standards for religious freedom as defined by Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

"Unfortunately, Christians who actively express their faith – and especially converts from Islam – are subject to arrest and prosecution by the State," says the report, carried by the Catholic Vote.

It claims that although the rise in the number of publicly reported arrests of Christians appears small, "amounting to 166 in 2023 compared to 134 in 2022," the actual number is likely much larger.

"Very few of those arrested agreed to make their cases public," the report stated, "leading to an increasing number of faceless victims."

The report notes that by the end of 2023, at least 17 of the Christians arrested during the summer of that year had received prison sentences of between three months and five years or non-custodial punishments such as fines, floggings and, in one case, the obligation to dig graves.

Two Christians who were arrested in the summer of 2023, Hakop Gochumyan and his wife, Elisa Shahverdian, were identified as Armenians.

They were among dozens of others who were arrested over a seven-week period in June and July and forced to sign "commitments to refrain from further Christian activities or were ordered to attend Islamic re-education sessions."

"The arbitrary nature of these arrests is illustrated by the fact that arrestees who were eventually coerced into signing commitments to refrain from Christian activities no longer faced further legal action," the report stated.

As AsiaNews noted in its report, the February 19 release date of the report coincides with the murder of Rev. Arastoo Sayyah, who was killed in his office eight days into the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

That day was "the first in a long series of bloody events against Christians, particularly converts, that continues to this day," the news outlet wrote.

"This is a great example of agencies working together," stated Mervyn Thomas, founding president of CSW (formerly Christian Solidarity Worldwide), at the event. "Iran claims to ensure freedom of religion or belief for all; but that is nonsense, as this report shows," Christianity Today reported.


Copyright © 2024 Ecumenical News