Three Christian men charged under amended laws that further restrict religious in Iran freedom have now received the maximum five-year prison sentence. Please continue to pray for Amin Khaki, Milad Goudarzi and Alireza Nourmohammadi, all from Muslim backgrounds, as they await their appeal.
Many Christians in Iran are forced to live as secret believers (illustrative photograph)
29 June 2021
Three Iranian Christians are requesting your prayers, following their sentencing for 'propaganda that educates in a deviant way contrary to the holy religion of Islam'. Amin Khaki, Milad Goudarzi and Alireza Nourmohammadi all received the maximum five-year prison sentences when their verdict was delivered, as well as being fined 400 million rials (about nine times the average monthly salary in Iran).
The men have 20 days to appeal the verdict. The sentence is based on a recent amendment to the Iranian penal code, which states that those who are found guilty will be 'severely punished'.
Please continue to pray for these courageous Christians from a Muslim background, as they desperately need the spiritual support of the international church.
Information from Middle East Concern.
23 June 2021
Your prayers are needed for Amin Khaki, Milad Goudarzi and Alireza Nourmohammadi, believers from a Muslim background in Iran. On Monday (21 June), the three men appeared in court charged with 'propaganda that educates in a deviant way contrary to the holy religion of Islam'.
The provision forms part of amendments to Article 500 of Iran’s Islamic Penal Code, which further chokes freedom of religious expression in the country. If found guilty, the three men could each face a prison sentence of up to five years, deprivation of civil rights, and/or a heavy fine. During the hearing, the three men had to defend themselves; the presiding judge prevented their lawyer from defending them, claiming he had not been registered as their lawyer.
Please lift in prayer our brothers. Ask the Lord to strengthen and encourage them, and surround them with His peace. Pray that they will be acquitted of all charges.
Source: Christian Solidarity Worldwide
20 May 2021
In a stark reminder of the challenges facing Christians in Iran, Amin Khaki, Milad Goudarzi and Alireza Nourmohammadi have been charged with ‘propaganda that educates in a deviant way contrary to the holy religion of Islam’, a provision recently added to Article 500 of Iran’s Islamic Penal Code that further chokes freedom of religious expression in the country. If found guilty, Middle East Concern reports, the three men could face between two and five years in prison and/or a fine.
The three men – who were summoned on 5 May before being released on bail – must report to the intelligence branch of Iran’s police force every week for the next six months.
Iran’s President Rouhani signed legislation ratifying amendments to Articles 499 and 500 on 18 February. They came into force on 3 March.
Following the changes to Article 500 – under which the three men have been charged – any teaching around the Bible or telling others about their Christian faith, which contradicts the teaching of Islam, could result in prosecution, as could the claim that Christians can communicate with Jesus, whom Islamic teaching regards as a prophet.
"[The laws] will disproportionately impact individuals belonging to religious and faith-based minorities and ethnic group" Article 19
Meanwhile, changes have been made to Article 499 making it a punishable offence for ‘anyone who insults Iranian ethnicities or divine religions or Islamic schools of thought recognised under the Constitutions with the intent to cause violence or tensions in the society or with the knowledge that such [consequences] will follow’. There is concern that the wording of the law is open to interpretation, making Christians more vulnerable to unjust accusations, with it unclear what is meant by ‘insults’ and to what extent this has caused ‘violence or tensions’.
Article 19, an organisation promoting freedom of expression and freedom of information, have warned: “While the new provisions impose a threat to anyone who refuses to subscribe to state-sanctioned beliefs and ideologies, they will disproportionately impact individuals belonging to religious and faith-based minorities and ethnic groups.”
These recent changes threaten to further tighten the repression of Christianity in Iran, which is number eight on the World Watch List. The government seeks to enforce Islamic rule in the country, meaning Christian activities are often deemed a ‘national security’ issue, with house churches frequently raided and leaders imprisoned.
In November 2020, several homes belonging to converts were raided by intelligence agents. Mobile phones, computers and Bibles were confiscated, but no arrests were made. The believers were threatened with long prison sentences earlier this year and told it would be better for them to flee the country. They all refused to comply when asked to make commitments to refrain from further Christian activities.
Such are the risks that come with being a Christian in Iran that many live as secret believers. Being discovered as a Christian can result in persecution not only from the government, but families and communities who adhere to a strict form of Islam. Whilst Christians do meet, this is often done in secret in believers’ homes and carries enormous risk.
Sources: Middle East Concern and Article 19
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