FAITH UNDER FIRE
Christians on trial for 'action against national security'
'Government is looking to stop the spread of Christianity'Published: 1 day ago
Christian Solidarity Worldwide reported that Church of Iran members Mohammad Roghangir, Surush Saraie, Eskandar Rezaie, Shahin Lahooti and Massoud Rezaie will stand trial before the Revolutionary Court for disturbing public order, evangelizing, action against national security and Internet activity against the system.
The Iranian Christian news site Mohabat News reported that in addition to the five arrested in October, four other Christian believers arrested more than a year ago are still being held in the Revolutionary Guard prison in Shiraz.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide spokesman Kiri Kankhwende said his organization stands by the Iranian Christians.
"We continue to advocate in the international arena for these and many other prisoners in Iran. The prisoners may well be imprisoned for longer, though they have already been detained for some time," Kankhwende said.
He said the Iranian government has one simple goal.
"By sentencing Christians such as these, the Iranian government is looking to stop the spread of Christianity," Kankhwende said.
In a statement to the press, CSW Advocacy Director Andrew Johnston said by persecuting these Christians, Iran is violating its own law.
"Once again Iranian Christians face charges couched in political terms that in reality stem from their choice of faith and desire to exercise the right to worship in community with others, as guaranteed in article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Iran is party," Johnston said.
ACLJ International Director Tiffany Barrans said this aggressive act of jailing and trying Christian leaders reflects the regime's desperation in dealing with Christianity in advance of the approaching election.
"In the lead up the Iranian elections, scheduled for June 14, 2013, it is abundantly clear that the Iranian Regime is terrorizing the Christian community and other minorities in an attempt to force Iranians into submission," she said.
The Iranian government has the wrong idea about Iranian Christians, Barrans argued.
"What Iran does not realize with the Christian community is that the exercise of their faith is not based on politics or an attempt to undermine the government," she said.
Iran's treatment of American pastor Saeed Abedini is an example of the regime's anti-Christian hysteria, according to Barrans.
At the same time, Iran is planning to put nine Church of Iran members on trial, American Center for Law and Justice spokesman Gene Kapp said his group presented pastor Abedini's human rights case before the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.
"In the oral presentation before the Human Rights Council, our attorney told the U.N. that the imprisonment of pastor Saeed, a U.S. citizen, is a violation of international law and called on Iran to release him," Kapp said.
"At the same time, the U.S. State Department expressed its concern again about the imprisonment of pastor Saeed and called for his release," he said.
Kapp noted that there is growing support for Abedini from the American public.
"More than 420,000 people have signed on to a petition demanding his release," Kapp said.
Reports on the nine Church of Iran believers and Pastor Abedini are consistent with a recent trend in Iran toward more persecution of all religious minorities.
International Christian Concern documents the plight of three other Christians who have been arrested and put on trial in the past three months.
Charisma News confirms ICC's reports. Charisma News reported in November that there is a wave of anti-Christian activity.
"Reports of Iranian authorities arresting Christians for their faith are pouring in, indicating that the Islamic nation is running a massive campaign targeting house churches," Charisma News reported.
Also, a report from Iran claimed Iranian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani had been executed.
Assist News Service reported an Anglican cleric in Iraq said an Iranian news report claimed Nadarkhani had been put to death.
Barrans said the report was an Internet rumor, and "several of our sources today talked directly with pastor Youcef himself."
In further confirmation, Islam activist Walid Shoebat said the rumor started from an Arabic source.
"I can say that pastor Youcef is not dead," Shoebat said. "All the Arabic sources I researched say that Nadarkhani is still alive."
However, Shoebat added, another man wasn't so fortunate.
"The man who was hanged is a Sunni dissident and not Nadarkhani," he said.
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