In a show of unshakable faith in Jesus Christ, two Iranian women accused of being Christians appeared in Tehran court Sunday and confessed that they "love Jesus" and will "not recant their faith."
They said they have no regrets.
Maryam Rustampoor, 27, and Marzieh Amirizadeh, 30, were first arrested on March 5 for leaving Islam. They were placed in a solitary confinement in the infamous Evin prison, deprived of medical attention and often blindfolded for interrogations for several hours for five months.
Elam Ministries, a ministry that specializes in serving the growing church in Iran, reported on Monday that "though great pressure was put on them, both women declared that they would not deny their faith" when they appeared before the court on Aug. 9.
The chief interrogator had recommended a verdict of apostasy. However, when they arrived, no verdict was actually given, the report said.
"Instead, the court session focused on the deputy prosecutor, Mr. Haddad, questioning Maryam and Marzieh about their faith and telling them that they had to recant in both verbal and written form," it stated.
"It clear that in the eyes of the court, Maryam and Marzieh's only crime is that they have converted to Christianity."
Apostasy in Iran under Sharia Law is punishable by death.
Haddad asked the two women if they were Christians.
"We love Jesus," they replied. He repeated his question and they said, "Yes, we are Christians."
Haddad then said, "You were Muslims and now you have become Christians."
"We were born in Muslim families, but we were not Muslims," they replied.
Haddad asked them if they regretted becoming Christians. They replied, "We have no regrets."
Then he stated emphatically, "You should renounce your faith verbally and in written form." But they refused.
During one tense moment in the questioning, Maryam and Marzieh made reference to their belief that God had convicted them through the Holy Spirit.
Haddad told them, "It is impossible for God to speak with humans."
Marzieh asked him in return, "Are you questioning whether God is Almighty?"
Haddad replied, "You are not worthy for God to speak to you."
Marzieh said, "It is God, and not you, who determines if I am worthy."
The women were told to return to prison and think about the options they were given and come back to him when they are ready to comply.
"We have already done our thinking," Maryam and Marzieh said.
At the end of the session, Haddad told them that a judge will give them his verdict, though it is not clear who will be the judge in their case now. He also allowed Maryam and Marzieh to have a lawyer represent them in the case for the first time since their arrest, the report said.
While the trial was going on, Voice of the Martyrs asked Christians to pray for the courageous duo.
Both women were back in Evin prison on the same day. Elim Ministries reported that during their five-month ordeal, both have been unwell and have lost much weight.
"Marzieh is in pain due to an on-going problem with her spine, as well as an infected tooth and intense headaches. She desperately needs medical attention. Two months ago the prison officials told her the prison had proper medical equipment and that they will attend to her, but so far no proper treatment has been given."
"Despite the concentrated effort of officials to pressure them into recanting their faith, Maryam and Marzieh love Jesus and they are determined to stand firm to the very end no matter whatever happens."
"They have demonstrated their love for Jesus and would offer their lives for Him if they were called to do so," the report said. After today's court session they said, "If we come out of prison we want to do so with honor."
"Maryam and Marzieh's case is a clear and harsh violation of human rights and religious liberty by Iran's authorities. They deserve the support of all those who respect human rights and to be released without charges so they can pursue a life of freedom."
In a statement from Washington, D.C., International Christian Concern asked Iranian officials to free the Christian duo.
"We ask Iranian officials to free Maryam and Marzieh. Iran must respect their right to follow the religion of their choice. In this century, it's unconscionable for any country to force its citizens to adhere to any particular religion," said Jonathan Racho, ICC's regional manager for African and the Middle East.
On the web: http://www.iran30.org