Iranian President Hassan Rouhani met with Pope Francis at the Vatican Tuesday, and asked the pontiff for prayers as the Middle Eastern country attempts to improve its relationship with the international community.
Rouhani had a private meeting with the pope during his four-day trip in Europe, which analysts say is meant to restore ties to western powers after economic sanctions against the Islamic Republic were lifted.
During his visit, Rouhani reportedly asked the pope to pray for him, adding that visiting the Catholic holy site was a "real pleasure." more >>
The Obama administration is denying claims made by an Iranian militia leader that the recent wiring of $1.7 billion to the Islamic republic was ransom money paid in exchange for the freedom of five American hostages.
U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters this week that despite comments made by Gen. Mohammad Reza-Naghdi of Iran's Basij militia, the $1.7 billion wired to Iran was not an exchange for the recently-released prisoners.
"There was no bribe, there was no ransom, there was nothing paid to secure the return of these Americans who were, by the way, not spies. We've spoken to this in the days after their release on Sunday morning in great detail about how this process worked," Toner told reporters, according to Breitbart. more >>
The American Center for Law and Justice, the law group that raised awareness and started petitions signed by millions calling for the freedom of Pastor Saeed Abedini, says it's grateful that he's finally been released, and urged the focus to move on to the many other persecuted Christians around the world.
"From our involvement in Pastor Saeed's case more than three years ago, our goal was two-fold: keep Pastor Saeed alive in one of the world's most dangerous prisons — and work to secure his release. To accomplish that, we implemented a three-point strategy," ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow said in a statement to The Christian Post on Monday.
Land belonging to an Iranian Assyrian church that was illegally confiscated by authorities two years ago will soon be the venue for a center for Islamic prayers, according to Iran's state-controlled media.
The Chaldean Catholic Church in Western Tehran, the original owner of the land, has made numerous pleas to authorities to get the grounds back, but in vain, the state-run newspaper Sharq quoted Jonathan Bet-Kelia, a member of the regime's Majlis, or parliament, as saying, according to Assyrian International New Agency.
Bet-Kelia met with Ali Younesi, special assistant to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on ethnic minorities affairs, with the same request but was told that nothing could be done about it. Younesi is a former Minister of Intelligence and Security, and is known for ordering arrests and assassinations of numerous dissidents. more >>
The government of Iran reportedly arrested a group of nine Christians on Christmas Day for celebrating their faith at an in-house church in the city of Shiraz.
"There has been a steady deterioration of human rights abuses in Iran during Hassan Rouhani's tenure as president, including executions and suppression of religious and ethnic minorities," said Shahin Gobadi of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran.
"This is just another case in point. Actually, the clerical regime is one of the top violators of rights of religious minorities, including Christians, in the world. The regime has institutionalized repression of the Iranian people as the main tool of its survival." more >>
Pastor Farshid Fathi Malayeri of the Assembly of God church has been released five years after he was jailed in a prison in Iran for being part of a "foreign" group and spreading Christianity.
Malayeri, who was arrested in 2010 during the Iranian government's raids on Christians and churches, was given a six-year sentence in 2012 for "action against national security, cooperating with foreign organizations and evangelism."
The U.K.-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide's Chief Operating Officer Andy Dipper welcomed his release ahead of Christmas celebrations, but also expressed concerns. more >>