Persecution against Christian Converts in Iran Escalating

Christians in Iran, especially converts from Muslim, have experienced growing persecution from the government since the new Iranian President was installed.

Christians in Iran, especially converts from Islam, have experienced growing persecution from the government since the new Iranian President was installed, according to reports.

The recent wave of persecution traces back to the kidnapping and stabbing of an Iranian convert to Christianity named Ghorban Tori on Nov. 22. Since Tori’s death, not only was the church to which he belonged raided, but ten other Christians were arrested in other cities, including the Iranian capital, Tehran, according to Compass Direct.

The murdered 50-year-old Tori was a leader of an independent house church of Christian converts in Gonbad-e-Kavus, a town east of the Caspian Sea along the Turkmenistan border. His dead body was found outside of his home in northeastern Iran a few hours after his kidnapping and the police took away Bibles and other banned Christian books from his house, Compass Direct reported.

Tori was reportedly the fifth Protestant pastor in Iran killed by unidentified killers in the past 11 years. Three of the five were former Muslims.

His death was followed by a series of crackdown of all other known Christians’ houses in the city, Compass Direct’s report added.

According to the report, Tori converted to Christianity more than 10 years ago while in Turkmenistan. He began to share his new Christian faith with friends and relatives in 1998 in Iran and gradually formed a meeting of believers in his home.

"Conversion of a Muslim to a non-Muslim religion is considered apostasy under the law and is punishable by the death penalty, although it is unclear whether this punishment has been enforced in recent years," stated the religious freedom report.

"The Government vigilantly enforces its prohibition on proselytizing activities by evangelical Christians by closing their churches and arresting Christian converts," it added. Moreover, some evangelical leaders are forced by the authorities to sign pledges that "they will not evangelize Muslims or allow Muslims to attend church services."

Iran was recently re-designated by the U.S. Department of State as one of the "Countries of Particular Concern" (CPCs) for severe violations of religious freedom, according to the latest annual international religious freedom report.

The Constitution of Iran declares the official religion as Islam, so all laws and regulations must be consistent with the official interpretation of the Shari'a (Islamic law). Religious freedom is totally restricted by the government.

According to an Iranian source obtained by the Compass Direct, the recent massive crackdown on Christian converts was coordinated by the representatives of the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS).

The Compass Direct reported that some Christian leaders were visited by MOIS after Tori’s killing and ware being warned, "The government knows what you are doing, and we will come for you soon."

An Iranian source told the Compass Direct, the new Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has openly declared his opposition to house church movement and Christianity during a meeting with the nation's 30 provincial governors.

Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying, "I will stop Christianity in this country."

The Canada-based Christian persecution watchdog Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) has called for prayers for the believers in Iran and the speedy recovery of the persecuted ones. It has also requested prayers for raising up leaders for the growing Church in Iran.

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