Iran is the eighth-worst persecutor of Christians in the world. The radical mullahs that control the country have long been abusers of religious minorities, and display particular hostility for converts from Islam to Christianity.
And, now, following the election of a new president, Ebrahim Raisi — who has a notoriously bloodstained past as an executioner of thousands of his countrymen — Christians are facing even stricter laws and crackdowns.
And more and more frequently, Christians are sentenced for “activity against national security.”
The Jerusalem Post recently reported that three Christian men are “being charged under a new amendment to the Iranian Penal Code known as Article 500-bis, which deals with ‘sectarian activities.'"
The amendment states that “any deviant education or propaganda that contradicts or interferes with the sacred Islamic shari’a, will be severely punished.”
Those who follow the plight of Iran’s Christians have, in recent days, called on the Iranian government to release one particular prisoner who suffers from ill-health and is serving an extremely harsh 10-year sentence for “acting against national security.” Nasser Navard, who just days ago passed his 60th birthday behind bars, has been imprisoned since January 2018 for his faith in Jesus Christ and his participation in a house church.
Navard asks, “Is the fellowship of a few Christian brothers and sisters in someone’s home, singing worship songs, reading the Bible and worshipping God acting against national security?”
According to Article 18, a London-based non-profit organization that seeks to protect and promote religious freedom in Iran: “Nasser has appealed for a retrial on three occasions, but each time his request has been denied. He also recently applied for parole, having served over one-third of his sentence. Again, his request was denied.”
How has Nasser Navard responded to these injustices and disappointments? Another courageous and outspoken Iranian Christian, Mary Mohammadi, recently recorded a message from Navard, which she forwarded to FRC. Here he speaks of his faith and his forgiveness of his captors. At this link, you’ll hear his voice and read, in English, his message of courageous faith and amazing forgiveness.
Thanks to Mohammadi’s perseverance and Navard’s testimony, we are able to remember this godly man in prison, “as if imprisoned with him” (Heb. 13: 3). May Navard’s illnesses be healed, and his appeals for freedom heard. Let’s join our voices with his in prayer.
Originally published at the Family Research Council.
Lela Gilbert is Senior Fellow for International Religious Freedom and Coalitions Coordinator at Family Research Council, where she brings a lengthy record of advocating for persecuted believers and addressing current-day faith and freedom issues.