News / Middle East

Iran Arrests Dozens of Evangelical Christians

A Christian man and a cleric pray during a New Year mass at Saint Serkis church in central Tehran. New Year is celebrated by the Assyrian and Armenian minorities in Iran, where a majority of its citizens are Muslim, 01 Jan 2011
A Christian man and a cleric pray during a New Year mass at Saint Serkis church in central Tehran. New Year is celebrated by the Assyrian and Armenian minorities in Iran, where a majority of its citizens are Muslim, 01 Jan 2011

Iran has reportedly arrested dozens of Christians, many of them converts from Islam, in a crackdown that began around Christmas. An Iranian official is accusing Protestant evangelical groups of causing a cultural invasion.

Iranian opposition groups are reporting the arrests of dozens of evangelical Christians, many of whom are converts from Islam. Christian groups inside Iran say that the country’s Ministry of Islamic Guidance has also grilled dozens of Christians it accuses of proselytizing.

Armed security officers forcibly entered the homes of Christians, verbally and physically abused them, before handcuffing them and taking them for interrogation," reports the Cyprus-based group Middle East Concern.  It adds that some were released after intense questioning and forcibly coerced statements that they would no longer participate in Christian activities.

Seeking to convert Muslims to Christianity or other religions is considered a crime in Iran and many other Islamic countries. Christian missionaries are routinely expelled and sometimes jailed for distributing Bibles and other religious material.

The governor of Tehran province, Morteza Tamadon, confirmed the arrests several days ago, complaining that Protestant evangelicals were conducting an "enemy cultural invasion."  He likened Protestants to the Taliban, whom he referred to as "parasites."

Hadi Ghaemi of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran says that the names and photos of a number of those arrested have been published, and most appear to be young evangelical Christians who have converted from Islam.

Ghaemi says that the evangelical Christian movement has gained popularity in recent years, along with other non-Islamic religions, due to disaffection with Iran’s state-sponsored Shi’ism:

"The government in the name of religion has caused so much mistrust of many people from the official religion of the country. I am seeing a lot of people looking for alternatives to state-sanctioned religion. That's what they are really afraid of. They know that within the society there is a large movement of turning away from official religion and even within Shi'ism alternative approaches are coming up,” Ghaemi explained. “But they find it very threatening when people completely go to a different religion and I think it is because it's happening in large segments of society."

Ghaemi notes that the Tehran governor demonstrated a clear lack of understanding of evangelical Christianity, by calling it a British-inspired conspiracy. He adds that the Iranian government is using fear, intimidation, detention and prosecution to bring a halt to conversions.

Mohammed Javad Larijani, the Secretary General of Iran’s High Council for Human Rights, complained recently that the West was "unfairly targeting Iran for human rights abuses. He claims that Iran tolerates other religions, so long as they are "not cults:

"The Jews are a minority, and they even have members in parliament. The Christians, they are a minority, they have a member in the parliament [and] Zoroastrians are a minority,” Larijani said. “Bahais are a cult. As far as these cults are not preventing followers from going out of the cult, they are tolerated… Any cult will be prevented by law. "

Some minority groups inside Iran, like Armenians, say that they are allowed to worship, provided that they do not seek to convert non-Christians.

Converts to Christianity from Islam, however, are often harassed and persecuted. Two evangelical Christian pastors, whom the government says converted from Islam, were arrested last June. One, Youssef  Nadarkhani  has been sentenced to death for apostasy and the other’s case is still pending.


You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Troops Depart

Afghans are grappling with how exodus will affect country's fragile economy More

Video Scientists Say We Need Softer Robots

Today’s robots are mostly hard, rigid machines, with sharp edges and forceful movements, but researchers at Carnegie Mellon University say they should be softer and therefore safer More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs