The Tip of the Iceberg of Christian Persecution


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Originally published by the Investigative Project on Terrorism.

Two Christians living in the Islamic world under arrest and awaiting execution—the one charged with apostasy, the other with blasphemy—were just released.

According to a September 8 report on CNN, “A Christian pastor sentenced to death in Iran for apostasy was reunited with his family Saturday after a trial court acquitted him… Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, born to Muslim parents and a convert to Christianity by age 19, was released after being held in prison for almost three years under a death sentence…. Setting aside the death sentence, a trial court convicted Nadarkhani of a lesser charge—evangelizing Muslims—and declared that his prison sentence had already been served…  His case drew international attention after his October 2009 arrest, and the 34-year-old pastor refused to recant his Christian beliefs.”

In a separate story published the same day, “Pakistani authorities on Saturday released a teenage Christian girl detained over accusations of blasphemy,” for allegedly burning pages of a Koran. Up till then, local Muslims were calling for the death of the 14-year-old Christian girl, Rimsha Masih, warning that, if released, they would “take the law into their own hands.”

Why were these two Christians released—when both apostasy and blasphemy are great crimes in Islam, punishable by death? Is this a sign that Iran and Pakistan are reforming, becoming more “moderate”? One U.S. paper, for example, optimistically offers the following title, “Rescue of Christian Girl may be Turning Point in Abuse of Blasphemy Law.”

Nadarkhani and Masih were certainly not released because their governments are acting according to universal standards of justice or reason. If so, they would not have been arrested in the first place. Nor do these releases suggest that Iran or Pakistan are rethinking their Islamic apostasy and blasphemy laws.

The fact is, there are many more Christians imprisoned in both countries for apostasy and blasphemy. Unlike Nadarkhani and Masih, however, the Western mainstream has never heard of these unfortunate Christians.

And that’s the whole difference.

In Iran, where at least as early as 1990 a convert to Christianity, Pastor Hossein Soodmand, was executed by the state, apostates from Islam are under siege. A few examples from the last few months include:

• A six-year prison sentence for Pastor Farshid Fathi Malayeriwhose crime was to convert to and preach Christianity—was upheld last July following an unsuccessful appeal hearing.

• Another prominent house church pastor, Benham Irani, remains behind bars even as his family expresses concerns that he may die from continued abuse and beatings, leading to internal bleeding and other ailments. The verdict against him contains text that describes the pastor as an apostate who “can be killed.” According to one activist, “His ‘crimes’ were being a pastor and possessing Christian materials.” He is being beaten in jail and getting sick, to the point that his hair has “turned fully gray.”

• A woman, Leila Mohammadi, who had earlier converted to Christianity was arrested when security agents raided her house. Imprisoned for five months in Iran’s notorious Evin prison without any word on her fate, she was later sentenced to two years in prison.

• A June 17 report indicated that, five months after five Christian converts were arrested, their condition and fate had remained unknown. They were accused of “attending house church services, promoting Christianity, propagating against the regime and disturbing national security.” Being imprisoned for 130 days without word “is an obvious example of physical and mental abuse of the detainees….  one of the prison guards openly told one of these Christian detainees that all these pressures and uncertainties are intended to make them flee the country after they are released.”

• A young woman, who had recently converted to Christianity and was an outspoken activist against the Islamic regime, was found dead, slumped over her car’s steering wheel, with a single gunshot wound to her head.

Then there are Iran’s many other faces of Christian persecution, including the shutting down of churches, regular crackdowns on house-church gatherings, detaining and abusing Christians, banning church services in Farsi, and confiscating Bibles and other Christian literature.

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  • LibertyMan

    Simple fact… 2/3 of Christianity is under persecurtion. That is 1.6 Billion. And the mainstream press doesn't touch it. Sudan – 2.5 million genocide. System of rape and murder in all Islamic Nations. From what some deem as moderate (ie Turkey) to ones under overt brutality such as Iran, Indonesia, Pakistan… etc….

    The good news is when Christianity is under persecution they grow. Even Al Jazar complained of the growth of Christianity in Africa … as many that have been murdered… the Islamics are frustrated that they are losing the battle of the heart.

    And the Mainstream press chooses to ignore it.

  • Toecutter

    If there is a Second Coming of Christ, then he’d bloody well better get here soon. We need Him now more than ever.

  • jewdog

    If the Iranian regime can accuse Canada of racism, then racism as an epithet has lost some of its sting. How about accusing Iran of what it does, which is the religious equivalent of racism in espousing religiously-based views that have the same effect of abusing and denigrating others. Call it "religionism".