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Iranian Christian prisoner asks why house-church membership is ‘action against national security’

Iranian Christian prisoner asks why house-church membership is ‘action against national security’

An imprisoned Iranian Christian convert has written an open letter questioning why involvement in house-churches is an “action against national security”.

“Today marks more than two years since I have been detained in prison for the fabricated charge of acting against national security by running house churches, even though religious ceremonies are part of our religion,” wrote Nasser Navard Gol-Tapeh on Friday, as reported by the Campaign to Defend Civil and Political Prisoners in Iran.

Nasser, who was sentenced to ten years in prison in May 2017, added that he could not understand why he had been given such a long prison sentence, noting that Christians are one of Iran’s “recognised” religious minorities.

In August last year, Nasser wrote another letter from his cell in Tehran’s Evin Prison, in which he posed three questions:

“Would it be even possible for a committed Christian – who was born and raised in Iran and whose forefathers lived in this land for thousands of years, and who is a servant to the God who has called him to a ministry of reconciliation – to act against the national security of his own country?

“Is the fellowship of a few Christian brothers and sisters in someone’s home, singing worship songs, reading the Bible and worshiping God acting against national security?

“Isn’t it in fact a clear violation of civil and human rights, and an absolute injustice, to receive a ten-year prison sentence just for organising ‘house churches’, which are a sanctuary sanctified as a place to praise and worship God due to closure of churches in Iran?”

Last month a senior Iranian church leader in London made an impassioned appeal to the Iranian authorities to recognise the rights of Christian converts, as “a significant section of the Iranian society”.

“The fact is that at present tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands, of Farsi-speaking Christians, from a variety of non-Christian backgrounds, including Muslim-background, live in Iran today,” said Rev. Dr. Mehrdad Fatehi, at a memorial service in London for the Iranian Christians killed since the revolution.

“My plea … on behalf of the suffering Iranian Christians from a non-Christian background, as well as other similar groups, is for their very existence as a significant section of the Iranian society, and their basic human rights, to be recognised in law and in practice,” he added.

Fatemeh Mohammadi, a rare activist among Christians in Iran, and especially converts, has launched a campaign called “Kahma”, which petitions for all Christians, including converts, to be given the right to worship in a church.

Fatemeh, who has already spent six months in prison for her membership of a Tehran house-church, has fearlessly campaigned, despite the knowledge that her activism will likely land her in prison again.

She is currently facing new charges related to her alleged “improper” wearing of hijab, having initially gone to police to complain of an assault.

Nasser’s letter

Dear people of Iran,

As an imprisoned Persian-speaking Christian who follows the Bible, I want you to know that holding non-Armenian religious ceremonies in the Persian-language at home is considered an act against national security by the Islamic Republic.

This is despite articles 13 and 26 of the Constitution stipulating that Christians, Zoroastrians and Jews, as recognised religious minorities, are free to practise their religion.

Today marks more than two years since I have been detained in prison for the fabricated charge of acting against national security by running house churches, even though religious ceremonies are part of our religion.

I do not know by what logic or under which crime this heavy sentence has been imposed upon me.

I hope that Christ’s love will spread through the voice of imprisoned Christians throughout the world.

Thanks to all those who strive to uphold human and individual rights.

Nasser Navard Gol-Tapeh, Evin Prison, Friday 1 November