Iranian news site reports arrest of Christian evangelist

Iranian news site reports arrest of Christian evangelist

Pars Abad (Wikipedia)

A local news site in an Iranian city near the Azerbaijan border has reported the arrest of a Christian evangelist.

The report by the Aran Moghan site, which states in its “About us” page that it supports the Islamic revolution, gives very little information about the individual; it only says that a “person” was arrested by intelligence agents in Pars Abad and charged with “religious perversion”, or attempting to “deviate” others from the Islamic faith.

It adds that the person acted among a “vast number” of people, seeking to “publicise evangelical Christianity”, “establish house-churches”, and “destroy Abrahamic religions” by “disturbing public opinion in the public and virtual spheres”.

Article18’s Advocacy Director, Mansour Borji, explains that although Christianity is of course also an “Abrahamic religion”, such wording may have been an attempt to distinguish between the “recognised” Christianity of Armenian and Assyrian Iranians and the “evangelical” or “Zionist” Christianity that the regime regularly criticises as “deviant”.

A number of items were reportedly confiscated from the person, including “books from different denominations” and guidance on “creating networks and increasing membership”, “making contact with foreigners”, and “damaging Islam and other religions”.

The report concludes by saying that as a result of these discoveries, the person was “handed over to the judicial authorities”.

The Iranian authorities repeatedly assert that Christians in Iran have “full religious freedom”, but Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Iran has ratified, states that religious freedom includes the “freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of [one’s] choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest [that] religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching”.

This reported arrest is the latest clear example of Iran’s failure to provide its citizens with the freedom either to change their beliefs or to share them with others.

Yesterday, Article18 joined with 38 other rights groups to call on all members of the UN General Assembly to publicly condemn Iran for “grave human rights violations” including its “systematic” denial of religious freedom, and also the unlawful killing in recent weeks of hundreds of peaceful protesters and detention of thousands more.

Article18 and the other rights groups have asked for the UN member states to support a draft UN resolution that, among other things, expresses “serious concern” about “ongoing severe limitations” to freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief for minorities “including Christians alongside Gonabadi Dervishes, Jews, Sufi Muslims, Sunni Muslims, Yarsanis, Zoroastrians and members of the Baha’i faith”.

The resolution calls on Iran to “end widespread and serious restrictions, in law and in practice, on the right to freedom of expression and opinion … and the right to freedom of association and peaceful assembly, and to end its harassment, intimidation and persecution of … persons belonging to recognized and unrecognized religious minorities and their families, wherever it may occur”.

It also instructs Iran to “cease monitoring individuals on account of their religious identity, to release all religious practitioners imprisoned for their membership in or activities on behalf of a recognized or unrecognized minority religious group and to ensure that everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including the freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of their choice, in accordance with its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights”.

Furthermore, the resolution asks Iran to provide access to the country to the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran, Javaid Rehman, who has been highly critical of Iran’s mistreatment of its religious minorities, including Christian converts