The US Commission on International Religious Freedom’s (USCIRF) Tony Perkins says it’s “absurd” that Christians in Iran “who practise their faith peacefully” face charges of acting against national security.
The commissioner was speaking at an International Christian Concern event, “Religious Freedom and Human Rights in Iran”, in Washington DC last week.
“It is absurd that Christians in Iran who practise their faith peacefully are charged with acting against national security. Iran’s own constitution provides for Christians’ protected status,” Perkins said.
“In the 20 years of USCIRF’s existence, the Iranian government, in particular, stands out as one of the most consistently egregious violators of religious freedom. The Iranian regime treats centuries of religious diversity as a threat. The motivations for the regime’s behaviour are simple: cowardice and fear.”
Other speakers at the event included Maryam Rostampour and Marziyeh Amirizadeh, Iranian converts to Christianity who were detained for 259 days because they were active in evangelism.
“The Iranian government arrested and imprisoned us because of our evangelical Christian faith,” Rostampour said. “We were threatened and indicted with execution by hanging for charges of apostasy, blasphemy, and promoting Christianity in Iran.
“We spent 259 days in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison, where we learned why Iran is classified among the countries where followers of Christ face the most extreme persecution.”
Amirizadeh added: “We are hoping that one day people in Iran will be free from persecution and suffering.
“Many house churches were attacked by Revolutionary Guards … and the majority of the house churches today have been closed.”
The US Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, Sam Brownback, told the audience: “Religious persecution is not a theoretical problem. It is a real problem affecting real people all over the world.
“[Christians] have experienced persecution, they’ve been put in jail for their ministry work. And it’s terrible. It’s something that should never be happening today.”
Some other quotes from the event:
Dr. Mike Ansari, Heart4Iran: “The authorities detain [Christians] and threaten their families. A lot of church leaders have no choice but to leave Iran for the sake of their family and loved ones.”
Dr. Hormoz Shariat, Iran Alive Ministries: “The first month or two, there is torture to get all the information they can from the prisoner. If the prisoner dies under torture, they claim that he committed suicide.
“They are using a few to bring fear into the hearts of the masses.”
Isaac Six, ICC: “There are about 800,000 Christians in Iran, the majority of [whom] are converts from a Muslim background … There are protections in place for Christians, but the majority in place do not apply to those from a Muslim background.”
Ted Cruz, US Senator: “The Iranian regime continues to hunt and oppose anyone who they think is a threat to the regime.
“Why is it that tyrants fear? Because telling stories shining light on their atrocities strengthens others being oppressed. It is our responsibility to not let them suffer in silence.”