Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Christian News Agency’s Open Letter to United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Iran, Points Out Injustices Toward New Believers

By Michael Ireland
Senior International Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

TEHRAN, IRAN (ANS) -- In a recent open letter to the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Iran, a Christian news agency says a ‘Sword of Damocles’ has been hanging over the heads of new converts to Christianity since the 1979 Iranian Revolution.

UN Special Rapporteur Ahmad Shahid. (Photo courtesy
In its letter to Ahmad Shahid, United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Iran, the Farsi Christian News Network (FCNN)  , says the death penalty for apostasy in converting from Islam to Christianity is a “Sword of Damocles” hanging over new believers -- and has been since the student-led Revolution in 1979.

As the voice of Christian-Iranians, and the suffering church in Iran, the Farsi Christian News Network, presented its annual report of sufferings among Christian converts, and informed the Special Rapporteur of “some of the realities of the injustices perpetrated against the Christian-Iranian community during 2010.”

FCNN said: “We hope this short list will be a useful contributory factor in your ‘Report on Human Rights situation in The Islamic Republic of Iran’ to the international community.”

The open letter says: “The Islamic Regime in Iran claims that Christianity is a state-recognized religion and its adherents are free to worship according to their faith.”

FCNN states: “This claim of the Islamic Republic is manifestly untrue. Christians in Iran are actively discouraged and under constant pressure not to attend services. Church attendance must be registered, and lists handed over to organs of State Security and local militia.

“Services are ordered to be held only on Sundays, a working day in Iran. Sale and distribution of The Holy Bible and sermons in Persian are forbidden, Christian converts cannot be Baptized, and they are forbidden to enter Churches. Above all they are to follow the Regime’s draconian Public Order and Propaganda requirements to the letter.

“For traditional and pre-revolution churches, compliance with these conditions and clauses are obligatory. If churches follow these mandatory orders, they will by default lose any religious content they have and will not be able to offer any meaningful Christian service, and if they do not follow these authoritarian orders they will face forced closure of the church by organs of Islamic Regime’s State Security.”

FCNN states as a case in point the Shahr-Ara church in North-Western Tehran, which was closed by direct orders of organs of the Islamic Regime for offering Baptismal and religious services to the new converts.

FCNN says the Islamic Republic “claims that Christians are fully represented in the Islamic Parliament by four members of their religion and so enjoy the same rights as the rest of their country folks.”

“This is yet another false claim,” FCNN said.

“These so called representatives are hand-picked by the regime and are primarily used as agents of control and guidance within Armenian and Assyrian communities of Christians,” the agency said.

“These so-called representatives are chosen by the Ministry of Islamic Guidance, and only the few with voting rights can cast their votes for these selected candidates. The Islamic Regime has restricted the community of Christians in Iran to two national groupings of Armenian and Assyrians, while in international circles, with duplicity and deception, claims to be practicing freedom of religion under the Islam.”

The FCNN open letter also says the Islamic Republic claims that there are open and active churches, and freedom of religion, where Christians are free to practice their faith.

“This claim is also one-sided and deceptive, made primarily to deceive the international community. Since the 1979 revolution in Iran, with rapid population growth -- which has more than doubled the populace during the 32 years of Islamic Regime -- not even one new Church building has been allowed to be built. New buildings are not allowed and repairs are to existing buildings are forbidden. Repair restrictions have caused the closure of ‘Kelisaye Jamia’t Rabbani’ in Kermanshah in western regions, and the deliberate destruction of Saint Adreas’ Church of Kerman in central Iran.”

The open letter points out the Islamic Republic “claims equal rights for its Christian citizens with the Moslem majority, free from any institutional discrimination.”

FCNN said: “This is but a bare-faced lie. The relentless pressure on Islamization at educational establishments forces many students to leave before graduation from high schools.

“In Iran, under the yoke of the Islamic Regime, Christians have no opportunity for further education, as non-Moslem students are not eligible for necessary grants and placement. This is particularly more worrying among the new converts to Christianity, as conversion from Islam can quickly lead to expulsion.”

Recent research shows an alarming decline in educational standards amongst Christian-Iranians, FCNN said.

The FCNN letter goes on to say that discriminatory legislations, regime decrees, and orders are far more draconian and restrictive in work place than educational system.

“All cultural, educational, judicial, Military and Police jobs are strictly for ‘conforming and reliable’ Moslems. All governmental jobs are subject to the applicant being a Moslem and the application forms contain a pledge ‘to observe and practice the Sharia.’ All managerial posts are strictly forbidden to Christians and the discovery of a conversion to Christianity is only ever met with dismissal from any job the new convert may have held, no matter high or lowly it might have been.”

FCNN, in its letter, explains that discriminatory laws of inheritance, child custody and/or any financial transactions between and among Christians and Moslems, create an atmosphere of uncertainty, suspicion, and mistrust amongst the community of Iranians.

In financial and business fields, restrictive practices stop any growth and development of Christian-owned businesses, FCNN says.

FCNN concludes: “The Damocles Sword of (the) death penalty for Apostasy from Islam, has been hanging over the collective head of all new converts to Christianity since the 1979 revolution.”

“As UN’s Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Situation in Iran, and a champion of human rights everywhere, the Christian community expects you to carefully examine these and numerous other violations of our basic rights, and inform the world, of suffering and plight of Christians under the Islamic Regime.”

** Michael Ireland is the Senior International Correspondent for ANS. He is an international British freelance journalist who was formerly a reporter with a London (United Kingdom) newspaper and has been a frequent contributor to UCB UK, a British Christian radio station. While in the UK, Michael traveled to Canada and the United States, Albania,Yugoslavia, Holland, Germany,and Czechoslovakia. He has reported for ANS from Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Israel, Jordan, China,and Russia. Michael's volunteer involvement with ASSIST News Service is a sponsored ministry department -- 'Michael Ireland Media Missionary' (MIMM) -- of A.C.T. International of P.O.Box 1649, Brentwood, TN 37024-1649, at: Artists in Christian Testimony (A.C.T.) International where you can make a donation online under 'Donate' tab, then look for 'Michael Ireland Media Missionary' under 'Donation Category' to support his stated mission of 'Truth Through Christian Journalism.' Michael is a member in good standing of the National Writers Union, Society of Professional Journalists, Religion Newswriters Association, Evangelical Press Association and International Press Association. If you have a news or feature story idea for Michael, please contact him at: ANS Senior International Reporter

** You may republish this story with proper attribution.

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