Iran and Religious Persecution

According to reliable sources, the political regime in present-day Iran is seriously promoting religious persecution. The persecution is so bad there that any religious group that is not Shia-Muslim is not tolerated by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who came into his office with the promise of better treatment for religious minorities.

The United Nations has a Declaration of Religious Intolerance which in part states “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion.” This document has been agreed to by all member nations including Iran. It goes on to emphasize that no person within a member nation shall be subject to coercion that would impair his freedom of religion.

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution states emphatically that the exercise of religion cannot be abridged in this country. Iran does not have to abide by the U.S. Constitution, but it has signed the Declaration of Religious Intolerance. According to recent comments by the bipartisan Commission on International Religious Freedom, if it is violating the principles of religious freedom it should be held accountable by the other member nations for the simple reason that the nation agreed to the statement.

Reports coming out of the country make it clear that the country is not paying attention to this Declaration, and in fact, it is carrying out an organized program to seriously persecute anyone who practices a religion that is not strictly Shia Islam. According to Doug Bandon, writing for Forbes Magazine, Christians, Baha’is, Jews, and Sunni Muslims are all the targets of the hardliner Shia-Muslim elements behind leadership in Iran.

One well-known example of this persecution is Pastor Saeed Abedini. According to Christian Post, he was seriously beaten in June of 2015. According to the American Center for Law and Justice, who are representing his wife and children, he was allowed to see a doctor who decided he had no broken bones. Relatives were able to visit and verify his injuries. His wife told the Christian Post that his prison sentence would be increased, unless he denounced his Christian faith. His wife affirms that he will never do that. He is an Iranian-American Christian, who was arrested on in 2012, when he came to the country to work with an orphanage. He has been in prison since the day of his arrest in 2012.

According to Jihad Watch, a revolutionary court in Iran sentenced 18 Christian converts to prison for simply being Christians in Iran. Fox News reported that the charges include starting house churches, evangelism, and propaganda against the Iranian regime. The report related that the sentences totaled almost 24 years, as reported by a Persian website. The tone of the report shows that information is difficult to get in full, but the news that is coming out through these sources is disheartening.

Meanwhile, the world is looking on but little has been done. Rick McDaniel of Faith reported last year that close to 50 Christians are now being held in their prisons. The attorney representing them has reported that he has been denied access to them. Christian Post World summarizes many specific examples of mistreatment in its August 31 issue.

All of these reports, as well as many others, substantiate a serious problem of religious persecution by the regime. According to its charter, The United Nations was first instituted to deal with just such issues. Much of the information in this article comes from sources looking at a United Nations report showing no real improvement in religious intolerance in Iran since the election of Rouhani last year. The hard-liners in the country, the report concludes, still have too much influence over the leadership.

By Lloyd Gardner
Edited By Leigh Haugh

Daily Kos: Why Is Christianity Growing So Fast in Iran
Religious Intolerance: UN Declaration of Religious Intolerance
Forbes: The Perils of Religious Persecution in Iran
Jihad Watch: Iran Sentences 18 Christian to Prison in New Crackdown on Christianity
Photo Courtesy of Asia Society’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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