Iranian Persecution of the Christian Faith

Iran continues its persecution of Christians. The latest victim is Saeed Abedini, who is now an American citizen. Last week, he was sentenced to eight years in prison by a judge known for his particularly harsh sentences. What did Abedini do to run afoul of the regime? In the early years of this new century, when he was still an Iranian citizen, he converted to Christianity and became a leader in setting up a network of house churches. This, in Iran, is unlawful because those churches might help turn young people away from Islam and lead them to the Christian faith.

Since then, Abedini moved to the United States, became an American citizen, and currently lives in Idaho. He was back in Iran to help establish an orphanage. According to a news report, Iranian authorities pulled him off a bus last August and threw him into the notorious Evin Prison in Tehran. He has an Iranian lawyer, but he was given only one day to prepare his client’s defense. Stalin himself would have been impressed by this new version of the “show trial.”

The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) represents his family in the U.S. The ACLJ has released this statement:

This is a real travesty—a mockery of justice. From the very beginning, Iranian authorities have lied about all aspects of this case, even releasing rumors of his expected release. Iran has not only abused its own laws, it has trampled on the fundamentals of human rights. We call on the citizens of the world to rise up in protest. We call on governments around the world to stand and defend Pastor Saeed.

I know the ACLJ needs to make such statements to publicize the case, but I’m not all that hopeful that either “citizens of the world” or “governments around the world” will care all that much. The U.S. State Department has called for Abedini’s release and is supposedly in contact with him, but given who is running the State Department these days, no one should expect any effective action there.

What we see in Iran is a microcosm of what is happening throughout the Islamic world. Christians are not allowed to worship freely. If they share their faith, they are persecuted. If anyone converts to the faith, that person is subject to the death penalty. The United States under its Constitution has never had such a policy toward religious minorities. What those minorities need to consider is that it was the Christian foundations of the country that led to religious liberty. Most understood, over time, that religious beliefs must be voluntary, not coerced by the government. No one becomes a Christian by government fiat. The only genuine Christianity stems from a personal encounter with the Living God.

It’s not politically correct to call Islam a threat. We’re only supposed to place the threat in a form of radical Islam that promotes jihad. However, I’m convinced the problem is deeper: all Islam is a deviation from Biblical truth and carries the seeds of violence within it. Some just take it more seriously than others.

Meanwhile, Christians need to pray for Saeed Abedini’s life. Those eight years of imprisonment may be only the beginning for him. A tyrannical regime based on Islamist ideology, such as the one running Iran, is not going to be reasonable. It will take an act of God for Abedini to be released.