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Iranian advisor advocates harsher treatment of converts

A member of Iran’s Expediency Council (an advisory body for Iran's supreme leader) stated in a recent interview that Muslims who convert to Christianity deserve the death penalty, whether “man or woman, boy or girl."

The comments of this council member - Seyed-Hashem Bathaee - are the latest in a long tradition of public rhetoric against Christianity from the authorities. But Bathaee is advocating a remarkably harsh approach to those who abandon Islam. His comments are most likely a reaction to the rapid growth of Christianity in Iran.

In Iran today, Christian converts are far more likely to serve long prison sentences on trumped up political charges than to be killed for apostasy (abandoning Islam). Hossein Soodmand, a pastor killed in 1990, is the last known Christian to be judicially executed for apostasy in Iran - though others have since been murdered in suspicious circumstances. Yousef Nadarkhani was sentenced to death for apostasy in 2010 but was later acquitted after an international outcry.
 
Apostasy is not explicitly codified as a crime in Iranian law. However, a loophole in the constitution means that judges do have the option of using ‘authentic Islamic sources or authoritative fatwas’ in order to apply the death penalty to apostates.
 
 Please pray that, following these comments, Christian converts would not fear but know the peace of Christ. 
 
 Pray also that Bathaee’s comments are not accompanied by an increase in pressure on Christians and that authoritative Iranian voices in favour of religious freedom would courageously speak out.