Iran must be held to account for persecution of Christians
An all-party parliamentary group (APPG) report on the persecution of Christians in Iran has detailed evidence of the extensive suffering inflicted on Iranian Christians by their own government. The report asks the British government to apply pressure on Iran to uphold the fundamental right of religious freedom for all Iranian people, and specifically to release Christians such as Farshid Fathi who are in prison for their faith.
From April 2012 UK parliamentarians, with the help of Elam Ministries, have been gathering evidence from eye witnesses. It was not easy listening. ‘During the course of this inquiry’ said David Burrowes MP, Chairman of the Inquiry, ‘we have catalogued evidence of widespread persecution of the most severe kind. We heard extremely harrowing stories of people who have lost their jobs, their freedom, their children and even their lives, through the Iranian Government’s campaign of repression against Christians. In recent years hundreds of Christians have been arrested, and many held without charge in appalling conditions, all because of their faith.”
At the launch of the report on October 29th, attended by the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Iran, Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, and many other politicians and Christians leaders, David Burrowes officially presented the thirty five page document to Alistair Burt, MP, the Minister of State for the Middle East. In his response Mr Burt said the British government would do all it could to work for the alleviation of persecution of Christians in Iran. He also said he prayed for Christian prisoners in Iran and had the picture of Farshid Fathi on his desk. Farshid Fathi is a Christian pastor who is serving a six year sentence in Evin prison.
A Cry of Hope and Love from the Persecuted
After Alistair Burt spoke, the packed room heard from an Iranian Christian woman who had suffered arbitrary arrest and imprisonment for over a month. She endured 25 days in solitary confinement, when she was sometimes interrogated and threatened for over ten hours a day.
With some emotion, Sam Yeghnazar, the founder and director of Elam Ministries, then read out a letter from a prisoner to show the courage and faith of Christians who are enduring persecution.
“Often I have been insulted, humiliated and accused, but I have never doubted my identity in Christ. We rejoice in the Lord and take joy in the God of our salvation. Because neither the walls nor the barbed wires, nor the prison, nor suffering, nor loneliness, nor enemies, nor pain, nor even death separates us from the Lord and each other.”
David Burrowes was clear that the publication of the report was only a beginning. There are plans for more debates in parliament on the treatment of Christians in Iran and Elam Ministries, with the ongoing support of the public affairs group Eighteen07, aims to present the report to other governments, the EU, and the Vatican.
This report, and Dr. Ahmed Shaheed’s recent report to the UN General Assembly, shows there is a determination in the international community that the Iranian government must be held to account for its persecution of Christians.