As we celebrate the birth of Christ this season, we must not forget the hundreds of persecuted Christians in Iran who risk everything to celebrate the birth of our Savior.
Using public sources and as much information as our contacts on the ground can gather, there were at least 92 Christians detained in Iran at the end of November. Christians are arrested in raids of house churches and charged with numerous trumped-up charges relating to national security and spreading propaganda against the Islamic regime by spreading Christianity.
This past summer, dozens of Christians were detained and arrested, unable to be reached by family, had their personal possessions confiscated, bank accounts frozen, and at least two of them were beaten during interrogations.
Just last month, there were 16 new arrests of Christians in Iran simply for gathering together for Christian fellowship in their homes, just like we freely do every week at Bible studies and small groups here in the United States. Historically, Iran has regularly targeted Christians during the Christmas season (including the re-arrest of Christian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani 3 years ago on Christmas day – thankfully he was again freed several weeks later).
As our brothers and sisters in Christ face persecution, we must use this Christmas season to pray for them – for justice, for comfort, for peace, and for freedom. After all, our Savior Jesus Christ was born in a muddy and murky manger, into a world beset by sin, tragedy, and persecution.
Our prayers and advocacy must also continue for our fellow Americans who are wrongfully imprisoned in Iran. American Pastor Saeed Abedini continues to be wrongfully imprisoned for a fourth year in one of Iran’s most dangerous prisons because of his Christian faith. As Pastor Saeed previously described, the cold weather has set in and the window near his bed is broken “making most nights unbearable to sleep.”
Other Americans hostages in Iran include Washington Post Reporter Jason Rezaian who has been convicted, sentenced, and continues to be wrongfully imprisoned for a yet-unknown amount of time. Former U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati has been wrongfully imprisoned for more than 1,500 days while awaiting a retrial after his death sentence was overturned. Robert Levinson went missing in Iran in 2007 and hasn’t been heard from since. Even after the horrible nuclear deal was finalized, Iran threw Siamak Namazi, an Iranian-American businessman, into prison. IranWire, a news organization run by Iranian expatriates, reports that government agents “ransacked the house, confiscated property, and took the dual national to Evin Prison.”
Despite reaching a nuclear deal, the world has not given Iran a pass on its horrendous human rights record. The United Nations recently passed a resolution out of committee that reports on the human rights abuses in Iran. The resolution deals with Iran’s myriad of human rights violations, including absence of due process in the legal system, unfair restrictions to freedom of religion, and violence against women and girls.
At the ACLJ, we continue to aggressively advocate across the globe for Pastor Saeed – a U.S. citizen – and other persecuted Christians in Iran while at the same time demanding the release of all wrongfully imprisoned Americans in Iran.
Whether it’s our fellow Christians or our fellow Americans, we must continue to speak out on the international stage for those persecuted in Iran. This is why our international legal team continues to travel the world – meeting with world leaders and speaking against this injustice – including in Rome just last week. This is why our international offices continue their hard work for the persecuted Church. This is why our government affairs team continues to advocate on Capitol Hill that religious freedom must be a priority of U.S. policy to protect the persecuted Church.
This is why you must continue praying and be heard this Christmas season for those persecuted in Iran.
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