Despite Prisoner Release, Iran Lacks Religious Freedom

The news has been buzzing with the recent release of four US citizen prisoners who were held by Iran, including pastor Saeed Abedini. We at Jubilee Campaign are very thankful that the Lord has allowed the release of these four persons, who were wrongly imprisoned. Many of you prayed, signed petitions, and wrote letters asking for his release. We all rejoice that Pastor Abedini is finally able to reunite with his family.

Though this is encouraging news, there is still an appalling lack of religious freedom in Iran that cannot be ignored, as religious minorities continue to suffer beneath the strict Islamic theocracy.

Just earlier this month, the authorities of Tehran announced they are going to turn the Chaldean Catholic Church, which was illegally confiscated two years ago, into an Islamic prayer center. Though the community has made complaints about both the illegal confiscation of the church and its conversion to an Islamic prayer center, the special assistant of President Hassan Rouhani, Ali Younesi, has said that nothing can be done to change the situation.

The National Council of the Resistance of Iran reported that according to Ali Safavi of the Foreign Affairs Committee, “The brazen admission [regarding the seizure of the church] displays first and foremost the discriminatory and sectarian policies of the regime vis-a-vis Iran’s religious minorities. At the same time, it speaks to the failure of Western policy to accommodate the regime in the futile hope that it will promote moderation and tolerance on the domestic front.”

Various sources reported in 2015 about numerous arrests and detentions of converts to Christianity who had been caught meeting in house churches. In past years, Iran forcibly closed most Farsi language churches and had closed down the Bible Society in Tehran.

The Shiite Iranian regime is not only discriminatory toward Christians but also other religious minorities, including Sunni Muslims. Last July, a Sunni prayer hall in Tehran was destroyed by the government.

The religious oppression of the Iranian regime is far reaching and pervasive. However, like we saw through the release of Pastor Abedini, we know that the Lord is sovereign and faithful, so we ask for your fervent prayers for Iran, their government and their religious minorities.

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