Some amazing news: the Supreme Court in Iran has ordered the retrial of nine Christian converts that could see them released from prison, after ruling that the ‘promotion of Christianity and the formation of a house church is not criminalised in law’. This is amazing news – please pray that justice will be done as a result for these nine imprisoned believers, and for all Christian prisoners of conscience in Iran.
It’s an amazing turnaround, as often Muslims who convert to Christianity and are found to belong to a house church are charged with ‘acting against national security’.
Mansour Borji, an Open Doors partner and Article18’s advocacy director, says the judgement has the potential to become a landmark ruling: “We welcome this ruling from the highest court in the land. The Supreme Court’s ruling should now pave the way for the release of the nine Christians following a retrial at a Revolutionary Court.
“Even more importantly, it will give the Christians – and thousands of others across Iran – hope that they may now be able to worship together in their homes without fear of imprisonment.”
The Supreme Court’s decision, handed down on 3 November – but only communicated to the Christians’ lawyers on 24 November – states explicitly that their involvement in house churches and even the propagation of what is referred to as the ‘Evangelical Zionist sect’ should not be deemed as against national security.
It adds that the ‘formation of these societies and groups is not [a breach of] Articles 498 and 499 of the Islamic Penal Code, or other criminal laws’. This is significant because these same articles, which relate to membership or organisation of ‘anti-state groups’, were used in the convictions of each one of Iran’s Christian prisoners of conscience.
The ruling further states: “The promotion of Christianity and the formation of a house church is not criminalised in law.”
Open Doors and Article18 are continuing to call for clarification from the Iranian authorities of where believers can worship without fear of arrest and imprisonment.
Mansour said: “We further call for Persian-speaking Christians to be provided with a specific place of worship, as is their right under both Iran’s constitution and the international covenants to which Iran is a signatory, without reservation.”
While this is incredibly welcome news, there is still very little freedom of religion or belief in Iran. The country is currently number 8 on the Open Doors World Watch List, and the Iranian government sees the conversion of Muslims to Christianity as an attempt by Western countries to undermine the Islamic rule of Iran. Please continue to stand with our persecuted church family in Iran in prayer.
As we start looking forward to Christmas, could you send hope to young Christians facing persecution?
1. Write a message of hope to a few different young people and let them know that you’re praying for them.
2. Lose something from your Christmas list, and ask for a donation to Open Doors instead…
We support people who are beaten, tortured,
imprisoned, falsely accused, and hated simply for following Jesus.