World

Iranians Arrest Christians On ‘Blasphemy’ Charges

Three Iranian Christians were sentenced to a minimum of 10 years in jail at the start of the month, coming as the latest blow in Iran’s crackdown on Christianity.

An Iranian judge sentenced Pastor Victor Bet Tamraz, Amin Afshar Naderi, and Hadi Asgari each to multiple years in prison for illegal “church activities,” Bos News Life reported Wednesday.

Tamraz was sentenced to 10 years in prison for “illegal house church activities,” evangelism, and the printing and distribution of bibles, according to court documents.

Naderi and Asgari, both converts from Islam, were charged with blasphemy for abandoning Islam. Naderi, who was sentenced to 15 years, was also charged with “acting against national security” while Asgari, sentenced to 10 years, was charged with “organizing and creating house churches.”

The conviction of the three Christians for practicing  their faith is the latest in a series of government persecutions against Christians throughout Iran.

Four other Christians were sentenced in June to 10 years in prison by another judge who convicted them on charges of engaging in missionary activities and, again, “acting against national security.”

The same charge was leveled against another four Christians in a different region, whose church has also been charged with receiving $646,000 a year from the U.K. government. Three of the four Christians are appealing against a sentence of 80 lashes each for drinking wine as part of a communion rite.

“The charges and sentences against these four men are unwarranted and unjustifiable, given the paucity of the evidence against them,” said Mervyn Thomas, chief executive for Christian Solidarity Worldwide.

The Christian church in Iran is growing despite the increased persecution, according to Elam, a Christian ministry in Iran. The church in Iran has grown from 500 Christians in 1979 to a current estimate of 360,000.

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