In Iran, Christian converts face 10 year prison sentences

Catholic News Agency | 5/12/2018 | Staff
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Washington D.C., May 12, 2018 / 06:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In Iran, conversion to Christianity can be a crime meriting a sentence of more than 10 years imprisonment.

Catholic churches within the country are closely monitored with surveillance cameras to ensure that Muslims do not enter, and religious schools are limited in what they can teach, an Iranian-born journalist, Sohrab Ahmari, explained to CNA.

Ahmari - Memoir - Journey - Catholic - Faith

Ahmari is currently writing a spiritual memoir about his own journey to the Catholic faith for Ignatius Press. He converted in 2016 after living in the U.S. for more than two decades. His conversion would have been nearly impossible had he still been living in Iran.

“In Iran, Catholicism is primarily an ethnic phenomenon. There are Armenian Catholics and Assyrian. They have their own churches, but they can't evangelize and they can't have Bibles in any languages but their own,” said Ahmari, who worked for the Wall Street Journal for several years before becoming a senior editor for Commentary magazine.

Constitution - Enshrines - Shiite - Islam - State

“The Iranian Constitution enshrines Shiite Islam as the state religion and it relegates certain other religious minorities to protected, but second class status, so that is Jews and Christians, mainly, people of the Abrahamic religions,” he continued. “These people have a certain degree of limited rights, but they also have all sorts of social handicaps.”

The Islamic republic’s population is 99 percent Muslim, and its recognized religious minorities are strictly controlled.

Treatment - Groups - Regime - Ahmari - Christianity

“The treatment gets far worse for groups that the regime does not recognize as legitimate,” explained Ahmari. This includes evangelical Christianity and the Baha’i religion.

After facing trial as apostates, Christian converts from Islam have been subject to increasingly harsh sentencing, according to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom’s 2018 report, which noted that “many were sentenced to at least 10 years in prison for their religious activities.”

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