Three Iranian converts to Christianity face the possibility of being sentenced to 80 lashes, simply for taking communion.
They have been charged with alcohol consumption, which is illegal in Iran for Muslims. Even though all those charged are Christian believers, their conversion from Islam is not recognised by the Iranian authorities and Christians have previously been flogged for the same offence.
Middle East Concern reports that the three converts charged with drinking alcohol have also been charged with “action against national security”, as has the pastor of their church, who has previously been arrested on multiple occasions.
Drinking alcohol is what is termed in Islam a hudud crime, i.e. one of six crimes where the Quran or hadith sets out a specific punishment. Any Muslim found guilty is to be given 40 lashes or more, depending which school of sharia is followed.
Other specific punishments for committing a hudud crime include amputation of the hand for theft, for a first offence, death by stoning for adultery, and 80 lashes for false accusation of adultery.
House churches in Iran are routinely targeted by the authorities, and church leaders and converts to Christianity are fiercely persecuted. The families of the five converts arrested in late August are still unsure where they are being held as they have not been officially registered at any prison in the country.
The persecution of Christians in Iran, especially converts, has been highlighted by the United Nations, the U.S. Government’s Commission on Religious Freedom and Amnesty International, who stated in their 2015/16 International Report that “Christian converts from Islam … faced discrimination in employment and restrictions on their access to education and freedom to practise their faith.”
- Pray for the three Iranian believers and their pastor as they await the outcome of the hearing of charges against them. Pray for the peace and comfort of the Holy Spirit to be around them and their families, for the charges to dropped and for their release from prison.
- Pray for believers in Iran, who face ongoing persecution, especially Muslim background believers. Pray for perseverance and encouragement in their faith, and for courage to share their faith with family and friends.
- Pray for the Church in Iran, as it is growing at a huge rate. Pray for good resources for discipleship, for training of leaders and pastors, and opportunities to meet together without fear.
- Pray for the Holy Spirit to move in Iran, for many to encounter Christ Jesus and come to know His Truth and Life.
Psalm 68 vs 6: “God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing;”