In January, an American Christian was sentenced to an eight-year prison sentence on charges of "endangering national security" in Iran. A 32-year-old married father of two from Boise, Idaho, Pastor Saeed Abedini traveled to his country of origin last year to visit family and help build an orphanage, only to be arrested and sent to Tehran's brutal Evin prison.
According to Fox News, Abedini, a Muslim convert to Christianity—also known as an apostate deserving of death under Islamic Sharia law—is "facing physical and psychological torture at the hands of captors demanding he renounce his beliefs." In a recent letter smuggled to family members, he recounted the "horrific pressures" and "death threats" he endures: "My eyes get blurry, my body does not have the strength to walk, and my steps become very weak and shaky… They are only waiting for one thing… for me to deny Christ. But they will never get this from me."
Indeed, the authorities' words are "Deny your faith in Jesus Christ and return to Islam or else you will not be released from prison. We will make sure you are kept here even after your 8 year sentence is finished."
While Pastor Abedini's medieval-style sufferings may come as a surprise to many Americans, they are regular features of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Recall the persecution of Pastor Youssef Nadarkhani, another Muslim who converted to Christianity. He too was imprisoned, placed on death row, and tortured to renounce Christ for nearly three years. Then, likely due to the international scandal his story caused for Iran, he was released—only to be rearrested again, on Christmas Day, adding insult to injury.
And just as Tehran claims that Abedini was arrested for "threatening national security," so was Nadarkhani formally accused of anything and everything—from being a "Zionist spy" to running a brothel—even as Iran's official Supreme Court ruling made clear that Nadarkhani was
convicted of turning his back on Islam [i.e., apostatizing], the greatest religion the prophesy of Mohammad at the age of 19. He has often participated in Christian worship and organized home church services, evangelizing and has been baptized and baptized others, converting Muslims to Christianity. He has been accused of breaking Islamic Law… During court trials, he denied the prophecy of Mohammad and the authority of Islam. He has stated that he is a Christian and no longer Muslim. During many sessions in court with the presence of his attorney and a judge, he has been sentenced to execution by hanging…
Nor are pastors Abedini and Nadarkhani the only ones to be so obviously persecuted for their Christian faith: countless are the Christians and Muslim converts to Christianity that Iranian authorities harass, imprison, and torture in an attempt to have them renounce Christ. A few recent examples follow:
Mohabet News reported that four Muslim converts to Christianity were arrested in February during house-church worship and "taken to the Revolutionary Court of Shiraz several times in a pitiful condition with their hands and feet chained." They were charged with the usual: "participating in house-church services, evangelizing and promoting Christianity … and disturbing national security." The report elaborates on the "obvious mental and physical torture" Iran's converts to Christianity experience in prison.
Another house church pastor, Benham Irani, remains behind bars even as his family expresses concerns that he may die from continued beatings, leading to internal bleeding and other ailments. The verdict against him contains text describing him as an apostate who "can be killed." According to one activist, "His 'crimes' were being a pastor and possessing Christian materials."
A six-year prison sentence for Pastor Farshid Fathi Malayeri—whose crime was to convert to and preach Christianity—was upheld last year following an unsuccessful appeal hearing. A woman, Leila Mohammadi, who had earlier converted to Christianity was arrested when security agents raided her house. Imprisoned for five months in Evin prison without any word on her fate, she was later sentenced to two years in prison.
A June report indicated that, five months after five Christian converts were arrested, their condition and fate was still unknown. They were accused of "attending house church services, promoting Christianity, propagating against the regime and disturbing national security." Being imprisoned for 130 days without word "is an obvious example of physical and mental abuse of the detainees…. one of the prison guards openly told one of these Christian detainees that all these pressures and uncertainties are intended to make them flee the country after they are released."
A young woman who had recently converted to Christianity and was an outspoken activist against the Islamic regime, was found dead, slumped over her car's steering wheel, with a single gunshot wound to her head.
Then there are Iran's many other faces of Christian persecution, including shutting down churches, regular crackdowns on house-church gatherings, confiscating Bibles and other Christian literature, and banning church services in Farsi.
For all that, Iran's persecution of Christians is a minor reflection of a much bigger, rarely reported humanitarian crisis: Christian suffering from one end of the Islamic world to the other, which I document in my new book, Crucified Again: Exposing Islam's New War on Christians, by connecting-the-dots and exposing the same patterns of persecution.
For example, what happens to Christians in Iran—arrested and harassed for being apostates to Christianity or for preaching Christ—happens in countries as different from Iran as Indonesia, Egypt, and Nigeria. Countries that share neither race, language, or culture—only Islam.
Patterns are not only evident in the Muslim world's persecution of Christians, but in the Obama administration's indifference. The U.S. State Department has excluded Abedini from its Iran Prisoners List—commensurate with the fact that it regularly whitewashes the sufferings of Christians under Islam, and even failed to cite Egypt and Pakistan as "nations of particular concern" despite the fact that Christians there are being hounded mercilessly, as documented in the book.
The persecution of Pastor Abedini, an American citizen in Iran, is the tip of the iceberg of the persecution of Christians under Islam—persecution that, try as they may, the mainstream media, the Obama administration, and all the politically correct powers that be, cannot ignore out of existence, especially now that it is fully exposed and documented in Crucified Again.
Raymond Ibrahim is author of the forthcoming book, Crucified Again: Exposing Islam's New War on Christians. He is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and associate fellow at the Middle East Forum.