Morning Star News, an organization sharing stories about persecuted Christians around the world, is reporting the first sentencing of Iranian Christians under Iran’s newly amended law targeting the conversion of Muslims to the Christian faith.
Under Article 500, the Iranian government can now sentence individuals up to five years, if they are found guilty of sharing “any deviant education or propaganda that contradicts or interferes with the sacred Sharia [Islamic law].”
Those found guilty under the new law, that came into effect on March 5, 2021, can also be prevented from voting for 15 years and fined upwards of 40 million tomans (US$1,600).
Prior to this amendment, Iranians were charged with actions against the Iranian state (Articles 498 and 499) and typically received jail terms of six months.
The recent amendment provides Iranian prosecutors an additional tool that they can use to stop the spread of Christianity in the Islamic regime, as it allows them to tack on additional charges against Christian converts.
Morning Star noted that three men, Amin Khaki, Milad Goudarzi and Alireza Nourmohammadi, were sentenced to five years in prison under the new provision in June 2021 and fined the maximum, after the former Muslims refused to renounce their faith in Christ. The three plan to appeal their sentence.
All three were members of the Church of Iran, a rapidly growing house church movement in the Islamic regime.
In November 2020, Iranian intelligence raided the homes of the three men, plus those of other believers living in the city of Fardis. After seizing Bibles and other Christian literature, the police ordered the group to stop church services.
The police ordered the arrest of the three men a few months later after they continued practising their Christian faith.
In some instances, Iranian judges have required those found guilty of converting to Christianity to take Islamic re-education classes.
However, the passing of Article 500 is just further evidence that Islamic authorities are increasingly concerned about the rapid growth of Christianity in the country.
How many Christians are there in Iran?
With a population of 83 million, it is difficult to know how many Christians there are in the country.
In 2006, the Iranian government set the total number of believers at around 109,000. But this number was immediately suspect, because it did not include any Muslims who had converted to Christianity, because that act is illegal in Iran.
Since then, other Iranian experts put the number of Christians closer to 300,000 to 400,000 and Open Doors, which works with Christians in Iran, estimates the number is over 450,000.
However, the actual number may be triple those best-guess estimates.
In September 2020, a secular organization based in Holland, Group for Analyzing and Measuring Attitudes in Iran (GAMAAN), did an extensive survey of 50,000 Iranians with the vast majority, 90%, living in Iran.
In addition to asking Iranians their opinions on various political issues, GAMAAN discovered that 1.2% of them claimed to be Christians.
This would put the total number of believers in Iran closer to 1.2 million and even this estimate may be low, since many Iranians would undoubtedly be hesitant about sharing that type of information.
READ: First Christians Sentenced to Prison under New Law in Iran AND: Blockbuster Survey: Christianity Is Growing as Iranians Lose Faith in Islam AND Iranians have lost their faith according to survey AND Survey Report on “The Islamic Republic: Yes or No”
Meanwhile, it appears that agents working for the Iranian regime are trying to flex their muscles outside their country by trying to kidnap an Iranian reporter critical of the regime now living in America. READ: While Biden Goes Soft On Iran, Iranian Regime Reportedly Directed Kidnapping Of American Anti-Regime Journalist