Four Iranian Christians will receive 80 lashes each for drinking communion wine. The sentence comes just as the United Nations released a report by Ahmed Shaheed, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran, criticizing the country for their treatment of non-Muslims.
The men were arrested December 6, 2012 at a house church and charged with consuming alcohol. They have 10 days to appeal their verdict. Iran bans alcohol for their Muslim citizens, but non-Muslim citizens are allowed to brew their own alcohol. However, it is a crime to convert from Islam to Christianity and it can be punished with the death penalty. Christian persecution is on the rise in Muslim countries.
“At least 20 Christians were in custody in July 2013,” Shaheed wrote. “In addition, violations of the rights of Christians, particularly those belonging to evangelical Protestant groups, many of whom are converts, who proselytize to and serve Iranian Christians of Muslim background, continue to be reported.”
New Iranian president Hasan Rouhani pledged to be more moderate, but the country is still cracking down on Christians. The US State Department estimates there are 370,000 Christians in Iran, and Iran’s government sees them as the biggest threat to their Shi’ite religion.
“Despite the recent Iranian charm offensive, Dr. Shaheed’s report reminds us of the true nature of the Iranian regime where the abuse of human rights continue,” Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), chairman and founder of the Iran Dissident Awareness Program, told FoxNews.com. “Political prisoners like blogger Mohammad Reza Pourshajari are being denied adequate medical care, journalists and their families continue to be targets of the regime, Pastor Saeed Abedini and Amir Hekmati are still languishing in prison and the Baha’i community faces increasing persecution. This is the true nature of the regime we’re dealing with during negotiations in Geneva.”
The regime told Protestants they must ban any Persian-speaking and Muslim-born Iranians from participating in any services. They are also closing and raiding many house churches. People who organized prayers or even attended Christian seminars abroad were charged with national security crimes.