Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church … (Colossians 1:24)
By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent
TEHRAN, IRAN (Worthy News)– This month an Iranian court in Rasht sentenced four members from the Church of Iran to 80 lashes each.
Their "crime" was to partake of the wine sanctified during communion that represented the blood shed by Jesus during his own scourging and Crucifixion under ancient Roman justice, allegedly for insurrection.
The Iranian verdict, however, charged Behzad Taalipasand, Mehdi Omidi, Mehdi Dadkhah and Amir Hatemi with drinking alcohol; the four received the verdict Sunday and now have ten days to appeal the sentence, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide, a Christian advocacy group for religious freedoms.
"The sentences handed down to these members of the Church of Iran effectively criminalize the Christian sacrament of sharing in the Lord’s Supper and constitute an unacceptable infringement on the right to practice faith freely and peaceably," said Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of CSW.
According to an October UN report, violations of the rights of Christians — notably converts from Islam to evangelical Protestant groups — continues unabated.
"Authorities continue to compel licensed Protestant churches to restrict Persian-speaking and Muslim-born Iranians from participating in services and raids and forced closures of house churches are ongoing … More than 300 Christians have been arrested since 2010 and dozens of church leaders and active community members have reportedly been convicted of national security crimes in connection with church activities, such as organizing prayer groups, proselytizing and attending Christian seminars abroad."