By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
“Pray that Iranian Christians forced to undertake Islamic classes will stand firm in their faith,” wrote Barnabas Fund, a Christian aid and advocacy group following the case.
Iran’s Islamic authorities, it said, attempt “to turn them away from the Lord.”
Among those targeted are Iranian Christian converts acquitted of “propaganda” against the Islamic Republic of Iran in November 2021, Christians told Worthy News on Wednesday.
Ten of those contacted, including eight from the western city of Dezful whose case was dismissed in November, responded to the summons, they added.
Intelligence agents of the feared Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) reportedly telephoned Christian converts late January 28, ordering them to a meeting the following day.
At the meeting, they were told to attend ten sessions with Islamic clerics as they had been “misled” and needed to be guided “back onto the right path,” Christians said.
There was no immediate response to the reports from Iran’s authorities, who are known to criticize house churches and other activities attended by many Christian converts.
The converts’ lawyer reportedly told clients that summons by telephone was illegal. “I told my clients not to go and to say, ‘We have a lawyer, so summon us legally,’” Iman Soleimani said in remarks shared with Worthy News. “But they were anxious and worried.”
Those who did not appear at the meeting were telephoned and asked to account for their absence, according to Christians familiar with their situation.
Esmaeil Narimanpour, Mohammad Ali Torabi Shangari, Masood Nabi, Alireza Varak-Shah, Hojat Lotfi Khalaf Juy, Mohammad Kayidgap, Mohsen Saadati Zadeh, and Alireza Roshanaei Zadeh were all found not guilty of “propaganda activities in favor of anti-regime groups.”
Their order to attend Islamic classes comes despite a November 30 ruling by the Civil and Revolutionary Court of Dezful that they didn’t do illegal activities and could not be charged.
They “merely converted to a different religion,” the judge ruled, according to trial observers. The court added that “apostasy,” or abandoning Islam, was punishable under Islamic law (Sharia) “and in the hereafter.”
But it was “not criminalized in the laws of Iran,” the judge reportedly concluded.
Many of them were Muslims who abandoned Islam and turned to faith in Christ, a development that has worried the country’s Islamic rulers.
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