As an anti-Christian crackdown intensifies, three men put on trial for anti-state propaganda
Three converts, originally from Fardis, are accused of educating “in a deviant way” about Islam. Their relatives live under threat. The visa of a nun working at a leprosy hospital caring for Christians and Muslims for 26 years has not been renewed. Bishop Mathieu is still waiting to take possession of the diocese.
Tehran (AsiaNews) – As Iran’s ultra-right-wing new president Ebrahim Raisi is set to make his first moves, the fate of religious freedom, especially with respect to Iran’s Christian community, is increasingly a source of concern.
According to some sources, the Islamic Republic is cracking down on Christians, as evinced by the indictment last May of three converts from Fardis, Alborz province, under Article 500 of the Iranian Penal Code.
The three are the first people to go on trial since the amendment to the law introduced last February, reports International Christian Concern, a Christian and minority rights advocacy group.
According to available information, local authorities accuse Amin Khaki, Milad Goodarzi and Alireza Nourmohammadi of “engaging in propaganda that educates in a deviant way contrary to the holy religion of Islam.”
Witnesses say that last November police raided and searched the homes of the three men and seized various religious (Christian) material.
In early 2021, the authorities questioned some family members, but the affair seemed to end there, without further development, except the three men were forced to sign a pledge not to meet in person or online.
However, the three men were recently charged and put on trial a few days ago. Meanwhile, their families continue to face threats and restrictions.
Catholics too have been subjected to repressive restrictions. Earlier this month, the authorities refused to renew the visa of Sister Giuseppina Berti, a 75-year-old nun who spent the last 26 years of her life working in an Iranian leprosy hospital treating patients.
The nun was one of the two religious sisters working in Isfahan; the other is Sister Fabiola Weiss, 77, who is now alone. Together they constituted the only Catholic presence in the area.
Since their arrival, the two missionaries worked in hospitals treating the sick, whether Christian or Muslim, trying to bring comfort to everyone regardless of their religion.
The obstacles the Catholic Church faces is further evinced by its limited size with only two Assyrian-Chaldean archdioceses, an Armenian diocese, and a Latin archdiocese.
In most places there is only one priest, with no prelates. Even one has been appointed, they have to wait permission to take up their post. This is the case of Bishop Dominique Mathieu, who was appointed in January and is still waiting to take possession of his diocese.
Many fear that Raisi's rise could boost the crackdown on Christians, seen in some cases – especially Evangelicals and Protesters – as enemies of the state and threats to national security for alleged ties to the United States and the West.