Christians charged with ‘apostasy’
He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied.
– Acts 9:4-5 [NIV]
Two Iranian Christians have officially been charged with “apostasy”, or leaving Islam, as a draft law making the death penalty mandatory for those convicted of the charge is set to be debated in Iran’s Parliament.
Mahmood Matin Azad, 52, and Arash Basirat, 44, have been in prison since May 15, when they were detained while meeting with other Christians in a park in Shiraz.
Charges are based on Article 214 of the penal code and treatise on legal affairs, the Tahrir ol Vassileh. Iran’s legal system is based on shariah (Islamic) law.
With the apostasy bill to be debated in Parliament, some Iranian Christians fear that authorities are seeking to make an example of the two prisoners or give the prospective law a “test run”.
In February this year, the Iranian Parliament proposed a draft penal code that demands a mandatory death sentence for leaving Islam. Under current Iranian law, although apostasy is considered a capital offence, punishment is left to the discretion of the judge.
Arash, who suffers from diabetes, and Matin are expected to appear in court within the next few weeks to begin their defence.
Despite many individual believers being severely oppressed by the authorities, the Church in Iran has experienced substantial growth as increasing numbers of Iranians from a Muslim background come to faith, often through satellite TV and radio broadcasts.
Source: Compass Direct
1. Please pray for Mahmood and Arash as they begin their defence. Pray for wisdom and understanding for their legal team as they argue quite literally for their lives.
2. Pray that the proposed legislation, which permits Christians to be killed for reaching out to others with the love of Christ, will not be passed.
3. Pray for the impact of Christian communications through satellite TV and the internet.
Thank you for praying with us.