Iranian Christians are surprised that a convert has been allowed leave from prison for Christmas/New Year in accordance with an announcement from the head of the judiciary that Christian prisoners would be granted 10 days’ leave.
On 26 December, the head of Iran’s judiciary, Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei, instructed authorities across the country to grant Christian prisoners 10 days leave to “mark the New Year 2022 and the anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ.”
It was anticipated that this would only apply to Iran’s recognised community of Armenian and Assyrian Christians, but on 3 January Christian convert Milad Goudarzi was also granted leave.
In November 2020 Iranian security forces conducted raids on the homes of 12 Christian converts in Fardis, near Karaj, including the home of Milad. In May 2021 Milad, along with Amin Khaki and Alireza Nourmohammadi, were charged with “engaging in propaganda that educates in a deviant way contrary to the holy religion of Islam” and sentenced to five years’ imprisonment under the newly amended Article 500, but in August an appeal court reduced the sentences to three years’ imprisonment.
Milad, Amin and Alireza are detained in Karaj Central Prison.
In recent days there have been a number of positive developments for Christian converts in Iran: a Supreme Court ruling that engagement in house churches is not a crime, the decision of a prosecutor in Dezful that conversion to Christianity is not against Iranian law and now a convert being given a privilege normally accorded exclusively to ethnic Christians.
Even so, Iranian Christians are hesitant to see these improvements as something motivated by a recognition of freedom of religion or belief. An Iranian church leader comments: “the government’s seemingly friendly behavior in recent weeks is intended to deceive world public opinion.”
Iranian Christians request prayer that Milad will enjoy his leave with his family and that:
- The Iranian authorities will recognise all Christian converts as legitimate Christians in accordance with principles of freedom of religion or belief.
- The Iranian authorities will not just concede rights to Christian converts for the sake of their international image, but will uphold their rights in accordance with national and international law.