Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Pray for Nurse Chaplin and her freedom to wear a cross: Case in Court Mon 29 March – Thurs 1 April

The Christian Legal Centre is supporting the case of Shirley Chaplin, a nurse who was banned from working on hospital wards for wearing a cross around her neck.



This week she will take the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Trust to an employment tribunal after she was told last year that she must hide or remove a small cross on her necklace if she wanted to continue working on hospital wards. We are requesting your prayerful support for a successful outcome.




While the trust refused to grant her an exemption, it makes concessions for other faiths, including allowing Muslims to wear headscarves on duty.



Shirley Chaplin, 54, had spent all her career at the Exeter Hospital and had never been challenged before over the necklace, which she has worn since her confirmation 38 years ago.



Mrs Chaplin is supported in her case by 7 leading Bishops who have written a letter to The Sunday Telegraph published today (28 April). In the letter, the bishops express their deep disquiet at the double standards of public sector employees, claiming that Christians are punishes while followers of other faiths are treated far more sensitively.



The bishops who signed the letter are Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury; the Rt Reverend Michael Scott-Joynt the Bishop of Winchester; Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali the former Bishop of Rochester; the Rt Rev Peter Forster, the Bishop of Chester; the Rt Rev Anthony Priddis, the Bishop of Hereford; the Rt Rev Nicholas Reade, the Bishop of Blackburn; and the Rt Rev Jonathan Gledhill, the Bishop of Lichfield.



In their letter the bishops criticised the way in which Mrs Chaplin had been treated and stated that she should not be prevented from expressing her faith by wearing her cross.



“This is yet another case in which the religious rights of the Christian Community are being treated with disrespect” they say.



“To be asked by an employer to remove or ‘hide’ the cross is asking the Christian to hide their faith”



The bishops said that it was “deeply disturbing” that the NHS’s uniform policy permits exemptions for religious clothing, but appears to regard the cross as “just an item of jewellery”.



The bishops also expressed their surprise that the Court had asked for evidence to be submitted to verify that Christians wear crosses visibly around their neck.



Shirley Chaplin is being represented by leading human rights barrister Paul Diamond.



Andrea Williams, director of the Christian Legal Centre supporting the case commented: “It would seem the Exeter Hospital would rather use its money to deny Christians their rights than using its scarce resources to treat patients. The money the trust is spending on lawyers in this case could employ Shirley Chaplin in front line nursing for many a year or two.



“It is ridiculous that in our country with such a great Christian heritage the court require evidence to prove that the cross is a Christian symbol whilst not applying the same standards to other faiths



“It is time for common sense to prevail and to allow Shirley Chaplin to return to front line nursing duty, the job she loves and has carried out diligently and successfully for over 30 years.



If you would like to donate to support the Christian Legal Centre in Shirley Chaplin’s case, we would be very grateful. To do so, please click the button below, or visit www.christianlegalcentre.com/donation.php

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Friday, March 19, 2010

Amir Sharifi

Amir Sharifi, a national of Iran and resident of Bolton since September 2008, is currently detained in Harmondsworth IRC and due to be forcibly removed form the UK to Iran on British Airways flight BA7531/BD931 direct to Tehran, at 18.30 on Sunday, 21st March, 2010.

What you can do to help:

1) Email/Phone Willie Walsh, Chief Executive Officer British Airways and urge him not to carry out the forced removal of Amir Sharifi. Please download AmirSharifiBA.doc. You can copy, amend or write your own version - if you do please include all the following details: Please do not remove, Amir Sharifi due to be forcibly removed form the UK to Iran on British Airways flight BA7531/BD931 direct to Tehran, at 18.30 on Sunday, 21st March, 2010.

Email: willie.walsh@ba.com

Customer service British Airways Customer Relations


Customer Relations phone: 0844 493 0 787 Monday-Friday 08:00-18:30 (hold line till operator answers)

2) Email/Fax, Rt. Hon. Alan Johnson MP Secretary of State for the Home Office asking that Amir Sharifi, be granted protection in the UK. Download "model letter" AmirSharifiAJ.doc which you can copy/amend/write your own version (if you do so, please remember to include Amir's HO ref S1406763 )

Fax: 020 8760 3132(00 44 20 8760 3132 if you are faxing from outside UK)

Emails: Privateoffice.external@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk
UKBApublicenquiries@UKBA.gsi.gov.uk
CITTO@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk


Please notify the Campaign of an Emails/faxes sent:
Friends of Amir Sharifi - nick.mendes@btinternet.com

Backgrouond: On Tuesday, 2nd February, Amir went to Dallas Court Reporting Centre in Manchester, was arrested and subsequently taken to Kidlington IRC. He was due to be deported on Friday, 5th February, but the deportation was stayed at the 11th hour when a court injunction was obtained. He was then moved to Oakington IRC.

On 22nd February Amir was released on bail at a hearing at Taylor Court IAC, London, on condition he resided at 40 Church Lane, Westhoughton, reported weekly to Dallas Court, and presented himself to the Chief Immigration Officer there on 24th March.
On Wednesday, 3rd March, Amir went to Dallas Court, was rearrested and subsequently taken to Oakington IRC. He was due to be deported on Friday, 3rd March, but the deportation was not enforced because of court proceedings scheduled for Monday, 8th March. He was then moved to Harmondsworth IRC.

On Tuesday, 9th March, Amir was taken to Heathrow in anticipation of an adverse judgement and enforcement of removal to Tehran at 18.30 on flight BA7531 / BD931. He was interviewed prior to the flight but declined to sign a statement that he was returning to Iran of his own free will. He was then moved to Harmondsworth IRC.

Amir is a Christian convert from Islam. He first learned about Christianity through an underground church in Tehran, wanted to find out more and so came to the UK on a student visa in 2007. He applied for asylum in August 2008, before expiry of his visa, since he had become convinced of the truth of Christianity and had become a Christian. He was baptised by the Jesus Fellowship Church in August 2008. His asylum application has been refused, seemingly on the grounds that his Christian faith is not genuine but a contrivance in order to gain asylum in the UK. Such a conclusion is unjustifiable given a knowledge of Amir and his lifestyle, and could not be further from the truth.

U.S. Country Reports on Human Rights Practices in 2009: Iran
The government's poor human rights record degenerated during the year, particularly after the disputed June presidential elections. The government severely limited citizens' right to peacefully change their government through free and fair elections. The government executed numerous persons for criminal convictions as juveniles and after unfair trials. Security forces were implicated in custodial deaths and the killings of election protesters and committed other acts of politically motivated violence, including torture, beatings, and rape. The government administered severe officially sanctioned punishments, including death by stoning, amputation, and flogging. Vigilante groups with ties to the government committed acts of violence. Authorities held political prisoners and intensified a crackdown against women's rights reformers, ethnic minority rights activists, student activists, and religious minorities. There was a lack of judicial independence and of fair public trials. The government severely restricted the right to privacy and civil liberties, including freedoms of speech and the press, assembly, association, and movement; it placed severe restrictions on freedom of religion.
http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/nea/136068.htm

U.S. Report on International Religious Freedom Iran 2009
During the reporting period, respect for religious freedom in the country continued to deteriorate. Government rhetoric and actions created a threatening atmosphere for nearly all non-Shi'a religious groups, most notably for Baha'is, as well as Sufi Muslims, evangelical Christians, and members of the Jewish community. Reports of government imprisonment, harassment, intimidation, and discrimination based on religious beliefs continued during the reporting period.
http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2009/127347.htm

It is clear from reports that above, non-state religions, are not free to practise their faith openly without fear of persecution and even threat of death as an apostate.

Amir deserves nothing less than to be granted his human right to freedom of religion, and to be allowed to practise his Christian faith openly without the fear of persecution. This would only be possible if he were allowed to remain in the UK.

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

NIGERIA: MEDIA DISTORTIONS OF ANTI-CHRISTIAN MASSACRES IN JOS

'The world has been horrified by the bloodshed in Jos, the capital of Nigeria’s Plateau State, as reported by the international media during the last six weeks. It appears, however, that deliberate manipulation and deception at a local level have meant that international reporting has been inaccurate, and has created the false impression that Christians were the aggressors and Muslims the victims when the reality is the opposite. So Christians have become double victims, suffering not only violence but also unjust blame.
Two incidents of large-scale violence have occurred, first in the city of Jos itself on Sunday 17 January 2010, and then in three mainly Christian villages to the south of Jos on Sunday 7 March.
In the latter incident men from the Muslim Fulani tribe, armed with swords and machetes, arrived at the villages in the early hours of the morning. The residents of Zot, Dogo Nahauwa and Rastat were woken by the sound of gunshots and ran terrified into the streets, where the attackers were waiting for them. A horrendous massacre followed. Local police say 109 people were killed, but other sources suggest this figure could be much higher, perhaps up to 500.
Some media sources have reported that this atrocity was in retaliation for an attack by Christians on Muslims in Jos in January, where up to 300 people died. It is clear, however, that this earlier violence was started by Muslims who attacked a church. (See previous article: Nigeria: Religious Violence in Jos – The Christians Speak Out) Christian leaders in Nigeria acknowledge that some Christians retaliated and do not condone their actions, but there is no evidence to suggest that their response was on the size or scale reported in the media. There are conflicting reports about how many of the dead in January were Christia ns and how many Muslims. Baroness Caroline Cox notes that “In the violent attacks, not only in Plateau state but also in neighbouring Bauchi and other northern states, a consistent pattern has emerged ... the Muslim militants take corpses to mosques, where they are photographed and released to the media, creating the impression that these are Muslim victims.”
In January a church leader in Jos expressed his belief that Muslims had carried false reports about the conflict to the international media in order to discredit the Church. Confirmation of this view may be found in a video report produced by the Aljazeera news channel in co-operation with a powerful Nigerian Muslim organisation called Jama’atu Nasril Islam and later posted on YouTube via various Muslim websites. Not only does this video suggest that the January violence was simply a massacre of Muslims by Christians; it also appears to use footage from other contexts altogether, spliced in to give bogus suppo rt to its story.
It is in this context that the violence on 7 March has been reported as “retaliation” by Muslims against Christians, but this has been denied by the governor of Plateau State, Jonah Jang, who said that it cannot plausibly be seen as a reprisal for the earlier outbreak. He has also criticised another Aljazeera report on the January violence, saying, “Some people moved Aljazeera there and then covered dead bodies and started labelling them. When you cover dead bodies and start labelling them, who knows who you are covering?”
An eyewitness account from 7 March describes how “attackers were shooting to herd fleeing villagers toward another group of attackers carrying machetes ... The attackers asked people, ‘Who are you?’ in Fulani, a language used mostly by Muslims, and killed those who did not answer back in Fulani.” By Sunday afternoon the bodies of the dead were lining the dusty streets. Many of the victims were among the most defenceless – elderly people, women and children, including a four-day-old baby. All the churches in Dogo Nahawa had been burned down, and many homes had been torched. The next day Christians wailed in the street and sang hymns to Jesus as a truck carried dozens of bodies to a mass grave. Hundreds of Christians have fled their homes, fearing further attacks. Significantly, Ben Kwashi, the Anglican Archbishop of Jos, has called the attacks “systematic and quite well organised”, indicating that they were pre-planned.
Incidents of large-scale anti-Christian violence have occurred periodically in Nigeria’s Middle Belt (where Christians and Muslims are roughly equal in number), and sometimes in the Muslim-majority North, for many years. But recently these have become more frequent and severe, with major outbreaks in Jos (November 2008), Bauchi State (February 2009), Borno State (July 2009) and Jigawa State (February 2010), in addition to those described above.
Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, International Director of Barnabas Fund, comments,
“Once again our brothers and sisters in Jos have suffered grievously in anti-Christian attacks. The seemingly skewed reporting by the international media of the January violence has exposed them to the risk of unjust ‘retaliation’. Please join us in praying for them in their acute distress, and ask that the Lord will protect them from further harm. It is so rare that the international media report incidents in which Christians suffer violence or injustice. How tragic that in this case they have done so but with such a strong anti-Christian bias as to make the Christians seem the aggressors not the victims.”
Barnabas Fund is sending assistance to those bereaved or made homeless by the violence.


Please Pray
For those who have been bereaved by the violence in Jos in January and March and other incidents elsewhere in Nigeria. Pray that the Lord Jesus will bring healing and comfort to those who witnessed the atrocities and have been left traumatised.
That our Heavenly Father will intervene in this troubled land. Pray that He will grant grace to Christians in Jos to stand together in their sorrow and forgive their attackers.
For wisdom within the Nigerian government and authorities. Pray that government, police force and military will work together to ensure peace and stability in Plateau State and bring to justice the perpetrators of the recent violence.'

International Website: www.barnabasfund.org

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Tuesday, March 09, 2010

More killings around Jos

From the Archbishop of Jos

8 March 2010



Dear Friends,

A VOICE OF REASON 3

January 17th was a Sunday morning and as usual Christians left their homes to congregate in churches to worship. That day has since become a remarkable day in history with sad memories for Christian and Muslim communities in Jos and its environs. A few days after that, leaders began to gather to see how to resolve what the perceived problems, or real problems, or even imaginary problems were. I myself became a part of a group with industrialists, businessmen and women, academics and religious leaders, both Christian and Muslim, to discuss these matters. We even spent a day at a forum listening to elders and religious leaders in Jos and spent another day listening to the youth. In all the conversations the Christians and Muslims spoke up frankly and aired their understanding of the grievances they have. We are in the process of putting together ideas as to how to move forward.

News then broke on Sunday 7th March that two other villages plus Dogo na Hauwa had been attacked by Muslim Fulani from about 3a.m. to 5a.m.. Some of these communities may never again be recognised in history because generations have been wiped out. Hundreds of corpses of men, women, children and grandchildren littered the burnt houses, roads, bush paths, farm areas and hiding places. Tears and endless wailings until voices croaked and words are no more.

Is there no other way by which matters can be resolved except through this sadistic and cruel way of making peoples’ lives miserable? For me, as a Christian, human life is so sacred that no-one, absolutely no-one, should tamper with it, no matter what religious faith you belong to. Human life is so sacred and we have to teach and train people to value it: it is a gift from God.

What bothers my heart are a few questions:

It was curfew time when these attackers came in and carried out their heinous activities. Who are responsible for these areas? What happened to those who should enforce the curfew? The purpose of the curfew is to stop events like this.
Failure of government to provide full security for its citizenry leaves a people with very little option but to provide for their own kind of security. History has shown that these kinds of security are bred in vengeance, retaliation, bitterness, hatred and malice. This gives birth to an almost endless cycle of senseless violence as can be seen in many nations of the world today. Where is our government in all the levels of governance? Where were they on this night? Where were they on 17th January? Shall we continue to have the ugly sight of mass burials? Are there no leaders who fear God, who will swallow their pride and choose to be humble before God for the sake of those faces of slaughtered children?
The new dimension these attacks are assuming is revealing a system of well-trained terror groups who rights now have attacked these villages, and only God knows which community will be next. Their merciless precision and fearlessness should give any government serious concern. The earlier that these kinds of groups are rounded up, the better for everybody. I know as of fact of many Christian religious, political and community leaders who are willing and prepared peacefully to arrive at workable conditions for people to live with. I also know as of fact that there are Muslim religious, political and community leaders who are willing to find solutions.
I am convinced that the prayers of the church world-wide are ascending like a sweet smelling sacrifice to the throne of mercy. It is my firm determination to encourage all who trust in the Lord to keep praying and never give up. One day God will enthrone good over evil, truth over lies, righteousness over wickedness and justice over injustice. It may be soon; it may be later, but “My faith looks up to Thee, Thou Lamb of Calvary”. I urge believers to clean and clear their minds of any form of bitterness, resentment or even any thought of vengeance against one another from within the fellowship, and then we can see clearly how to respond in times of difficulty such as this one.

The promises of the Lord are true and the way of the Lord is just. The good news is: we do not have anywhere else to turn to. In the words of the apostle Peter, in John6:68: “To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” These times call for a full turning of our hearts and lives to the Lord.

The Lord be with you,

+The Most Rev. Dr. B. A. Kwashi
Archbishop of Jos

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Thursday, March 04, 2010

The Islamic Republic of Iran persecutes its Christian minority

"The Islamic Republic of Iran in the previous year acted more harshly and severely than ever before to limit, through arrests and detentions, the existence and growth of Evangelical Christians"



Farsi Christian News Network ( FCNN) and the Committee of Human Rights Advocates Report

Last years, with the start of the year 2009, we reported that Mr. Carl Muller of the Open Door Ministries had stated that, "based on existing reports we predict that in 2009 the Christians around the world will, in the name of false gods and philosophies, be persecuted more than ever before". He added that, "we are not seers and can not see into the future, but we feel that brutality and persecution of Christians, especially in parts of the world like the Middle East, is on the rise." Moreover, in this report by the Open Door Ministries, the list of countries with the worst human rights records towards Christians is published annually. In 2009 passing the previously second ranked Saudi Arabia and only outpaced by North Korea, was the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The following summary analysis is based on the visible and official incidents of suppression against Christians in Iran that have been reported. The reality is much worse than what has appeared in the International media and based on these facts the international human rights advocacies have declared the Islamic Republic of Iran as one of the worst offenders and persecutors of Christians in 2009. The following summary only reflects those incidents that were committed by the judiciary and the public security organizations in Iran and were thus reported in the international media. A great part of the unreported persecutions continue to be the systematic oppression and discrimination against Christians at the work places, threats and humiliation by people in the community, which are cleverly manipulated and orchestrated against Christian believers. Many of these incidents have not been reported and verified due to the arrests and threats of retaliation against the persons and their families and have prevented them from speaking against their persecutors.

In reviewing the following survey one can see that fortunately in 2009 there were no incidents of mass killings, executions, or long term prison sentences handed to Christians. There were only 2 cases in which the judicial authorities passed verdicts or ordered punishments. But this is only one side of the coin. The other side consists of systematic arrests and detention of Evangelical Christians in order to, more than even before, reduce and limit the scope of their activities in Iran.

Many Evangelical Christians in Iran are mainly new converts who have left their previous religion of Islam and become Christians. In reviewing the following list one can easily notice that this particular group, namely the new Christian converts, is the primary target of the security forces and the judiciary authorities. One can attribute this to the rapid growth of this group in all the segments of the Iranian society that has puzzled the leadership of the Islamic Republic. At the start of the Islamic Revolution of 1979 there were an estimated 500 Farsi speaking Christians, out of a 35 million population, in Iran. Now, after the passage of almost 30 years and a population that has exceeds 70 million, there are estimates that the Farsi speaking Christians are in the tens of thousands who have abandoned their Islamic beliefs and have embraced Christianity as their faith. This shows, even in the worst case scenario, a growth of many thousand percents.

The Violation of the Constitution

Even though in the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran religious minorities are fully recognized and protected, these provisions have never been respected by the leadership of the government. It seems that there is an unspoken agreement among these officials to violate these enshrined protections. The following clearly demonstrates the utter disregard the government has had in upholding the constitution when it came to the Christian minorities:

First- All activities, gatherings, and church services are being monitored through visible and invisible means by the officers of the Ministry of Information and the Ministry of Islamic Guidance.

Second- The enforcement of the prohibition against Christian evangelism. The government has been enforcing this matter severely and many church leaders have been arrested for such activities. The prohibition against evangelism and water baptism by newly converted members has been a bargaining point used by the government in order to allow the issuance of religious ministry licenses in Iran.

Third- The pursuit, arrest, and the illegal detention of Christians without due consideration for the local laws and international conventions by the official and "unofficial" agents of the government.

Fourth- Limiting the frequency of church gatherings using any and all excuses, the ongoing attempt by the security officers to prevent church gatherings and Bible studies in Farsi, and forcing church leaders to reveal the identities of their members and the submission of church membership lists to the government and security agents.

Fifth- Rejection of license application for the construction of church buildings and the closure of the existing facilities of active churches in an humiliating fashion.

Sixth- Work related discriminations in all levels of the society and the outright rejection of suitable candidates from military posts. It has been years since any Christian has been able to secure a military post and Christians have been systematically discriminated against jobs in the government ministries, judicial courts, and security agencies.

Seventh- Clear and explicit discrimination against Christians in both the civic and religious courts. Even though the inequality between Christians and Muslims with regards to the issue of Bail has been resolved, many other issues such as inheritance, marriage, and apostasy have created an environment of insecurity and unease among Christians.

Eighth- The ban on the publishing of Christian books and literature. At the same time and often, the conservative and fundamentalist Islamic publications continue their attacks on the Christians and their accusations that Christians are spies for the Western powers remains relentless. Christians have lost their rights to defend themselves by relying on independent publications and voices in the country.

The above points clearly demonstrate the systematic violation of human rights committed by the Islamic Republic of Iran against religious minorities. It is interesting to note that during all these years since the start of the Islamic Revolution the Muslim people of Iran have not acted in any reactionary ways against the Christians. It is the government of Iran and its official and unofficial agencies that have consistently oppressed and persecuted the Christians.

A Comparative Survey

In order to understand the severity of the current conditions in Iran with respect to Christians, one may need to look at other religious minorities in order to gain a better perspective. According to reports by the international human rights advocacies the Iranian Baha'is are the most recognized and persecuted religious minority in the world. The followers of this religion have been severely persecuted due to the fact that they have never been recognized as an official religious minority in Iran.

Studies have shown that during 2009 Baha'is were attacked and their leaders arrested on 8 separate occasions (reported by the US State Department regarding the religious persecutions- October 2009). During the same period of time, the number of such raids and subsequent arrests and detentions were more than 14 incidents for the Christian community of Iran. The Baha'is reported 2 incidents of destruction of their properties and places of gatherings. Christians reported a similar number as well. Seven leaders of the Baha'i faith were arrested in 2008 and remain in detention and yet, the file on the murder of 3 Christian leaders who were murdered many years ago is still open and unresolved.

The fact that the arrests and detentions of Christians is twice as many as the Baha'is clearly demonstrates the rise in suppression of the Christians in the past year and the ever-increasing sensitivity of the security establishments of the Islamic Republic of Iran against the Christian community.

Summary

Considering all aspects and incidents that have been reported one can conclude that the Islamic Republic of Iran, since its inspection, has continued to enforce discrimination and by increasing social pressures on the Christian community has forced many to flee the country as refugees. This is consistent with the fundamentalist view of all regimes in the region that advocate the eventual cleansing of the Middle East of all Christian populations.

However, in the last few years, with the ever increasing interest and conversion of Iranian Muslims to the Christian faith, this issue has spread beyond the ethnic lines, traditionally attributed to the Armenians and Assyrians as being the only two regional and historically Christian peoples. The political and security authorities in the government have been devising plans and strategies that would create fear and uneasiness in the hearts of the people, especially the young generation, from becoming Christians.

The leaders of the Islamic regime, who had the aspirations of total elimination and cleansing of all Iranian Christians from Iran, are forced to re-chart their strategies in order to slow down and ultimately stop the rapid spreading of the Christian faith within the national borders. This is why they may plan to resort to increased levels of brutal and violent suppression. Such pressures and persecutions are contrary to all human rights conventions and are strongly condemned by all.

In conclusion the following list of events, which have been organized chronologically, reflect what happened to Christian Iranians in 2009. We would like to emphasize that the following report is based on reports that we have been able to secure from internal and external sources. There are other reports that have not been mentioned in the following list of persecutions due to the sensitivity of the circumstances from a security point of view and respect for the privacy of people who have been subjected to such persecutions.

January 22, 2009 – Three Christians, Mr. Khachikian (51 years old) who was a minister in the Central Assemblies of God Church, Ms. Nadereh Javadi (44 years old) and her husband Mr. Jamal Ghali-Shooran (49 years old) were arrested in Tehran.

January 29, 2009- Fasi-speaking members of the Assyrian Church in Shahr-Ara district of Tehran were prevented from entering the Church building and the preaching and conducting of any Farsi language services on Fridays and Sundays was banned.

January 30, 2009- Mr. Hossein Karimi, 27 years old Farsi speaking Christian, was arrested in the city of Karaj.

February 22, 2009- Mr. Mazaher R., a web-logger and Christian evangelist in Isfahan along with his sister and another Christian friend, Mr. Hamed S., which, through an elaborate scheme, were enticed by the security agents and brought into a vacant house were arrested and subsequently detained.

March 5, 2009- Two Christian ladies by the names of Marzieh Amiri, 30 years old, and Maryam Rostam-Pour, 27 years old, were arrested on charges of anti-government activities and were detained in the Evin prison.

March 11, 2009- Three Christians in the city of Shiraz by the names of Ala-Edin Hossein, Homayoun Kashani, and Seyed-Amir Bob-Anari who were arrested in the Shiraz airport a few months before this incident were unjustly condemned by the Revolutionary Court of Shiraz. The court found these 3 guilty of preaching the Gospel and representing the Christian Television networks called Mohabat ("Love") and Nejat ("Salvation"). They were sentenced to 8 suspended prison terms and 5 years probation.

March 25, 2009-The Assyrian Evangelical Church of Shahr-Ara was ordered closed by the revolutionary court on charges of proselytizing the Muslims with the Christian doctrines.

April 4, 2009- The court order issued by the 4th district court of the city of Ouroomieh regarding the termination of pension benefits by the ministry of Education of Western Azerbaijan was enforced and Ms. Fatemeh Pauki, a retired teacher and a new convert to Christianity was prohibited from receiving any pension income.

April 24, 2009- Mehran Mahmoodi, a 28 years old new Christian, was summoned to the Ouroomieh Islamic Revolutionary Court. In this subpoena Mr. Mahmoodi was accused of conspiracy to overthrow the Islamic Republic of Iran.

May 14, 2009- A new Iranian Christian in London, UK. Who had been active in human rights activities disclosed that his father, due to his son's activities, was arrested in the city of Mah-Shahr and was subjected to torture.

May 20, 2009- Plain clothes security agents raided a house in the town of Karaj and arrested Mr. Javad Abtahi, the owner of the house, along with 4 other new Christian converts.

May 29, 2009- A new Christian convert in Turkey who had been active in his Christian faith was identified by the secret agents of the Iranian government and was severely beaten up.

July 29. 2009- A house-Church in the city of Rasht was raided and subsequently more than 20 new converts were arrested. Others were released on the condition of posting sworn affidavit that they would not engage in any Christian gatherings and activities.

July 30, 2009- Another house-Church in Rasht was raided and 6 other Christian converts were arrested.

July 31, 2009- A house in the town of Fasham, near Tehran, was surrounded by a large group of security agents and more than 24 Christian converts were arrested. Seventeen of these individuals were released immediately after being interrogated and the posting of appropriate bonds. Seven others by the names of Shahnam Yar-Mohammad, Shahin, Maryam, Mobina, Mehdi, Ashraf, and Nariman were kept in detention.

August 2, 2009- The home of a Chrsitian lady by the name of Marzieh Fesaee was raided and she was arrested and taken to the Evin prison.

August 22and 23, 2009- A group of Christians were summoned to the information office of the Ministry of Information of Kurdistan. More than 8 people in Sanandaj, 2 in Saghez, 1 in Gharveh, and 1 in the town of Kamyaran were rounded up. All of these individuals were somewhat linked with house-Churches on their towns.

December 2, 2009- Security agents raided the home of new Christian convert, Ms. Hamideh Najafi, in the city of Mashhad and after arresting her searched her home extensively and indentified themselves as agents of the Revolutionary court of Mashhad. Ms. Najafi was taken to court on December 29, 2009, and was not allowed to retain a lawyer and wad unjustly condemned for being associated with an overseas Christian television network and was sentenced to 2 months of house arrest and the loss of custody of her 10 years old daughter. Her husband also lost his custody of their daughter.

December 16, 2009- Plain clothes security agents raided a gathering of Farsi speaking Christians in the town of Karaj. These converts had gathered to celebrate the arrival of Christmas well before the arrival of the month of Moharam in order to avoid celebrations in the month venerated by the Shiites as a month of mourning. In this attack 70 people were arrested and after interrogations and the posting of bail and other information such as their addresses were released. Two of the leaders of this group by the names of Kambiz Saghayee and Ali Keshvar-Doost were detained and taken to an unknown location.



in the previous year acted more harshly and severely than ever before to limit, through arrests and detentions, the existence and growth of Evangelical Christians"



Farsi Christian News Network ( FCNN) and the Committee of Human Rights Advocates Report

Last years, with the start of the year 2009, we reported that Mr. Carl Muller of the Open Door Ministries had stated that, "based on existing reports we predict that in 2009 the Christians around the world will, in the name of false gods and philosophies, be persecuted more than ever before". He added that, "we are not seers and can not see into the future, but we feel that brutality and persecution of Christians, especially in parts of the world like the Middle East, is on the rise." Moreover, in this report by the Open Door Ministries, the list of countries with the worst human rights records towards Christians is published annually. In 2009 passing the previously second ranked Saudi Arabia and only outpaced by North Korea, was the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The following summary analysis is based on the visible and official incidents of suppression against Christians in Iran that have been reported. The reality is much worse than what has appeared in the International media and based on these facts the international human rights advocacies have declared the Islamic Republic of Iran as one of the worst offenders and persecutors of Christians in 2009. The following summary only reflects those incidents that were committed by the judiciary and the public security organizations in Iran and were thus reported in the international media. A great part of the unreported persecutions continue to be the systematic oppression and discrimination against Christians at the work places, threats and humiliation by people in the community, which are cleverly manipulated and orchestrated against Christian believers. Many of these incidents have not been reported and verified due to the arrests and threats of retaliation against the persons and their families and have prevented them from speaking against their persecutors.

In reviewing the following survey one can see that fortunately in 2009 there were no incidents of mass killings, executions, or long term prison sentences handed to Christians. There were only 2 cases in which the judicial authorities passed verdicts or ordered punishments. But this is only one side of the coin. The other side consists of systematic arrests and detention of Evangelical Christians in order to, more than even before, reduce and limit the scope of their activities in Iran.

Many Evangelical Christians in Iran are mainly new converts who have left their previous religion of Islam and become Christians. In reviewing the following list one can easily notice that this particular group, namely the new Christian converts, is the primary target of the security forces and the judiciary authorities. One can attribute this to the rapid growth of this group in all the segments of the Iranian society that has puzzled the leadership of the Islamic Republic. At the start of the Islamic Revolution of 1979 there were an estimated 500 Farsi speaking Christians, out of a 35 million population, in Iran. Now, after the passage of almost 30 years and a population that has exceeds 70 million, there are estimates that the Farsi speaking Christians are in the tens of thousands who have abandoned their Islamic beliefs and have embraced Christianity as their faith. This shows, even in the worst case scenario, a growth of many thousand percents.

The Violation of the Constitution

Even though in the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran religious minorities are fully recognized and protected, these provisions have never been respected by the leadership of the government. It seems that there is an unspoken agreement among these officials to violate these enshrined protections. The following clearly demonstrates the utter disregard the government has had in upholding the constitution when it came to the Christian minorities:

First- All activities, gatherings, and church services are being monitored through visible and invisible means by the officers of the Ministry of Information and the Ministry of Islamic Guidance.

Second- The enforcement of the prohibition against Christian evangelism. The government has been enforcing this matter severely and many church leaders have been arrested for such activities. The prohibition against evangelism and water baptism by newly converted members has been a bargaining point used by the government in order to allow the issuance of religious ministry licenses in Iran.

Third- The pursuit, arrest, and the illegal detention of Christians without due consideration for the local laws and international conventions by the official and "unofficial" agents of the government.

Fourth- Limiting the frequency of church gatherings using any and all excuses, the ongoing attempt by the security officers to prevent church gatherings and Bible studies in Farsi, and forcing church leaders to reveal the identities of their members and the submission of church membership lists to the government and security agents.

Fifth- Rejection of license application for the construction of church buildings and the closure of the existing facilities of active churches in an humiliating fashion.

Sixth- Work related discriminations in all levels of the society and the outright rejection of suitable candidates from military posts. It has been years since any Christian has been able to secure a military post and Christians have been systematically discriminated against jobs in the government ministries, judicial courts, and security agencies.

Seventh- Clear and explicit discrimination against Christians in both the civic and religious courts. Even though the inequality between Christians and Muslims with regards to the issue of Bail has been resolved, many other issues such as inheritance, marriage, and apostasy have created an environment of insecurity and unease among Christians.

Eighth- The ban on the publishing of Christian books and literature. At the same time and often, the conservative and fundamentalist Islamic publications continue their attacks on the Christians and their accusations that Christians are spies for the Western powers remains relentless. Christians have lost their rights to defend themselves by relying on independent publications and voices in the country.

The above points clearly demonstrate the systematic violation of human rights committed by the Islamic Republic of Iran against religious minorities. It is interesting to note that during all these years since the start of the Islamic Revolution the Muslim people of Iran have not acted in any reactionary ways against the Christians. It is the government of Iran and its official and unofficial agencies that have consistently oppressed and persecuted the Christians.

A Comparative Survey

In order to understand the severity of the current conditions in Iran with respect to Christians, one may need to look at other religious minorities in order to gain a better perspective. According to reports by the international human rights advocacies the Iranian Baha'is are the most recognized and persecuted religious minority in the world. The followers of this religion have been severely persecuted due to the fact that they have never been recognized as an official religious minority in Iran.

Studies have shown that during 2009 Baha'is were attacked and their leaders arrested on 8 separate occasions (reported by the US State Department regarding the religious persecutions- October 2009). During the same period of time, the number of such raids and subsequent arrests and detentions were more than 14 incidents for the Christian community of Iran. The Baha'is reported 2 incidents of destruction of their properties and places of gatherings. Christians reported a similar number as well. Seven leaders of the Baha'i faith were arrested in 2008 and remain in detention and yet, the file on the murder of 3 Christian leaders who were murdered many years ago is still open and unresolved.

The fact that the arrests and detentions of Christians is twice as many as the Baha'is clearly demonstrates the rise in suppression of the Christians in the past year and the ever-increasing sensitivity of the security establishments of the Islamic Republic of Iran against the Christian community.

Summary

Considering all aspects and incidents that have been reported one can conclude that the Islamic Republic of Iran, since its inspection, has continued to enforce discrimination and by increasing social pressures on the Christian community has forced many to flee the country as refugees. This is consistent with the fundamentalist view of all regimes in the region that advocate the eventual cleansing of the Middle East of all Christian populations.

However, in the last few years, with the ever increasing interest and conversion of Iranian Muslims to the Christian faith, this issue has spread beyond the ethnic lines, traditionally attributed to the Armenians and Assyrians as being the only two regional and historically Christian peoples. The political and security authorities in the government have been devising plans and strategies that would create fear and uneasiness in the hearts of the people, especially the young generation, from becoming Christians.

The leaders of the Islamic regime, who had the aspirations of total elimination and cleansing of all Iranian Christians from Iran, are forced to re-chart their strategies in order to slow down and ultimately stop the rapid spreading of the Christian faith within the national borders. This is why they may plan to resort to increased levels of brutal and violent suppression. Such pressures and persecutions are contrary to all human rights conventions and are strongly condemned by all.

In conclusion the following list of events, which have been organized chronologically, reflect what happened to Christian Iranians in 2009. We would like to emphasize that the following report is based on reports that we have been able to secure from internal and external sources. There are other reports that have not been mentioned in the following list of persecutions due to the sensitivity of the circumstances from a security point of view and respect for the privacy of people who have been subjected to such persecutions.

January 22, 2009 – Three Christians, Mr. Khachikian (51 years old) who was a minister in the Central Assemblies of God Church, Ms. Nadereh Javadi (44 years old) and her husband Mr. Jamal Ghali-Shooran (49 years old) were arrested in Tehran.

January 29, 2009- Fasi-speaking members of the Assyrian Church in Shahr-Ara district of Tehran were prevented from entering the Church building and the preaching and conducting of any Farsi language services on Fridays and Sundays was banned.

January 30, 2009- Mr. Hossein Karimi, 27 years old Farsi speaking Christian, was arrested in the city of Karaj.

February 22, 2009- Mr. Mazaher R., a web-logger and Christian evangelist in Isfahan along with his sister and another Christian friend, Mr. Hamed S., which, through an elaborate scheme, were enticed by the security agents and brought into a vacant house were arrested and subsequently detained.

March 5, 2009- Two Christian ladies by the names of Marzieh Amiri, 30 years old, and Maryam Rostam-Pour, 27 years old, were arrested on charges of anti-government activities and were detained in the Evin prison.

March 11, 2009- Three Christians in the city of Shiraz by the names of Ala-Edin Hossein, Homayoun Kashani, and Seyed-Amir Bob-Anari who were arrested in the Shiraz airport a few months before this incident were unjustly condemned by the Revolutionary Court of Shiraz. The court found these 3 guilty of preaching the Gospel and representing the Christian Television networks called Mohabat ("Love") and Nejat ("Salvation"). They were sentenced to 8 suspended prison terms and 5 years probation.

March 25, 2009-The Assyrian Evangelical Church of Shahr-Ara was ordered closed by the revolutionary court on charges of proselytizing the Muslims with the Christian doctrines.

April 4, 2009- The court order issued by the 4th district court of the city of Ouroomieh regarding the termination of pension benefits by the ministry of Education of Western Azerbaijan was enforced and Ms. Fatemeh Pauki, a retired teacher and a new convert to Christianity was prohibited from receiving any pension income.

April 24, 2009- Mehran Mahmoodi, a 28 years old new Christian, was summoned to the Ouroomieh Islamic Revolutionary Court. In this subpoena Mr. Mahmoodi was accused of conspiracy to overthrow the Islamic Republic of Iran.

May 14, 2009- A new Iranian Christian in London, UK. Who had been active in human rights activities disclosed that his father, due to his son's activities, was arrested in the city of Mah-Shahr and was subjected to torture.

May 20, 2009- Plain clothes security agents raided a house in the town of Karaj and arrested Mr. Javad Abtahi, the owner of the house, along with 4 other new Christian converts.

May 29, 2009- A new Christian convert in Turkey who had been active in his Christian faith was identified by the secret agents of the Iranian government and was severely beaten up.

July 29. 2009- A house-Church in the city of Rasht was raided and subsequently more than 20 new converts were arrested. Others were released on the condition of posting sworn affidavit that they would not engage in any Christian gatherings and activities.

July 30, 2009- Another house-Church in Rasht was raided and 6 other Christian converts were arrested.

July 31, 2009- A house in the town of Fasham, near Tehran, was surrounded by a large group of security agents and more than 24 Christian converts were arrested. Seventeen of these individuals were released immediately after being interrogated and the posting of appropriate bonds. Seven others by the names of Shahnam Yar-Mohammad, Shahin, Maryam, Mobina, Mehdi, Ashraf, and Nariman were kept in detention.

August 2, 2009- The home of a Chrsitian lady by the name of Marzieh Fesaee was raided and she was arrested and taken to the Evin prison.

August 22and 23, 2009- A group of Christians were summoned to the information office of the Ministry of Information of Kurdistan. More than 8 people in Sanandaj, 2 in Saghez, 1 in Gharveh, and 1 in the town of Kamyaran were rounded up. All of these individuals were somewhat linked with house-Churches on their towns.

December 2, 2009- Security agents raided the home of new Christian convert, Ms. Hamideh Najafi, in the city of Mashhad and after arresting her searched her home extensively and indentified themselves as agents of the Revolutionary court of Mashhad. Ms. Najafi was taken to court on December 29, 2009, and was not allowed to retain a lawyer and wad unjustly condemned for being associated with an overseas Christian television network and was sentenced to 2 months of house arrest and the loss of custody of her 10 years old daughter. Her husband also lost his custody of their daughter.

December 16, 2009- Plain clothes security agents raided a gathering of Farsi speaking Christians in the town of Karaj. These converts had gathered to celebrate the arrival of Christmas well before the arrival of the month of Moharam in order to avoid celebrations in the month venerated by the Shiites as a month of mourning. In this attack 70 people were arrested and after interrogations and the posting of bail and other information such as their addresses were released. Two of the leaders of this group by the names of Kambiz Saghayee and Ali Keshvar-Doost were detained and taken to an unknown location.

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House of Lords vote to allow Civil Partnerships to take place in Church

Wednesday, 3 March, 2010 2:12 PM
From: "Andrea Minichiello Williams"

Last night (2nd March 2010) the House of Lords voted to change the law on Civil Partnerships, allowing them to be performed in Churches and/or with religious language.

The amendment, which was introduced by Lord Alli, an openly homosexual Peer, and backed by a number of liberal Bishops, effectively removes one of the final distinctions between Marriage and Civil Partnerships—introduced just five years ago as being purely secular in nature.



The amendment was voted through at 11pm, by 95 votes to 21—an extraordinarily low number for such an important matter—and was hailed as a breakthrough by homosexual activists.



In January 2010, the Government had resisted Lord Alli’s amendment, reassuring the public that it was ‘not a workable solution to this issue’. However, in an unexpected move, the government suddenly allowed its Peers a free vote on the issue. The Conservative Party and Liberal Democrats also gave its Peers a free vote.



Ironically, the amendment was advanced as an issue of religious freedom, with some religious organisations voicing their desire to hold Civil Partnership ceremonies.



However, homosexual activists have previously made it clear that any change in the law would only be a step towards forcing churches to perform civil partnerships. For example, Ben Summerskill, Head of Stonewall, recently said: “Right now, faiths shouldn’t be forced to hold civil partnerships, although in ten or 20 years, that may change.”



Andrea Williams, Director of CCFON, said:



“What took place last night is nothing short of outrageous and all who care about democracy should be alarmed at the proceedings. At the end of January, Baroness Royall for the Government stated that: ‘Any change can therefore be brought only after proper and careful consideration of these issues.’



“Was this statement deliberately deceitful, or do the Government believe that last night’s debate constituted the ‘proper and careful consideration’ of the issues? The amendment was debated for less than an hour and was voted through literally at the eleventh hour, taking everybody by surprise. To have such a significant change in the law—a change to another piece of legislation no less—take place at the end of the Equality Bill’s passing, without any real debate or consultation, and at such an hour that most Peers were not even in the House, is a disgrace and a clear manipulation of the system.



“We will be calling on the Government to resist these changes, for the good of our democracy as well as for the protection of marriage.”



It is not the first time that constitutional irregularities have been used to force through law that significantly favours homosexual activists. In 2006 Lord Alli introduced amendments to the Equality Bill 2005/6 at the very last moment, which led to the creation of the Sexual Orientation Regulations 2007. These highly controversial regulations were passed through on a take it or leave it basis, with no debate at all in the House of Commons and amongst other things have led to the closing of Catholic adoption agencies.











Andrea Minichiello Williams

Christian Concern for our Nation

http://www.ccfon.org

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