Friday, August 26, 2011

Iran Destroys Bibles

This is not the beginning of this sort of persecution, and it certainly isn't the end. Expect it even here. Pray.

( – A Shi’ite cleric affiliated with the Iranian regime has warned about the “danger” of Christianity spreading in the Islamic republic. This come amid reports of an anti-Christianity propaganda campaign and the seizure of thousands of Bibles.

According to Mohabat News, an independent Iranian Christian news agency, Ayatollah Hadi Jahangosha expressed concern about “the spread of Christianity among our youth,” citing the availability of Christian satellite television programs, books and objects.

“Everyone in society should feel responsibility in this matter and play his or her role in spreading of pure Islam and fight false and distorted cultures,” Mohabat quoted him as saying during a presentation on Mahdism – the belief in the so-called “hidden” or 12th imam, prophesied to emerge at a time of future chaos.

Last week, Mohabat reported that authorities had seized 6,500 pocket-sized Bibles in northwestern Iran. It quoted a parliamentary advisor, Majid Abhari, as telling the Mehr news agency that Christian missionaries were out to deceive Iranians, particularly the youth.

“They have begun a huge campaign by spending huge sums and false propaganda for deviating the public,” Abhari said. “The important point in this issue that should be considered by intelligence, judicial and religious agencies is that all religions are strengthening their power to confront Islam, otherwise what does this huge number of Bibles mean?”

Mohabat recalled previous incidents of Bibles being seized, including one last February, when Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and security officials in a routine inspection of a bus near the Iran-Turkey border found 600 New Testaments, which they destroyed along with confiscated alcohol in a public burning.

A similar incident in the same area last October also saw officials seize and burn Bibles, it said.

In a third incident, in June 2010, Bibles were found in a town near the border with Iraq. Mohabat said the official IRGC Web site at the time accused the U.S. in neighboring Iraq of conspiring to smuggle Bibles into Iran.

The Barnabas Fund, an organization working with Christian minorities in Islamic societies, reports that Iranian authorities have been waging an anti-Christian propaganda campaign through state media in recent weeks.

“Last month, offensive caricatures depicting Christ and Christians were published in the [IRGC mouthpiece] magazine Javan,” it said.

“False and insulting stories about Christians have also appeared in government media. One such article that was published on the website Youth Online alleged that women evangelists were going into stores, using shopping as a pretext to enter into conversation with staff, and then suggesting sexual liaisons and insulting Islam.”

‘Islamic justice and equity’

Iran’s government claims to uphold religious freedom, noting that the constitution recognizes Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians, as permitted religious minorities.

When Iran went before the U.N. Human Rights Council early last year for a routine rights review, its official submission stated that those three minorities, “within the limits of the law, are free to perform their religious rites and ceremonies, and to act according to their own canon in matters of personal affairs and religious education.”

“The government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and all Muslims are duty-bound to treat non-Muslims in conformity with ethical norms and the principles of Islamic justice and equity, and to respect their human rights,” it added.

When Iran in 2008 hosted a conference on “Religion in the Modern World,” attended by former U.N. secretary-general Kofi Annan and other dignitaries, the Tehran Times in an op-ed said Iran’s hosting of the event showed that its “ancient tradition of showing respect for different cultures and religions is still alive and well.”

“The reality on the ground in Iran is quite different from what is being propagated by certain countries and organizations in their disinformation campaigns,” it said.

“Due to the country’s religious and cultural traditions, in Iran there is no sign of the religious extremism and intolerance that have opened wounds in certain Muslim states and allowed the enemies to present a negative image of Islam to the world.”

Despite such claims, however, reports of religious persecution persist, including most recently the case of a pastor who has been sentenced to death for apostasy.

The Iranian Bible Society’s offices have been shut for decades, and authorities do not allow publishing or reprinting of Bibles in Iran.

Because of this, according to Mohabat, the only solution for Christians needing Farsi-language Bibles is to have them smuggled across the borders from neighboring countries.

One organization that provides Bibles for Iranians is Elam Ministries, which says it printed and distributed 100,000 Bibles and 100,000 New Testaments in 2010.

“Despite the limited support, well over a million New Testaments have been made available in recent years, and up to half a million whole Bibles,” the organization says on its Web site. “And despite the ferocious hostility of the government in Iran to the Bible, brave Christians there have risked their lives to see their fellow country men can read the Scriptures. Some are in prison now for their work.”

Elam was founded in 1988 by senior Iranian church leaders in Britain “with the vision of reaching Iran and the Persian speaking world for Christ.”

It says that at the time of the Islamic revolution in 1979, there were fewer than 500 known Iranian Christians from a Muslim background.

“Today the most conservative estimate is that there are at least 100,000 believers in the nation.”

No comments: