Iran is the world's leading sponsor of international terrorism. But did you know the Islamic Republic is also the one country where Christianity is growing the fastest in the world? Mike Ansari of "Heart4Iran" spoke with CBN News' George Thomas and Emily Jones about how God is moving powerfully inside this Muslim nation.
Iran's hardline government has sentenced four Christians to harsh prison terms for putting their faith in Jesus Christ.
Pastor Victor Bet-Tamraz and his wife Shamiram Issavi, who are ethnic Assyrian Christians, and Amin Afshar Naderi and Hadi Asgari, who are Christian converts from Islam, were sentenced to a combined total of 45 years in prison for allegedly conducting "illegal church activities" and spreading propaganda which reportedly "threaten national security."
"These Christians were solely arrested for practicing their Christian faith, including attending Christmas gatherings and organizing house churches," Mike Ansari of Heart4Iran, told CBN News.
In 2014, Pastor Victor Bet-Tamraz was arrested when plain-clothed security forces raided his home during a Christmas party. In 2017, an Iranian Revolutionary Court sentenced him, along with Hadi Asgari, to 10 years in prison for "forming a group composed of more than two people with the purpose of disrupting national security" in relation to their church activities. The same court sentenced Amin Afshar Naderi to five years in prison for allegedly insulting Islam.
In January 2018, Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran sentenced Shamiram Issavi to five years in prison for "membership of a group with the purpose of disrupting national security" and another five years in prison for "gathering and colluding to commit crimes against national security."
Iran, which is overwhelmingly Muslim, has a constitution that has restricted freedoms for non-Muslim citizens.
"Consequently, Christians in Iran have been a target of harassment, arbitrary arrest and detention, unfair trials, and imprisonment on national security-related charges solely because of their faith," Amnesty International said in a statement. "In the past year alone, dozens of Christians, mostly Christian converts, have been targeted."
Ansari says the four Christians, who are currently free on bail, are awaiting the verdict of their appeal court.
"If they are imprisoned, they will be prisoners of conscience," Ansari told CBN News. "We ask you to continue to pray for the Iranian Christians that are highly persecuted."
Amnesty International has launched an "urgent action" appeal calling on the Iranian government to "quash the convictions and sentences of Victor Bet-Tamraz, Shamiram Isavi, Amin Afshar-Naderi, and Hadi Asgari, as they have been targeted solely for the peaceful exercise of their rights to freedoms of religion and belief, expression, and association, through their Christian faith."
Amnesty is also urging its supporters to write to Iranian authorities asking them to "stop harassment, arbitrary arrest and detention, and imprisonment of Christians, including converts, in Iran."
*Originally published August 29, 2018.