A Sharia court in Iran sentenced three Christians to 80 lashes each for drinking holy communion wine – a common practice in their faith but a blasphemous act by Muslim standards, which forbids the partaking of alcohol.
Specifically, the trio were sentenced not because they were Christians and took communion, which isn’t criminal, even in Iran. But rather they were sentenced because they were once Muslims who converted to Christianity – a crime, according to Sharia law – and therefore committed blasphemy by drinking wine because their conversions weren’t regarded as acceptable or legal.
The Express has the story:
“Yaser Mosibzadeh, Saheb Fadayee and Mohammed Reza Omidi will be flogged in public after being arrested at a house church gathering in Rasht, Iran, earlier this year.
“The trio spent weeks in prison before finally being released on bail, but will now be subjected to the cruel and degrading punishment after being found guilty by Islamist judges. …
“Security agents also raided the home of their pastor Yousef Nadarkhani and his wife Fatemeh Pasandideh and arrested them at the same time, but they were not detained.
“Iranian authorities later charged converts Mosibzadeh, Fadayee and Omidi for consuming alcohol during a communion service.
“It is not illegal for Christians to drink alcohol in Iran but under Islamic law, Muslims are forbidden from drinking and it is illegal for Muslims to convert.
“The trio’s conversion from Islam to Christianity is not recognised by Iranian authorities who subscribe to Sharia law.”
The punishment is harsh; some facing lashings actually faint after the first few.
Defense lawyers are planning to appeal the public flogging, the Express reported. And Release International, a Christian charity that does work around the globe, has petitioned Iran’s morality and governing authorities to quit persecuting citizens for their faiths, and to release the just-sentenced Christians from their punishments.
Again, from the Express:
“Release Chief Executive Paul Robinson said: ‘Why should Christians be lashed for taking communion?
“‘Why is Iran refusing to allow its own citizens that most basic of all freedoms, the freedom to choose their own faith?
“‘These men have chosen to call themselves Christians. The state should respect that.'”
Public lashings are commonplace in Iran, a country where Christianity has been forced underground and where morality police keep close watch on the few churches that are public. Of an estimated 108 Christians arrested in the past year for faith-based reasons, 90 or so have been imprisoned, the Express reported. And many of those prisoners have been beaten and threatened with torture and death.