Iranian Christians at their final appeal hearing were ordered by a court to renounce their Christian faith to gain their freedom but they refused to do so.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide said the hearing took place on Tuesday in Tehran, where Christians Saheb Fadaie and Fatemeh Bakhteri were ordered by presiding judges Hassan Babaee and Ahmad Zargar to turn away from their religion.
The believers, who refused to comply, have been convicted of “spreading propaganda against the regime,” and are waiting to hear their final verdict. In September, Fadaie was sentenced to 18 months in prison, along with two years of internal exile, while Bakhteri was sentenced to one year in prison.
The Christians were arrested and convicted for discussing Christian doctrine in a house church, which was deemed to be an attack on Islam, the dominant religion in Iran.
Fadaie is already serving a 10-year prison sentence in the notorious Evin prison in Tehran, convicted in July 2017 along with three other Christians “for acting against national security” by “promoting Zionist Christianity.”
CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas argued that Fadaie’s and Bakhteri’s convictions were not only go against their right to religious freedom, but also “criminalizes the Christian faith, which the Iranian Constitution purports to recognize.”
“It is deeply concerning that Judges Babaee and Zargar are presiding over their appeal, especially in view of the unacceptable demand for them to renounce their faith; the rejection by these judges of a previous appeal involving Mr. Fadaie, and the allegations that both judges are implicated in human rights violations,” Thomas added.
The CSW head insisted that the two Christians deserve due process and to have their verdicts overturned.
“We also continue to urge the Iranian government to cease all forms of harassment and intimidation of peaceable religious communities, and to release all those detained in connection with their religion or belief,” he said.
In October, a ministry helping Iranian believers told that it was witnessing one of the “fastest growing underground church movements” in the world.
Mike Ansari, president of Heart4Iran Ministries, told CP that “the persecution of minorities has been a constant under the current Islamic regime in Iran. The Iranian converts to Christianity have been systematically arrested and persecuted as heretics.”
He attested that the persecution is stemming from a “historic and organic growth of Christianity inside Iran, evidenced by one of the fastest growing underground church movements in the world.”
The ministry leader revealed that most Christians who are arrested “are coerced to divulge information about their house-church activities and those of their friends, under the threat of criminal persecution, or arrest of family members.”
Ansari said it’s important to remember that the Church was strong in Iran even before the rise of Islam.
“Much of today’s Islamic world, including Iran, was once Christian. The churches across Iran and Iraq were once great and enduring churches, which sent the first missionaries to China. Yet with emergence of Islam, these communities were marginalized and at times completely destroyed,” Ansari said ahead of the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church that month.
“It seems there is an organic re-emergence of Christianity across Iran. God is on the move and building His Church. With growth comes persecution.”
Irish Bishop Against Practicing Yoga in Christian Schools
An Irish bishop has written to Catholic schools urging them to ban yoga as it is ‘not of Christian origin’ and the children should spend their time ‘in adoration of Jesus’ instead.
Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan, wrote to principals, teachers and school staff members in Waterford City and County, Ireland, on October 10.
In his letter, he said: ‘Yoga is not of Christian origin and is not suitable for our parish school setting and especially not during religious education time.
‘I have been asked by several people to say a word on yoga and mindfulness. My question is, ‘Will they bring us closer to God or replace him?’
The bishop claimed that Christian Mindfulness is ‘meditation on Christ’ which empties the mind of ‘everything unnecessary’ in order to become ‘aware of the presence and love of Christ’.
While he also quoted Pope Francis that practices like yoga are ‘not capable of opening our hearts up to God’.
The bishop added how people can ‘take a million courses in spirituality’ but this activity ‘will never be able to give you freedom’, echoing Pope Francis’s speech in 2015.
He said Pope Francis’s philosophy was in keeping with Ireland’s Grow In Love programme. This touches on Christian doctrine, Scripture, morality and prayer.
Teacher’s were reminded that October is the ‘month of the Rosary’ and they should each pray in a bid to get closer to Jesus, in the letter.
But the primary school curriculum allows a degree of flexibility about how its implemented, according to the Irish National Teachers Organisation, who hit-back at his view.
John Stokes, a yoga instructor in Waterford, said the practice of yoga, meditation and mindfulness should be ’embraced’ in ‘an age where children are really suffering from anxiety and stress’.
‘There is no dogma taught in our classes and Yoga in it’s truest sense is a movement and breath awareness practice for health and wellbeing.
They said ‘here’s to tolerance, love and unity’ and invited him to a one-to-one yoga session or class of his choice’ at their Wellness Centre in Youghal, Ireland.
The Irish National Teachers Organisation said the primary school curriculum allows schools a certain amount of flexibility and autonomy with regard to its implementation.
They said the schools ‘are best placed’ to make the decisions about how the subjects are taught, taking into consideration the ‘school culture, ethos and needs of the pupils’.
This is not the first time Bishop Cullinan has received backlash for his views as he said he was to establish a ‘delivery ministry’ group to rid people of the devil through exorcism, last year.
He also claimed the cervical cancer vaccine could lead to promiscuity in 2017.
The bishop said the vaccine ‘lulls girls into false sense of security’ and encourages sexual activity, adding: ‘Prevention, the number one and most effective protection, is abstinence. A good old traditional value.’
He later apologised and admitted he was not fully informed about the vaccination programme. Cullinan’s ‘intention was solely motivated to protect people from HPV’.
China Demolishes 3,000-Seat Megachurch during Worship Service
The People’s Republic of China destroyed a church that reportedly could seat 3,000 people and detained its pastors, according to a human rights organization.
An international nonprofit Christian human rights group based in Texas, reported the incident in a statement released Saturday. According to the group, Chinese authorities provided no legal papers to justify the demolition.
The church was located in Funan, Anhui province. Its pastors, Geng Yimin and Sun Yongyao, were detained under suspicion of “gathering a crowd to disturb social order.”
China Aid President Bob Fu said in a statement that the incident was “yet another clear example showing the escalation of religious persecution today by the Chinese Communist regime.”
“The total disregard of religious freedom’s protection as enshrined in the Communist Party’s own Constitution tells the whole world President Xi is determined to continue his war against the peaceful Christian faithful. This campaign will surely fail in the end.”
While China’s persecution of religious groups has existed for many years, recently under President Xi Jinping a wave of crackdowns on religious practices in China has taken place.
The Communist government has destroyed or damaged several churches, reflecting concerns about the increasing Christian population of the country.
In the summer, True Jesus Church in Henan province was razed to the ground, according to persecution watchdog Bitter Winter. Police officers reportedly dragged out all believers from the church before they demolished the property.
Bitter Winter also reported last month that the Ten Commandments have been removed from nearly every Three-Self church and meeting venue in a county of Luoyang city and replaced with the President Xi Jinping’s quotes as part of the Chinese Communist Party’s efforts to “sinicize” Christianity.
In addition to cracking down on its Christian minority, China has engaged in violent persecution of its Uighur Muslim and Falun Gong communities.
The China Tribunal, a human rights group, told the United Nations Human Rights Council last month that the Chinese government is harvesting organs from religious minorities, with possibly hundreds of thousands of victims.
“Forced organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience, including the religious minorities of Falun Gong and Uighurs, has been committed for years throughout China on a significant scale, and that it continues today. This involves hundreds of thousands of victims.”
“Victim for victim and death for death, cutting out the hearts and other organs from living, blameless, harmless, peaceable people constitutes one of the worst mass atrocities of this century.”
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