Iranian Christian convert fined for ‘house church’ activities

An Iranian Christian convert was a fine and was disenfranchised for five years for his involvement in establishing “house churches”.

In its verdict announced on May 21, the civil court in Bandar Anzali, northern Iran’s Gilan province, ruled that Rahmat Rostamipour, 49, had engaged in “propaganda” by “sending messages on Christianity” and “teaching the Christian religion”.

Article 500 of Iran’s penal code prohibits educating others in a way considered “un-Islamic”.

Rahmat Rostamipour’s conviction follows a search of his home by security agents on April 18 [Image credit: Article 18]

Rahmat has to pay 6 million tomans ($185), or about a month’s salary in Iran. He will be fined an additional 18 million tomans if he does it again within the next two years.

It is unclear what social rights restrictions were imposed on Rahmat. In similar cases, Iranian courts have imposed restrictions on Christians, such as banning them from joining social groups, including churches, bans on traveling abroad, and severe limitations on employment opportunities.

Rahmat was arrested at his home in Bandar Anzali on April 18 following a raid by Ministry of Intelligence agents.

They refrained from arresting Rahmat’s wife, Azar, in light of a panic attack the raid had caused on the couple’s daughter. Azar was interrogated for several hours the next day but released without charge.

Officers seized several Bibles, cell phones, ID cards, books and electronic tablets used by the couple’s children.

Farsi-speaking Christians are converts from Islam and therefore punishable as apostates under Islamic law. Unlike the historic Armenian and Assyrian-speaking Christian communities, they are not allowed to hold religious services or worship freely.

Pray for Rahmat and his family as they adjust to the heightened surveillance they face, asking that they draw comfort from the presence of the Lord even as they are denied fellowship with other believers. Also pray for a change of heart from the Iranian authorities that they will allow Farsi-speaking believers to worship freely.

Charles K. Eckert