IRANIAN voices singing a hymn of
protection filled the Cellarium at Westminster Abbey on Monday
night, at the launch of a new report on the persecution of
The 36-page Christians in
Parliament All Party Parliamentary Group Report on the Persecution
of Christians in Iran brings together evidence from four oral
sessions held in April and July this year, during which MPs heard
from 12 witnesses, as well as from a research trip to Turkey, where
many Christians have fled from Iran (News,
After a testimony from Ladan, a young
Christian woman, Ruth Rogers, the daughter of the Revd Sam
Yeghnazar, the founder of Elam ministries, which trains Iranian
Christians, sang a song, Blessing, in Farsi, joined by
Iranian members of the audience.
Ladan, who cannot be named in full for
safety reasons, was in prison in Tehran for 36 days, 20 months ago,
and spent 25 days in solitary confinement. "I am sure that your
presence here and this inquiry will have an impact," she said.
Mr Yeghnazar read a letter from
Farshid Fathi, an Evangelical leader who has been in prison since
December 2010 (News, 26
The report said that there was "strong
evidence . . . of severe persecution perpetrated by the Iranian
regime, predominantly (but not exclusively) focused on Evangelical
churches that speak about their faith among Muslims, and have
members who are Christians from a Muslim background".
The inquiry heard evidence of
execution and extra-judicial killings of pastors, arbitrary arrest
and imprisonment without trial, beatings and torture, the
repression of churches, and discrimination in areas such as
education and employment.
Despite the persecution carried out by
their government, witnesses reported that the Iranian people were
"generally accepting and positive towards their Christian
neighbours". Several witnesses said that the Iranian regime "is not
impervious to international opinion".
The report makes seven recommendations
to the British Government: it should urge the Iranian regime to
uphold its obligations under its own constitution and international
law; speak out publicly against the persecution of Christians; and
support those who work for the release of people imprisoned
beacause of their faith. The UK Government should also ensure that
the asylum system is aware of the situation of Christians in Iran,
and work with the Turkish government to provide refuge for
persecuted Christians, it says.
Alistair Burt, the Under Secretary of
State at the Foreign Office, who received the report on behalf of
the Government, said that Iran was "one of the countries where so
many other things are going on, it is still easy easy to overlook
the human-rights elements.
"Sometimes as a minister you are able
to respond in an obvious way, and say 'This is wrong, we shall not
put up with this, this is something we can do something about. But,
in reality, it is not that simple: these things are complex."
The report would be "seriously looked
at", and he expected an adjournment debate to be tabled. He also
said he prayed for Christian prisoners in Iran, and had a picture
of Mr Fathi on his desk.
The launch was attended by the UN
Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Iran, Dr Ahmed Shaheed; he
estimates that 10-15,000 Christians emigrate from the country each
Blessing can be heard at: