Iranian Christian Women Still in Prison – told to “reconsider” their faith
Can American Christians be this Courageous?
Background: Two Iranian Christian women, Maryam Rustampoor (27) and Marzieh Amirizadeh (30) were first arrested in Iran in March and accused of apostacy against the Muslim faith.
Current: Rustampoor and Amirizadeh, who have both become ill while in Evin prison, were brought to trial in August. A sentence was supposed to be pronounced. Instead, because of the strong Christian testimony of these two young women, the prosecutor sent them back to their cells to reconsider their testimonies before sentencing would be pronounced.
The courtroom proceedings are recounted at Elam, a ministry to the growing number of Christians in Iran. It makes one wonder why we, as American Christians, sometimes don’t even have the courage to witness to our next door neighbors.
Mr. Haddad, the prosecutor, at one point asked the two women if they were Christians. They replied that they love Jesus. So he asked again if they were Christians, to which they replied, “Yes, we are Christians.” This could have been a death sentence for a man. Iran does not sentence women to death for apostasy, but they could face life imprisonment.
Haddad then proposed that they admit to previously being Muslims. Rustampoor and Amirizadeh replied they were born in Muslim families, but were not Muslims.
Haddad asked them if they regretted becoming Christians, to which they said no. He told them they should renounce their faith in both verbal and written form. They said they would not.
During the questioning, Rustampoor and Amirizadeh stated they believed that God had convicted them through the Holy Spirit to accept Christ. Haddad told them they were not worthy of God speaking to them.
Amirizadeh answered, “It is God, and not you, who determines if I am worthy.”
Haddad sent the women back to prison to think about coming back when they are ready to comply (in renouncing their Christian faith). But to this, the women told him they had already done their thinking.
Why has this barely been reported outside of Christian/Conservative media venues?
In June of 2009, President Obama said this in his now-famous Cairo Speech (text retrieved from USA Today):
…”And throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality.”
Yet, Iran and many other countries no longer recognize, or never did recognize, the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights set forth on December 10, 1948 after World War II. It declares, among other things (Article 18, bolding mine):
“Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”
(Take a look at the second part of that…we don’t even have this total right in the United States anymore.)
These two women are prime examples of Luke 12:11-12 (also Mark 13:11, just used in a recent article but worth repeating): “When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.”
What say you, American Christians? If ever in such a situation, can we follow Paul’s advice to Timothy? “…God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7).
Fervent prayer is needed for the failing health and eventual fate of Maryam Rustampoor and Marzieh Amirizadeh. As of the writing of this article, there was no news of a verdict. They are still in prison.
Scriptures are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by the International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.