“My fear is that we’re too quiet,” said Dabrina Bet-Tamraz, an Iranian Christian whose father, mother and brother are imprisoned in Iran for Christian evangelism.
On Feb. 5, Family Research Council held a panel discussion on religious persecution in Iran called “Stories from Iran: Religious Freedom and the Secret Growth of the Underground Church.” Tamraz and fellow Iranian Christians Maryam Rostampour and Mariziyeh Amirizadeh shared firsthand about the persecution they endured for living out their faith in their home country.
Tamraz was arrested and detained in a men’s detention center in 2009. After being released, she fled to Switzerland where she is now appealing to the international community to help her family, as well as other Iranian Christians.
During that same year, Rostampour and Amirizadeh were both imprisoned for “promoting Christianity” and were detained for 259 days in Evin Prison in Tehran, where Tamraz’s brother is also held. Although they were sentenced to death, the women were cleared of all charges and released from custody after international intervention.
The three women’s stories are not unique. Open Doors USA ranks Iran as the ninth-worst country for Christian persecution, and neighboring Iraq comes in at No. 15.
In Washington, D.C., during last week’s National Prayer Breakfast sideline event on religious persecution, Loay Mikhael, head of foreign relations for the Chaldean Syriac Assyrian Popular Council, explained that the Christian community in Iraq has suffered extreme persecution at the hands of ISIS. He estimates that the Christian population now stands at just 250,000; it used to number 1.5 million.
Mikhael’s own family was forced to relocate due to persecution.
“We are all over the world,” he said, “not because of our choice, but because we were forced to flee. The challenge is tremendous.”
“Will there still be a Christian community here in Baghdad in 2050?” Father Nadheer Dako, parish priest of St. Joseph’s in Baghdad, asked The Telegraph.
That’s why Iraqi and Iranian Christians are asking the international community to step up to the plate.
“As people who came from a country where you cannot even sing for God with a loud voice … This freedom that you have in [the United States] is a precious gift,” said Rostampour. “But we also believe that you have to use this freedom. You can’t just leave your freedom and enjoy this freedom. We have to be a voice for those people who do not have this freedom.
“One day persecution may come to the free countries,” she added. “We might need help from that part of the world. So please stand up for your brothers and sisters and be their voice.”
Above: An Iranian Christian bowed her head in prayer during a Christmas service at the Saint Joseph Chaldean-Assyrian Catholic church, in Tehran, Iran, Monday, Dec. 25, 2017.
Photo: AP Photo/Vahid Salemi