Executions have sharply risen in Iran, according to a report by Mission Network News (MNN).
MNN reports that the Iranian government has executed 112 people in four weeks, with 16 occurring on May 18 alone. Most are carried out in prisons, where dissenters to government policies often are tortured for weeks or months before being killed.
“[Iranian authorities] told the UN they weren’t going to do as many executions a couple of months ago, and here we are doing executions,” International Media Ministries President Denise Godwin said in the report.
Iran’s tolerance of religious minorities is “egregiously poor,” according to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom’s 2023 report. The State Department lists Iran as one of its Countries of Particular Concern (CPC)—the most severe designation when it comes to human rights and religious freedom.
In Iran, leaving Islam is illegal, and Christians are continually targeted.
“People imprisoned for Christ say, ‘The most important thing is to pray for strength.’
They don’t want to give in,” Godwin said.
“A lot of the torture seems to involve [oppressors who say] ‘If you deny Christ, we’ll let you go.’”
According to International Christian Concern, the underground churches’ charity to their neighbors during the COVID pandemic allowed more opportunities to share the Gospel.
More than 97% of Iranians are considered Muslim by their government, but as Oklahoma-based Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) notes, those numbers don’t reflect the increasing numbers who are reportedly leaving Islam and following Jesus Christ. VOM reports that major cities have networks of government informants who keep close tabs on Christian communities.
“Christians face the constant threat of imprisonment and being falsely charged with ‘acting against national security’ for owning Bibles or even talking about Christ,” VOM says. “Christians are routinely fired from their jobs, and it is difficult for a known believer to find a job or rent a home.”
Other countries on the State Department’s CPC list are Burma, China, Eritrea, India, Nigeria, North Korea and Pakistan.
Correction May 25, 2023: An earlier version of this article said, “It was not immediately clear how many of the executed this month were Christians, but it is presumed to be a significant number.” However, the nonprofit organization Article 18, which advocates for religious freedom in Iran, reports that although Christians in Iran are targets of persecution, Article 18 knows of no Christians that have been executed in recent years.
Photo: Allison Bailey/NurPhoto