Religious tolerance: If memory serves, that’s when you allow people to follow their faith without fear of persecution. It’s what President Obama was supposedly defending when he said in September 2012, “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.”
He has been more reticent about the same rights for Christians, especially when their tormenters have been those who worship at the altar of the prophet of Islam.
Four Iranian Christians were reportedly sentenced to 80 lashes for drinking wine for communion, a shocking punishment meted out even as a new United Nations report blasted the Islamic republic for its systematic persecution of non-Muslims.
The four men were sentenced Oct. 6 after being arrested in a house church last December and charged with consuming alcohol in violation of the theocracy’s strict laws, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide. They were among several Christians punished for their faith in a nation where converting from Islam to Christianity can bring the death penalty. According to a new October UN report by Ahmed Shaheed, UN special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, such persecution is common, despite new President Hasan Rouhani’s pledge to be a moderate.
‘At least 20 Christians were in custody in July 2013,’ Shaheed wrote. ‘In addition, violations of the rights of Christians, particularly those belonging to evangelical Protestant groups, many of whom are converts, who proselytize to and serve Iranian Christians of Muslim background, continue to be reported.’
The author of the Fox report, Benjamin Weinthal, goes on to observe that Iran’s regime has made halting the spread of Christianity a priority in its war on religious freedom. The U.S. State Department estimates as many 370,000 Christians in Iran, all of whom are seen as a threat to the majority ultra-orthodox Shiite Islamic religion.
Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), chairman and founder of the Iran Dissident Awareness Program, is quoted as saying:
Despite the recent Iranian charm offensive, Dr. Shaheed’s report reminds us of the true nature of the Iranian regime where the abuse of human rights continue. Political prisoners like blogger Mohammad Reza Pourshajari are being denied adequate medical care, journalists and their families continue to be targets of the regime, Pastor Saeed Abedini and Amir Hekmati are still languishing in prison and the Baha’i community faces increasing persecution. This is the true nature of the regime we’re dealing with during negotiations in Geneva.
Iran’s government blasted Shaheed’s report, claiming it lacked objectivity.