Three Christians arrested weeks ago in Iran have been sentenced to be lashed in public for drinking communion wine.
The Christians were subject to and sentenced by a sharia court, as their conversions from Islam to Christianity are not recognized by the Iranian regime. Although it is legal for Christians to drink alcohol in Iran, it is illegal for Muslims.
The three –Yaser Mosibzadeh, Saheb Fadayee and Mohammed Reza Omidi – will each receive 80 lashes and plan to appeal the sentence. It is reported that most people can only withstand eight lashes before they faint.
The men were arrested along with their pastor Youcef Nadarkhani and his wife Fatemeh Pasandideh, although the latter two were subsequently released.
All five were also charged with taking “action against national security” and are set to be sentenced by the Revolutionary Court in Rasht.
Pastor Nadarkhani became an international symbol for religious freedom in Iran when he was arrested in 2009 for questioning the Muslim monopoly on religious education for children. He was charged with apostasy and sentenced to death in 2010. Those charges were later dropped and he was unexpectedly released in 2012 after the court changed the charges against him to evangelizing Muslims (which carries a three-year prison term).
He later was made to return to prison to finish out that term and was again released in 2013. In this latest arrest, he was given one week to come up with $33,000 in bail as were the three men from his congregation.
Elsewhere, in Pakistan’s Electronic Media Regulatory Authority shut down en masse 11 Christian television channels and detained seven people in the operation.
Christians say that although licenses are not issued for religious channels, all other religious channels have been allowed to continue broadcasting.
Father Morris Jalal, founder and executive director of Catholic TV, said, “What is the future of church media in Pakistan? It is a very difficult time for us. We were just trying to reach our own community who are generally ignored by other TV channels.”