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Three Christians in Iran Sentenced to 80 Lashes for Taking Communion Wine
By Raizel Albano
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Christian converts Yaser Mosibzadeh, Saheb Fadayaee, and Mohammed Reza Omidi are due to be flogged in public for partaking of communion wine, a grave and blasphemous misconduct under Iran's Sharia law. The ruling is a total of 80 lashes for each. They were caught last May during a church gathering in Rasht. They were imprisoned for weeks, were bailed out, but now have to face public flogging. The three Christian converts face a mounting challenge being Christian in a Muslim-dominated country. They renounced their Islamic religion by choice. The Christian church's pastor, Yousef Nadarkhani and his wife Fatemeh Pasandideh, were also arrested last May. While the couple were not put into jail, the three converts and Pastor Nadarkhani are now charged with "action against national security." In Iran's Sharia court, it is highly illegal for a Muslim to convert to another religion. This is the second time Mohammed Reza Omidi will be subject to a public flogging. Back in 2012, he was one of four Christians charged with blasphemy and sentenced to 80 lashes. There are currently 300,000 Christians in Iran, including indigenous Christian Armenian and Assyrian communities. Christians clearly are a minority with 90% of the population Shia Muslims, and the remaining 9% Sunni Muslims. This leaves Christians to a paltry 1%. Public floggings are still done in Iran as part of the country's adherence to Sharia law. Cases against the Sharia law include adultery, extra-marital sex, and consuming alcohol. These offenses are also subject to public floggings, with the number of lashes dependent on the gravity of the case. According to Open USA's World Watch List, Iran is on the number 9 spot for being the most repressive country for Christians to practice their religion. Just this month, three Azerbaijani pastors were imprisoned in Iran after being wrongly accused of participating in a blasphemous religion-related activity. Turns out, they were invited to a wedding and were just having a tour of the country. Back in 2015, at least 108 Christians were also imprisoned and charged for practicing their faith. Christian prisoners face a grim challenge to survive as they are beaten, abused, and continuously threatened. Release International Chief Executive Paul Robinsons says of the trio due to be flogged, "Why is Iran refusing to allow its own citizens that most basic of all freedoms, the freedom to choose their own faith? These men have chosen to call themselves Christians. The state should respect that."

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