Iran May Hang Imprisoned U.S. Pastor

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An American-Iranian pastor imprisoned in Tehran since September may face hanging because of his Christian faith. Saeed Abedini sent a letter to his family Jan. 10 detailing his torture and treatment by Iranian authorities.

The Jerusalem Post reports:

The U.S. State Department expressed “serious concerns” about Abedini’s situation on Friday.

Jordan Sekulow, the executive director of the Washington-based American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) wrote to the The Jerusalem Post on Friday, “This is an extremely critical time for American Pastor Saeed and his family. We now know with certainty, from his own words, the brutality and life-threatening danger he faces in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison.”

“In a powerful letter from him released to family members in Tehran, Pastor Saeed reveals that he is undergoing beatings and is being told that he ‘will hang’ for his Christian faith. That treatment combined with the recent news that Pastor Saeed’s case has been turned over to one of Iran’s ‘hanging judges’ makes his circumstances more dire than ever,” Sekulow said.

Abedini became an American citizen in 2010 after marrying his American wife, Naghmeh Abedini, according to FOX News.

The Iranian government does not recognize his American citizenship, though it had enabled him to travel freely between both countries until this past summer. That’s when he was pulled off a bus and placed under house arrest, according to his supporters. Abedini was then imprisoned and charged with several crimes that have not been made public, but it is widely believed that it is because of his Christian faith.

Jihadists and allies of the ruling mullahs target Christians living in Iran.

Dr. Wahied Wahdat-Hagh, an expert on Iran who has written extensively on the persecution of Christians in the Islamic Republic, told the Post on Saturday, that Abedini’s case was “an example of the insidious and perfidious policy of the Islamist dictatorship” in Tehran, adding that “the main goal of the rulers is to intimidate Christians and Iranians who are interested to leave Islam and change their religion.” […]

“The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and representatives of Islamic Jihad even play the role of pastors in churches in Isfahan to “guide” the Christians and teach them that Islam is better,” Wahdat-Hagh stated.

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Study: Christians Under Threat Around the World

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Christians are rapidly disappearing from the region of Jesus Christ’s birth – the modern Middle East – and are being persecuted in many other regions of the world where their religion is viewed as “Western” and foreign.

The new study, reported Sunday by the British Telegraph newspaper,warns that Christians suffer greater hostility across the world than any other religious group. It also claims politicians have been “blind” to the extent of violence faced by Christians in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

The most dangerous threat to the religion is militant Islam, the report by the think tank Civitas says, because oppression in Muslim countries is often ignored because of a fear that criticism will be seen as “racism”.

Converts from Islam face being killed in Saudi Arabia, Mauritania and Iran and risk severe legal penalties in other countries across the Middle East, the report says: “It is generally accepted that many faith-based groups face discrimination or persecution to some degree.

“A far less widely grasped fact is that Christians are targeted more than any other body of believers,” the study adds.

The study also estimates that 200 million Christians, or 10 per cent of Christians worldwide, are “socially disadvantaged, harassed or actively oppressed for their beliefs.”

“Exposing and combating the problem ought in my view to be political priorities across large areas of the world. That this is not the case tells us much about a questionable hierarchy of victimhood,” the author, Rupert Shortt, a journalist and visiting fellow of Blackfriars Hall, Oxford, tells the Telegraph.

He adds: “The blind spot displayed by governments and other influential players is causing them to squander a broader opportunity. Religious freedom is the canary in the mine for human rights generally.”

The report, entitled Christianophobia, highlights a fear among oppressive regimes that Christianity is a “Western creed” which can be used to undermine them.

Vatican hails U.N. Palestine vote, wants guarantees for Jerusalem

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The Vatican hailed the United Nations’ implicit recognition of aPalestinian state on Thursday and called for an internationally guaranteed special status forJerusalem, something bound to irritate Israel.

The 193-nation U.N. General Assembly overwhelmingly approved a resolution to upgrade the Palestinian Authority’s observer status at the United Nations from “entity” to “non-member state,” the same status as the Vatican.

“The Holy See welcomes with favor the decision of the General Assembly by which Palestine has become a Non-member Observer State of the United Nations,” a statement said.

But it also said it was a “propitious occasion” to recall a “common position” on Jerusalem expressed by the Vatican and the Palestine Liberation Organisation when the two sides signed a basic agreement on their bilateral relations in 2000.

Thursday’s statement called for “an internationally guaranteed special statute” for Jerusalem, aimed at “safeguarding the freedom of religion and of conscience, the identity and sacred character of Jerusalem as a Holy City, (and) respect for, and freedom of, access to its holy places.”

The Vatican’s re-stating of its position on Jerusalem, which has remained mostly dormant for years, was bound to irk Israel, which says there is no need for an international status for Jerusalem because those guarantees already exist.

Israel declared Jerusalem its “united and eternal” capital in 1980 after annexing East Jerusalem in the Six Day War in 1967. World powers have not recognized the annexation.

Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of an eventual state.

Israel has always resisted the concept of any form of international mandate over Jerusalem.

It has been some time since the Vatican re-stated its position on the city so forcefully, and Thursday’s statement was bound to be received negatively by Israel, a diplomat with direct knowledge of their relations said.

Israel has always maintained that it already guarantees the city’s special nature as sacred to the three great monotheistic religions – Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

Thursday’s statement called on both sides to seek an “effective commitment to building peace and stability, in justice and in the respect for legitimate aspirations, both of the Israelis and of the Palestinians.”

The Vatican and Israel established full diplomatic relations in 1994. Both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict visited the Jewish state and Palestinian territories.

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