UK Government condemns Bible burning in Iran
His Grace has for many years reported on the plight of both Christians and Muslims in Iran (eg here and here), living under the oppressive regime of President Ahmadinejad, who is determined not only to wipe Israel off the map but to purge his country of the distorted New Testament and Torah.
To achieve this, he needs to cleanse his land of the filthy Christian kuffar, especially the apostates of Islam who may lead Mohammed’s faithful astray.
Many Muslims tend to get a little tetchy when they hear of the Qur’an being burned. This is perhaps understandable when one considers that it is not simply a book to them, but the way, the truth and the life. The Qur’an is not the Islamic equivalent of the Bible; it is their salvation; their Jesus. The sorrow and anger felt by many Muslims at the burning of the Qur’an is more akin to the grief and indignation that may be felt by Christians when Jesus is mocked, derided and blasphemed.
But Christians tend not to respond with threats of violence and bloodshed. Those Islamist extremists who seek to eradicate the Christian scriptures by burning them are met by determined believers who will simply print and disseminate more. Last year, Elam Ministries distributed 100,000 New Testaments and 100,000 Bibles in Iran. Over recent years, with virtually no support, they have made available to inquisitive Iranians well over a million New Testaments and half a million Bibles. They have done this in spite of ferocious hostility from Iran’s government, and despite many of their workers risking their lives and liberty to see their fellow countrymen read the scriptures. Some are presently in prison for their work, suffering for their faith.
It was therefore a source of profound encouragement that the Iranian state persecution of Christians was recently debated in Parliament (fast-forward to 16:55). Foreign Minister Alistair Burt MP stated that the UK Government condemned the state persecution of Christians in Iran and the burning of Bibles by the Iranian authorities. He said: “We repeatedly call on Iran to respect the rights of all who choose their own faith and methods of worship in bi-lateral meetings in Tehran and London… We are aware of unconfirmed reports of the burning of Bibles in Iran. The UK wholly condemns the desecration of any spiritual or religious artifacts or symbols of faith including scriptures... We call on Iran to end this hypocrisy and religious intolerance.”
This unequivocal statement was in response to an earlier speech in which Andrew Selous MP had raised serious concerns regarding the treatment of Christians in Iran. Mr Selous said: “Iran wants to persecute Christians in secret but I believe the world should know and show its concern for what it is doing... Iran claims there is religious freedom but the reality is very different.”
He listed recent occasions on which Bibles were confiscated and burnt by the Iranian authorities. He said that in May 2010 hundreds of Bibles were intercepted and burnt on the Iraqi border, in October 2010 over three hundred Bibles were taken and burnt on the Turkish border and in February 2011 three hundred Bibles were seized in Salmas and there was a public burning. He pointed out that many of those in Parliament and around the world rightly condemned the Florida pastor Terry Jones for burning the Qur’an but went on to say that by contrast: “I'm not aware of any political leader in Iran, Islamic or otherwise, who has condemned these burning of Bibles. Indeed I hope that Muslim leaders in the UK will condemn this practice.”
Mr Selous went on to explain the broader situation. He observed: “There has been an escalation in the persecution, indeed there have been 282 known arrests of Christians in 34 cities since June 2010, of which 41 have spent between one and eight months in prison, mainly in solitary confinement. They have been subjected to hours of interrogation, facing verbal and physical torture, lack of medical treatment and they're called to renounce their faith. Prisoners are often expected to pay large amounts of money and the deeds to their properties in order to get out of prison.”
He then listed the names of a number of Christians still in prison for their faith and the dates on which they were first arrested. He called on the UK Government to be active in calling for the release of those arrested for their faith; to call for an investigation into the way the Iranian Government uses the death sentence for apostasy; to denounce the use of intimidation as a method of curtailing religious freedom; and to call on Iran to fulfill its constitutional provision for religious freedom and address its rhetoric and constitutional discrimination against religious minorities.
In Alistair Burt's statement, he confirmed that 'the demanding of large bails in Iran is sadly a common problem which is shared by all who feel the persecution of the system’. In reference to those Christians still detained he said: “We are aware of those mentioned by my honourable friend who were victims of the round-up and the crack-down on house churches after Christmas last year...a number remain in custody and we continue to believe there are no moral or legal grounds for their detention, a point we've made repeatedly to the Iranian authorities.”
In his conclusion he stated: “This intimidation on the grounds of faith and worship should stop immediately and we call on Iran to allow all members of all faiths to freely participate in open worship.”
As His Grace’s readers and communicants will know, freedom of worship and freedom of religion are non-negotiable to him. While we may occasionally be irritated and frustrated by the gradual erosion of some of our historic liberties, we must never lose sight of the fact that our brothers and sisters in Islamic lands are persecuted, imprisoned, tortured and murdered for their beliefs. And when they are not being burned alive, decapitated or splattered over their church walls, they walk every day in fear, but live every minute thanking God that they have more precious hours to tell the descendents of Abraham and Ishmael of the One who was descended of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; and that the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David until the carrying away into Babylon are fourteen generations; and from the carrying away into Babylon unto Christ are fourteen generations…