The children of a pastor imprisoned for his faith in Iran have been barred from completing their education because they refuse to study Islam and the Quran.
When Yousef Nadarkhani’s kids went back to school last week, they were summarily informed that their previous grades did not count due to their refusal to engage in Islamic recitals.
According to the Christian Post, two of the pastor’s children are not allowed back to school because they did not complete their Islamic education, while 17-year-old Daniel has been enrolled as a “guest” in the 12th grade – he has still yet to receive his certificate of achievement for the previous grades.
In protest against the mistreatment of his own children, Yousef has begun a hunger strike in prison, according to Article18, a British-based non-profit “dedicated to the protection and promotion of religious freedom in Iran.”
The human rights group noted that Yousef and his wife Tina have been “fighting for the rights of their boys to identify as Christians for the past decade.”
Unfortunately, despite the fact that Christians are often granted exemptions from Islamic classes on account of their religion, Christian converts are not afforded the same privilege.
“Members of recognised religious minorities – including Christians, as well as Jews and Zoroastrians – are ordinarily exempt from classes in Islamic Studies and the Quran, but children of converts to Christianity, such as Yousef’s, are still considered Muslims,” the group noted.
Pastor Yousef was born into an Iranian Muslim family and converted to Christianity aged 19. According to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), Yousef went on to pastor a 400-member house church congregation before being arrested on charges of “apostasy” and “evangelism,” in December 2006.
Since then, he has served various stints in detention before being convicted on charges of “acting against national security” in 2017 and sentenced to ten years behind bars. Despite being granted a further appeal, early in the morning of July 22, 2018, “plain clothes authorities raided Nadarkhani’s home and took him to the notorious Evin Prison,” according to USCIRF. He has remained there ever since.
In July of this year, USCIRF Vice Chair Nadine Maenza called for Yousef’s immediate release. “Iran must release Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani and ensure freedom of religion for all citizens of Iran,” she stated. “The Iranian government has vilified and deprived the basic rights of Pastor Nadarkhani and of many other Iranians simply for exercising their freedom of belief. This must stop. I call on the government of Iran to live up to its commitments to its citizens under international law.”
Persecution watchdog Open Doors USA lists Iran as the ninth most oppressive place to live as a follower of Jesus.
“Christians in Iran are forbidden from sharing their faith with non-Christians. Consequently, church services in Persian (Iran’s national language) are not allowed,” the charity notes in a fact sheet on the country. “Converts from Islam face persecution from the government. If they attend an underground house church, they face the constant threat of arrest. Iranian society is governed by Islamic law, which means the rights and professional possibilities for Christians are heavily restricted.”
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Will Maule is a British journalist who has spent the past several years working as a digital news editor. Since earning a degree in international relations and politics, Will has developed a particular interest in covering ethical issues, human rights and global religious persecution. Will's work has been featured in various outlets including The Spectator, Faithwire, CBN News, Spiked, The Federalist and Christian Headlines. Follow him on Twitter at @WillAMaule.