By George Whitten, BosNewsLife Senior International Correspondent
MASHHAD/JERUSALEM (BosNewsLife)– Three Christians are being threatened with the death penalty if they do not renounce their Christian faith and revert back to Islam, a well-informed Christian network reported Monday, September 13.
Farsi Christian News Network (FCNN), which has close ties with Christians in Iran, said the three Iranian Christians, residents of the city of Mashhad, were charged with apostasy and have been jailed since July 28 this year.
The Christians, who FCNN only identified as Reza, also known as Stephen, his wife Maria, and Ehsan Behrooz were reportedly ambushed and arrested while traveling from the city of Mashhad to Bojnoord to attend a Christian worship service.
FCNN said up to 15 other Christians arrested with them were released after one week when they posted bail and signed a written promises to the government “to refrain from and renounce” their Christian faith. However, Stephen, Maria, and Ehsan reportedly refused to sign the document.
FCNN quoted unidentified sources as saying that the families of the Christians were informed that “after more than 50 days of re-conversion efforts back to Islam through means of torture and solitary confinement” they remained unwilling to renounce their faith in Jesus Christ.
Iranian government officials reportedly demand that the families, during court-approved visitations, must persuade their loved ones to renounce their Christian faith and embrace Islam once again.
The families were informed if their loved ones refuse to cooperate with the government, charges of apostasy will be upheld, and they will be tried on these charges in an upcoming court session, FCNN said.
Iranian officials have not commented, however under Iran’s strict Islamic law, the charge of “apostasy”, or converting from Islam to another religion, is death by hanging if found guilty by the Islamic court. In 1990, Reverend Soodmand was executed by the same district court.
In a recent ranking of countries in which Christians are most persecuted, Iran ranked second only to North Korea, according to advocacy group Open Doors.