Lawmakers in Iran are considering a proposal to make the death penalty automatic for those who leave the Muslim faith.
Abe Ghafari of Iranian Christians International, Inc. (ICI) was at least a little surprised to learn the news. "Before, it was like an option that an Islamic judge could decide to use or not to use -- but now it will become an automatic thing. And from the language of the legislation, it seems like something that cannot be appealed," Ghafari contends.
The death penalty would primarily apply to those who convert to the Christian faith. "There are large numbers of conversions from Islam, maybe even in the tens of thousands every year, and this is causing concern in the Islamic circles in Iran," Ghafari explains.
People who use the Internet to convert people away from the Muslim faith will also be subject to the death penalty. Ghafari was asked if this information shocked him. "Yes, it does a bit because we do know that under Islamic law of Iran, there was always this option of issuing death penalties for any conversions from Islam.
So this was already available, but it looks like they just want to escalate persecution – making the death penalty almost automatic for anyone who converts from Islam," Ghafari adds.
While Christians are the primary target, anyone converting to the Bahá'í faith will also face the death penalty. Ghafari sees trouble ahead, and is hopeful Christians everywhere will pray for the underground church in Iran.