"In Iran, anyone who converts to Christianity faces various problems" says this Christian convert. "In spite of the love I had for my family, I had to leave home. Everyone rejected me. The only thing that helped me through was my faith in Christ".
Iranian Christian News Agency, Mohabat News – Abdol-Rahman Mohammad Pouri is one of a thousand Iranian youth who was born and brought up in a strict Islamic family but chose not to follow his parent's religion and converted to Christianity by following his heart and personal investigation. Although he had to leave his home due to harsh treatment by his family and friends and pressures of security authorities, he has remained strong in his faith and continues to grow in his relationship with God. Abdol-Rahman, 29 is currently seeking asylum in the neighboring country of Turkey.
He says about himself: "I heard about Jesus in 1386 (Persian Calendar), or 2006-2007 and committed my life to him in 1387 (Persian Calendar) or 2007-2008. Immediately after I trusted in Jesus, I started to share my faith in the city of Semnan. This action caused me problems as our city was fairly small. As a result and since I had some good Christian friends in Mahabad, I moved to that city and rented a house for myself. That was the starting point for my extensive evangelical activities."
He continued, "In my opinion, the violence and contradictions in Islam made it impossible for me to feel close to God. Because of this I replaced my traditional religion with Christianity."
Separation from Family and friends
His conversion caused him family and social problems. Abdol-rahman explained "When my family and friends learned of my decision, they didn't accept it and rejected me as a result. They made me leave our family home. In addition, my friends treated me like my family had and began calling me an apostate and an infidel. In Iran, anyone who converts to Christianity faces various problems. In spite of the love I had for my family, I had to leave my home. Everyone rejected me. The only thing that helped me through all these challenges was my faith in Christ."
Restrictions of the traditional society
Abdol-Rahman spoke about people who choose to become Christians in Iran's traditional society with all the security conditions. "We couldn't express our faith among other people or attend church freely. And because of the difficulties we faced about going to a church, I decided to devote my rental house to the Lord to be used as a house church."
According to this young Christian convert, speaking openly about their faith and going to the churches was so dangerous for him and his friends that they had to gather in a house church in order to worship God, receive Christian teachings and study the Bible. Their participation in a house church attracted the attention of the security authorities who threatened and raided the house church and prevented them from worshiping. In addition, some of the house church leaders were also identified by the security authorities.
He criticized the current sharia based laws of Iran saying "The Iranian regime is based on Islam and in Islamic doctrine anyone who leaves Islam is considered an apostate and deserves to be killed. The Islamic regime is afraid of any kind of gathering, especially ones that contradict the Islamic faith and regime. In short, they cannot tolerate any other way of thinking than their own."
Abdol-Rahman described his painful experiences in Iran and said, the situation of his fellow believers in Iran is intense. They face all the above-mentioned problems on a daily basis which unfortunately, sometimes end up in stress, torture, long term imprisonments and even death threats."
Increase of threats and leaving the country
He then described his leaving of Iran. "After our house church was discovered by security authorities, I fled to the city of Urmia and stayed overnight with a friend in that city. The next day I learned that security authorities had broken into my home. So, I decided to leave the country to avoid being arrested. After some days, when I arrived in Turkey I also heard that security officers had raided my father's home in Semnan. They showed my family a warrant and thoroughly searched there as well. During the raid they confiscated some personal belongings of my brother including his computer, CDs and some of his books."
As Abdol-Rahman says, after the security authorities detected his house as a target in the city of Mahabad, they raided it. Then the judicial and security authorities, following an order issued on 29 October, 2011 by the provincial court, confiscated all his belongings and the savings he had accumulated through working. The authorities even sent a letter to his work place ordering them to fire him and ban him from working. They also sent several subpoenas to his father's home, instructing him to appear at the revolutionary court of Semnan. But before all this happened he had left the country for Turkey.
Appeal to International Community
Abdol-Rahman Mohammad Pouri hopes for a day when all religions, intellectuals and dissidents are able to express their opinions and no one is imprisoned, tortured or executed for his/her beliefs. He also appealed to the International Community and Human Rights organizations to put pressure on the government of Iran to release followers of different religions and intellectuals who oppose this regime which violates Human Rights and oppresses people indiscriminately.