In the past two months alone, Iranian Revolutionary Courts have sentenced 18 people who had converted from Islam to Christianity to a combined total of over 23 years in prison for evangelism and forming house churches.
According to Mohabat News, many of those sentenced were arrested in a house church raid in Shahin-Shahr city, Esfahan province, on 20 February 2013. The men arrested were converts from Islam to Christianity. None of them had previous charges against them, but each was sentenced to a year in prison plus a two-year ban on leaving the country.
Iranian authorities feel threatened by the growing number of Muslims becoming Christians. A report published on 1 May by Mohabat News recorded Ayatollah Jafar Sobhani, an Islamic religious expert, warning Iranians “to be cautious and not let house churches be planted”.
“Enemies of the Islamic revolution and the Islamic regime of Iran,” he said, “are investing money and providing means to make the people … turn their back on Shi’ite Islam”. Mohabat News, however, said that Ayatollah’s allegations were exaggerated as a tactic in order “to provoke security authorities and intelligence services into pressuring Christians”.