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Helping Iran’s persecuted Christians involves sanctions, prayer

Iran (MNN) — U.S. President Donald Trump is home today following a three-day visit to the UK, but he didn’t leave before discussing Iran. British officials reportedly worry that faltering U.S.-Iran relations could lead to regional conflict. More about that here.

At the same time, religious freedom advocates in the U.S. call for targeted sanctions on Iranian judges to counteract Iran’s harsh persecution of Christians. However, Miles Windsor of Middle East Concern says bringing the topic of Christian persecution into the current heated political situation may do more harm than good.

Why targeted sanctions?

As reported by CBN News, a recent gathering of experts, advocates, and politicians in Washington D.C. highlighted Iran’s mistreatment of believers and called for political action. It’s a well-established fact that Iran severely oppresses Christians, as documented here by Open Doors USA.

(Photo courtesy of David McEachan via Pexels)

“Iran is an egregious violator of human rights and religious freedom,” Windsor explains. “It is one of the worst, if not the worst place in the Middle East to be a Christian.”

Advocacy group International Christian Concern (ICC) tweeted on May 21 urging people to sign their petition. The appeal, addressed to President Trump, calls for targeted sanctions on Iranian judges under the Global Magnitsky Act.

Under this bill, the President can impose sanctions on individuals or entities who’ve committed serious human rights abuses. Last year, some U.S. senators urged Trump to take action against Saudi Arabia using permissions granted by this statute.

A word of caution

Though Windsor agrees targeted sanctions could be helpful, he warns of unintended consequences.

“It’s important not to tie US-Iran relations in general to the plight of Christians…for fear of reinforcing an idea put out by the regime propagandists — that Christianity is a Western ideology — when, of course, it originated far closer to them.”

Numerous complexities and challenges surround the US-Iran diplomatic relationship. When talking about political challenges that exist between the two governments, “it’s important to understand the dynamics of the region, and to have those conversations,” Windsor says.

“But I think it’s important to recognize that you don’t necessarily see a clear link between global political matters and the persecution of Christians — which has been happening in Iran — when there are [comparatively] good relationships with Iranian leadership [too].”

Another option

Whatever political actions take place in the coming weeks, Windsor urges prayer.

“The most important thing we can be doing is praying that God will be protecting and sustaining His children in Iran.”

It may sound trite, but remember –you’re praying to the One who controls the universe. He can soften hearts of stone. “There’s a great turning to Jesus in Iran, and we want to see that continue,” Windsor notes.

Prayer doesn’t replace actions like donating to meet believers’ physical needs, or advocating to raise awareness of the difficulties they face. James 2 condemns faith without works. It is merely a matter of priority.

“It’s important that our brothers and sisters are able to meet together and worship together. So, we can pray that God will be protecting them and that He’ll be opening up Iran to the Gospel even more than it already is.”

MEC supports Christians in the Middle East and North Africa who are marginalized, discriminated against, or persecuted for their faith. Learn more about their work here.

Header image depicts Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at Urumia during the 2017 elections. Photo and description courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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