"I extend my heartfelt felicitations to Iranian Christians on the birthday of the messenger of love, wisdom and justice and pray to God to help the humanity to leave behind the current situation of violence, war, terror and misunderstanding and get rid of the anxiety about future," said former Iranian President Muhammad Khatami.
These days Khatami chairs the International Center for Dialogue of Civilizations.
He used the festival to remind Iranians that, “Jesus Christ is our prophet, as Prophet Mohammad has said, a faithful human being is the one who believes in God, the holy books, the angels and the entire prophets and makes no distinction between them.”
However, his message comes at a difficult time for Tehran, not only because of its international isolation over its nuclear program, but also because of allegations of its mistreatment of its minorities, including Christian Iranians. Earlier this month Canada proposed a resolution condemning Iran’s alleged persecution of its minorities. The resolution was co-sponsored by 43 nations.
While largely not going public on their mistreatment for fear of reprisals, occasional reports on Iran’s Christians suggest they are subjected to arrests and rigorous questioning by Islamic authorities. The country’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security carried out arrests of Christians in three towns in the run-up to Christmas, according to the opposition movement, the National Council of Resistance of Iran.
The organization claims that in one northern city families of the arrested gathered outside a courthouse to obtain information and were attacked by government agents.
The latest clampdown on Christian Iranians is said to have taken place ahead of the recent controversial conference on the Holocaust in Tehran, which included the appearances of dozens of Holocaust deniers from around the world. Iranian security officials rounded up “many” members of Iran’s Evangelical community, the Italian news agency Adnkronos International reported. It named some of those picked up as Hamid Reza Tolouinia, Firouz and Shirin Sadegh in Tehran, Behnam Irani and Shain Taghizadeh, in Karaj, and Peyman Salarvand, Sohrab Sayyadi, Yousef Nedarkhani, Parwiz Khalaj and Mohammad Beliad in Rasht, on the Caspian Sea.
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