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TAGS: Christianity; Interfaith dialogue; Religious freedom
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Abstract:
The US Department of State report "United States Policies in Support of Religious Freedom: Focus on Christians" includes a few brief mentions of Baha'is in Iran; the relevant passages are excerpted here.
Notes:
This report is taken from a webpage of the United States Department of State titled "97/07/22 Report on Religious Freedom: Focus on Christians," at www.state.gov/www/global/human_rights/970722_relig_rpt_christian.html. The lengthy document mentions Baha'is in passing a few times; the following is the only extended discussion of the Faith.

A colophon at the end of the report gives this information: "This report was prepared pursuant to the Managers Statement which accompanies the Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 1997, House Report 3610: "that the Department of State report to the Congress on or before January 15, 1997 with a detailed summary of United States policies designed to reduce and eliminate today's mounting persecution of Christians throughout the world."


United States Policies in Support of Religious Freedom:
Focus on Christians

by United States Department of State

1997

Report Consistent with the Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act, Fiscal Year 1997, House Report 3610
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Affairs, July 22, 1997.

...

The President has regularly hosted meetings attended by representatives of many religions, including leaders from Evangelical, Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox, Mormon, and other Christian communities, as well as leaders of Jewish, Islamic, Bahá'í, Buddhist, Hindu, and other faiths. For example, the President has met with the Dalai Lama, Pope John Paul II, Bishop Belo, and other eminent religious leaders. Such meetings provide an opportunity to discuss crucial issues affecting Christians and other religious communities. They are also a means of gathering information that can be used in U.S. diplomatic efforts to advance religious freedom.

...

At the 1997 UNHRC meeting, the U.S. delegation made religious freedom one of its main thematic issues. The delegation delivered a strong statement on religious liberty and religious persecution, which included specific reference to the persecution of Christians in Sudan, Egypt, Iran, Vietnam, Pakistan, and China. The statement also cited other faiths that face persecution, including Tibetan Buddhists, Bahá'ís, Muslims, and Jews. The delegation worked successfully to incorporate language on religious freedom in several country-specific resolutions.

...

In 1996, as in past years, the United States co-sponsored a resolution at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) condemning religious intolerance. The U.S. Government also supported an UNGA resolution on human rights abuses in Iran that highlighted violations committed against Christians and Bahá'ís.

...

Iran

Current situation: The Iranian constitution declares that Islam is the "official religion" of Iran and that "the sect followed is Ja'fari Shi'ism." The Government restricts freedom of religion both for other Muslim sects and other religious minorities, including Christians. The constitution states that other Islamic denominations "shall enjoy complete respect," and also recognizes Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism. Members of these religions elect representatives to reserved parliamentary seats. They may practice their religion and instruct their children, but the Government interferes with the administration of their schools and harassment by government officials is common. The law also stipulates penalties for government workers who do not observe "Islamic principles and rules."

Non-Muslims may not proselytize Muslims. Muslims who convert to another faith are considered apostates and may be subject to the death penalty. Four Bahá'ís remain in prison under death sentences, convicted on charges of apostasy in 1996. There have been no reports in recent years of Christians convicted on apostasy charges.

Official oppression of evangelical Christians increased in 1996. In early July 1996, a Muslim convert to Christianity, Shahram Sepehri-Fard, was arrested on charges of having "sensitive information." He has been denied visitors since shortly after his arrest, and his condition is unknown. In late September 1996, another Muslim convert to evangelical Christianity, Pastor Mohammed Yussefi (also known as Ravanbaksh), was found dead in a public park. He is widely believed to have been murdered by Iranian authorities. Yussefi had been imprisoned by the Government on several occasions prior to his death. Three members of an opposition movement, Mojahadin-e-Khaleq (MEK), Farohnaz Anami, Betoul Vaferi Kalateh, and Maryam Shahbazpoor, are currently in prison for the 1994 murder of Reverend Tatavous Michaelian, an evangelical Protestant pastor. The three women claim that two other Christian pastors murdered in 1994, Reverend Mehdi Dibaj and Reverend Haik Hovsepian Mehr, were also killed by the MEK. However, many observers believe that it is more likely that the Government is responsible for these deaths.

In January 1997, two Christian evangelists, Daniel Baumann and Stuart Timm, were arrested and detained under suspicion of espionage, a charge which is often levied against persons who proselytize in Iran. Baumann is a Swiss/American dual national and Timm holds South African citizenship. Both eventually were released without having been charged.

U.S. Government actions: The United States does not have diplomatic relations with Iran and is therefore unable to directly monitor the serious problems of religious persecution that exist in the country.

In coordination with the Swiss Embassy in Tehran, the United States worked to obtain the release of Daniel Baumann, who was freed in March. Stuart Timm was released in February.

In 1996 the U.S. Government publicly condemned Iran's persecution of Christians, Bahá'ís, and other religious minorities on a number of occasions at international fora, in policy statements, and through radio broadcasts.

At the UNHRC, the UNGA, and the International Labor Organization, the United States strongly supported resolutions condemning human rights violations in Iran, including the persecution of Christians. The United States also called for extending the mandates of the U.N. Special Representative for Iran, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Religious Intolerance, and the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, each of whom visited Iran in 1995 to ascertain details about conditions there. The U.N. Special Representative on Iran is awaiting an invitation from the Government and has been unable to visit the country.

The State Department spokesman has issued statements on the mistreatment of Bahá'ís and Christians in Iran and several Voice of America editorials have focused on this problem.

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