Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani and his wife Tina Pasandideh are very concerned about the future of their sons Daniel (17) and Yoel (15), who are unable to receive high school qualifications, as the state refuses to recognise them as Christians and insists that they complete Islamic education.
Youcef is serving a ten-year sentence in Evin Prison for “acting against national security through propagating house churches and promoting Zionist Christianity”. He and Tina are converts from Islam, and this educational problem affects all convert families in Iran.
Although Christianity is an officially recognised minority faith, alongside Judaism and Zoroastrianism, only Christians from ethnic Armenian and Assyrian families are permitted to practise – not converts from Islam, who are considered apostate.
In 2009, Youcef protested a change in Iranian educational policy that required all students, including his children, to take Islamic studies in school. Daniel was being prevented from progressing at school because he refused to sit an Islamic religious education test. The authorities had insisted that he take the test – against his own wishes and those of his parents – and attend Koran classes.
Youcef’s protest led to him being charged with apostasy and evangelism and receiving a death sentence. His case gained international attention and he was acquitted of apostasy in 2012 and released. In May 2016, Yousef was re-arrested, when security forces raided a house gathering of the Church of Iran in Rasht.
Youcef, Tina and other Christian parents want a solution so that their children can complete their education. They also want the authorities to stop forcing children of converts to participate in Islamic studies at school.
Sources: Church in Chains, Middle East Concern
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