Mohabat News – In May 2007, Seyyed Mohammad Khatami, former Iranian president, travelled to Italy as the chief of the Center for Dialogue of Civilizations and visited the Pope of the time. At that time pressures and threats against Christians in Islamic countries were increasing and conflict between Muslims and religious minorities had reached its tipping point. The Pope criticized these threats and persecutions against Christians and called Muslims extremists and violent. Iran, as well as other Islamic countries, reacted to this criticism of Pope.
-Khatami Visited the Pope
In a press conference just before his visit with the Pope, former President Khatami answered the question, "Has the Pope's statement healed scars from clashes between Christians and Muslims?" He said, "These wounds are quite deep. There are many scars that cannot be healed easily. However, we've initiated mutual efforts to help heal these wounds." Although Islamic Republic representatives promised the Pope to have better interaction with Iranian Christians, not only were these promises not kept, but pressure on Iranian Christians increased further.
-More Visits with the Pope
One year after Khatami's visit to the Vatican, a group of Iranian Islamic scholars visited the Pope as part of a seminar called "Faith and Logic in Islam and Christianity". Mr. Mehdi Mostafavi, former head of the Culture and Islamic Relations organization, was leading the Iranian scholars in that visit. He also met the Pope's representative for inter-religion dialogues. This time, the Iranian group promised again to have better interaction with Christians and other religious minorities. However, arrest and torture of religious minorities, especially Christians once again showed the hostile reality of the Islamic Republic in their relations with religious dissidents.
-Islamic Republic Disloyal to its Commitments!
The Islamic Republic's disregard for its international commitments and its violation of freedom of thinking and civil rights by terrorizing, threatening, and pressuring religious minorities caused the Pope to not only reject visits with Iranian authorities, but he did not even respond to official letters from the Islamic Republic. The situation remained unchanged until Iranian media reported that the eighth round of Islamic-Catholic dialogues was held in the Vatican and an Iranian panel headed by Mohammad-Bagher Khoramshad visited the Pope. However, the news of this meeting was not wide spread and very few details about it were published. On the other hand many pictures of the meeting were published, which shows a high trend among Iranian authorities to have their picture taken with the Pope!
-Ahmad Shaheed's Latest Report Speaks of Religious Discrimination and Harassment
The main topic in this visit to the Vatican was dialogue between religions. The meeting was held while the latest report of Mr. Ahmad Shaheed, the UN's Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Iran, acknowledges that the Islamic Republic and its intelligence service have increased their pressure on religious minorities more than ever before. A large number of religious minorities including Christians are jailed and tortured. According to Mr. Shaheed, Iranian Christians, Sunni Muslims and Dervishes face discrimination and harassment in Iran. He also said in his report that "Since 2010, more than 300 Christians have been arrested in Iran." However, Javad Larijani, head of the Human Rights council in the Iranian judiciary, called Mr. Shaheed's report ridiculous and unreal.
The Islamic Republic seeks to have dialogue with other religions, while it has intensified its suppression on religious minorities other than Shia Muslims, especially converted Christians. Currently, a number of Christian converts are being held in prison solely because of their faith. Some are serving their sentences in prison and some are being held in uncertainty without being either convicted or fairly tried.
More surprisingly, Mohammad Bagher Khoramshad, head of the Iranian panel visiting the Pope, conveyed warmest greetings of Iranian authorities to the Pope. The names of Iranian authorities who sent their greetings were not published. Mr. Khoramshad also emphasized the necessity of continuing these dialogues in a wise and spiritual atmosphere. He did not mention that some of the Islamic regime's authorities, as well as a number of Islamic clerics had insulted Christians and especially the Pope in recent months.
-What Can be Heard from Shia Religious Experts
The Iranian group seems to be pretty forgetful. They don't seem to remember anti-Christian statements of Hassan Rahimpour Azghadi, an Islamic regime theorist, who claimed the most corrupt people in non-Muslim societies are Christian pastors and leaders!
They should also be reminded of what Vahid Khorasani, a prominent Shi'ite religious expert, said about Jesus Christ and Mary, his mother. In his personal website, he told the Pope, "If there were no Quran, then according to the Gospel and the Torah, Jesus, the son of Mary, is an illegitimate child!" He had also claimed, "The only reason Jesus is remembered as a holy man is because of the Quran and Mohammad." Even before saying these things, he had called the Bible distorted and false and said that it is not the word of God! Together with other Mullahs, condemning the Pope, he said that the Pope conducts targeted evangelism in Iran.
Although these defaming words of Mullah Khorasani were vastly reported by Iranian domestic media and Christians expressed their criticism on the Internet, no official organization or authority showed any reaction to such shameful statements. / Farsi