Ecumenical News International

Human rights activist calls for more commitment by the German government for persecuted Christians in Iran

May 19, 2015

Frankfurt a.M. (epd). According to human rights activists, the German government must use its good relations with Iran to advocate for persecuted Christians in that Islamic country. Speaking in Frankfurt, Martin Lessenthin, chair of the board of the human rights organisation Internationale Gesellschaft für Menschenrechte, stated that - despite the ongoing negotiations about a nuclear agreement - Germany and the EU should not forget the systematic deprivation of the rights of Iranians. The number of Christians living in Iran is estimated at several hundred thousand. About 20,000 people have been detained for political reasons or because of their faith.

According to Lessenthin, the share of converts is growing as many Iranians turn to Christianity. "The theocratic regime simply puts people off," he said. Only the Armenian minority, that immigrated there 100 years ago, is allowed to openly live its Christian faith. "That is due to the fact that, by recognizing them, the government sees no loss to Islam," Lessenthin explained.

The window for improvements in the field of human rights will close as soon as the ink under the nuclear deal is dry, he added. The time to exert influence is thus particularly favourable now. "We must do everything possible to free the religious and political prisoners in Iran," Lessenthin appealed. Germany has a more important role to play here than the USA, in its opinion, because of its good relations with Iran.

The UN veto powers and Germany have been negotiating with Iran for months about the supervision of its nuclear programme. Their aim is to prevent Iran from gaining possession of nuclear weapons. In return, the West wants to ease existing sanctions against Iran. (epd)



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