Religion Unplugged | Lela Gilbert | March 26, 2020
“The new coronavirus kills one person every 10 minutes in Iran,” according to Kianush Jahanpur, Iran’s health ministry spokesman tweeted. “Based on our information, every 10 minutes one person dies from the coronavirus and some 50 people become infected with the virus every hour in Iran.” On Tuesday, March 24, the death toll in the Middle East’s worst-affected country climbed to 1,934. More than 24,811 Iranians are currently infected.
No one is more at risk of coronavirus infection than prisoners in Iran. On Mar. 24, Fox News reported that Iran’s theocratic rulers have temporarily released some 85,000 prisoners, including political prisoners, in an effort to prevent the spread of the Middle East’s worst coronavirus outbreak. But they have refused to free many Iranian Christians jailed for practicing their faith.
One woman – Mary Mohammadi – has come to represent the imprisoned persecuted Christians of that Shiite Islamic country, who face vicious treatment and the threat of deadly disease inside Iran’s notoriously filthy and brutal prisons. Their crime? Belief in Jesus Christ.
Most ordinary Iranians live quiet lives, keeping a low profile, wary of drawing unwelcome attention to themselves. And this is especially true of Iran’s Christian converts from Islam. For them, keeping out of sight can be a matter of life and death.
But not all Iranian Christians choose to keep a low profile.
Fatemeh Mohammadi – who now chooses to be called Mary – has been arrested more than once for nothing more than living out her faith and speaking up for Iran’s beleaguered Christian community. Her courage and grace are noteworthy. Even President Donald Trump mentioned her by name during his recent National Prayer Breakfast speech, noting that she was imprisoned because “she converted to Christianity and shared the Gospel with others.”
Until recently, Mary was held in Iran’s infamous Qarchak women’s detention center, a germ-infested facility south of Tehran, where she was ferociously beaten and abused. Before being moved there, she was also mistreated in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison.
On Feb. 28, Mary was released on bail prior to her final sentencing, which was scheduled to take place on Monday, Mar. 2. It was postponed because the presiding judge was diagnosed with COVID-19. And at the time of this writing, Mary Mohammadi’s situation is grave. She is in poor health following her recent prison ordeal. Her sentencing is rescheduled to take place on April 14.