ATHENS DAY 8

Pub­lished on November 24, 2017
Esti­mate 4 minutes read­ing

Mehrdad had asked to meet us in Piraeus to dis­cuss meet­ing at his church on Sunday.

Pireaus is the chiefest port of all Greece, since ancient times, and it is there that most of the refugees first enter the city of Athens. Mehrdad had con­vert­ed to Chris­tian­i­ty sev­er­al years before emi­grat­ing, a dan­ger­ous deci­sion to make in Iran. Decid­ing to wor­ship in a Chris­t­ian com­mu­ni­ty has to be done in some dis­cre­tion because it is not explic­it­ly ille­gal in Iran, it is pun­ish­able by prison and tor­ture to assem­ble as Chris­tians, and also to proselytize.

ATHENS DAY 8

Before he had con­vert­ed to Chris­tian­i­ty, Mehrdad had been a suc­cess­ful con­trac­tor, sup­port­ing a wife and two chil­dren. His wife became influ­enced by a neigh­bor that was a Mul­lah, or reli­gious leader, who over time, con­vinced her to become more con­ser­v­a­tive in her beliefs. Mehrdad felt alien­at­ed from the Mus­lim faith. The gov­ern­ment in Iran hides behind Islam, in the name of absolute pow­er over its cit­i­zens. Search­ing for solace, Mehrdad start­ed prac­tic­ing Chris­tian­i­ty at a secret chapel, where they would hold pri­vate gospel, prayer, and music. Soon, how­ev­er, one of the mem­bers of this small chapel revealed them­selves as a gov­ern­ment infor­mant and deliv­ered Mehrad to the police. He was arrest­ed and held in jail for nine days. He was forced to sign a paper that said that he would nev­er wor­ship in a Chris­t­ian church again. The gov­ern­ment of Iran pays its cit­i­zens to inform on their neigh­bors, so adding to the pres­sure to con­form to its stan­dards. Any­one can be an infor­mant. When Mehrdad was released from jail, he found that the mon­ey in his bank account had been blocked, and he was unable to run his con­tract­ing busi­ness, so he was forced to dis­solve it. He found work as a taxi dri­ver. His wife refused to live with him. He con­tin­ued to go to the same church and wor­ship. He had noth­ing else. The same infor­mant turned him in again. He went back to jail where he was beat­en with cables. He still has scars all over his body. When he was released from prison, he was per­mit­ted to leave the coun­try and received a pass­port. He went immediately.

ATHENS DAY 8

He flew into Turkey, and from Istan­bul, he trav­eled by bus to Edirne. From there he walked. He went by foot and crossed the jun­gle along the bor­der. He con­tin­ued to Thes­sa­loni­ki, still on foot, where he was arrest­ed and kept in a deten­tion cen­ter for three months. He applied for Greek asy­lum, and it was denied. He is now in the process of an appeal. Many peo­ple are flee­ing to Greece, hop­ing to find accep­tance. When a gov­ern­ment uses reli­gion to estab­lish dom­i­nance, a gov­ern­ment con­trols the love and fideli­ty of its cit­i­zens. Sim­ple faith becomes rebellion.

ATHENS DAY 8