ATHENS DAY 8
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.
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.
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.