This was not Youhan’s first experience of lashes. Youhan was also given 80 lashes in 2013, alongside one other house-church member, for the same reason of taking Communion wine.
Iranian Christian convert Mohammad Reza (Youhan) Omidi was on Wednesday, lashed 80 times for drinking wine as part of Holy Communion.
It is illegal for Muslim Iranians to drink alcohol, but exceptions are made for recognised religious minorities, including Christians. However, Iran does not recognise converts as Christians.
This lack of recognition is also the reason Youhan spent the last two years in prison and is now living in internal exile – because of his membership of a house-church, which is the only available Christian fellowship for converts in Iran.
Youhan began his two-year term in exile in the southwestern city of Borazjan one month ago today.
Then, on Saturday 10 October, he received a summons from the authorities in his home city of Rasht, more than 1,000km north of Borazjan, to travel back home at his own expense to receive his lashes.
Youhan and two of his fellow house-church members, Mohammad Ali (Yasser) Mossayebzadeh and Zaman (Saheb) Fadaee, were sentenced to the 80 lashes in September 2016 – by a Rasht civil and revolutionary court which at the same time refused to convict them of “acting against national security” by conducting house-churches.
That conviction – and accompanying 10-year sentences – was instead imposed on them, and their pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, a year later by a revolutionary court in Tehran.
This was not Youhan’s first experience of lashes. Youhan was also given 80 lashes in 2013, alongside one other house-church member, for the same reason: they had used wine with Communion, according to Article 18.
However, on both occasions friends of Youhan say he was grateful for the relative leniency shown him by those carrying out the sentence, after he explained to them that he had not acted with impropriety but had only shared in one cup of wine as an act of worship to God.
The people of Iran are disillusioned with Islam and they are looking for answers to life. They are not finding answers in the traditional forms of state religion or the faith of their ancestors. They are looking for new answers, they are not happy and satisfied where they are spiritually. A large number of these people are actually having dreams and visions about a shining man dressed in white far before we are out there telling them about Jesus.
Iran ranks 9th on Christian support organization Open Doors 2020 World Watch list of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, but this does not stop the rate at which Jesus Christ is winning the heart of the people unto Himself.