Iranians hail Pope's role in inter-religious dialogue
Reprinted from a report by Zenit News Agency in Vatican; November 7, 2000
(ZNDA: Rome) While religious discrimination continues in their country, Iranian officials meeting in Rome underlined the positive role that John Paul II is playing in promoting dialogue among all faiths.
Iranian deputies came to Rome for last weekend's Jubilee of governors and legislators. Last Friday they met in their nation's embassy at the Vatican along with representatives of religious minorities who participate in the Islamic Consultative Assembly.
Ahmad Bourghani, president of the Parliamentary Friendship Group between Italy and Iran, was among the Iranian delegates. He emphasized that the politicians' Jubilee was a privileged occasion to promote mutual understanding between Christians and Muslims.
Non-Muslims comprise only 210,000 of Iran's 60 million people. According to the Iranian Constitution, five of the 290 parliamentary seats belong to religious minorities.
Christians, who number slightly more than 100,000, have the right to three seats (one for the "Assyrian and Chaldean" Christians and two for Armenian Christians). Jews, the second minority, have one deputy, while Zoroastrians, who number about 10,000, have one seat.
However, the "Report 2000 on Religious Liberty," published by Aid to the Church in Need, states that apostasy from Islam is punishable by death in the country, both for the one who causes it as well as the one who abandons this religion.
The same report reveals that Christians are leaving the country "because they can no longer open restaurants, small kiosks, be hairdressers or dentists. In case of an accident, the life of a non-Muslim is worth far less than that of a Muslim; the monetary sanction for running someone over is more than 100 times less."
Since 1991 no Jewish periodical has been allowed to publish. The situation of Jewish believers worsens because of their solidarity ties with their co-religionists in Israel, which the regime's propaganda presents as "little Satan," the report explains.
According to Human Rights Frontiers, followers of the Bahai religion were arrested last January and February and condemned to death.
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