Three Iranian Christian converts, who were facing a combined 35 years in prison because of their faith, have fled the country after a court rejected their appeal, according to a Christian persecution watchdog group.
The three converts, identified as Kvian Fallah-Mohammadi, Hadi Asgari and Amin Afshar-Naderi, were charged due to their connection to a December 2014 Christmas celebration and were facing a combined 35 years in prison, according to the U.S.-based International Christian Concern.
The three men fled the Islamic country just weeks after two other Christians — a pastor and his wife — were forced to flee after their appeals rejected, ICC reported, noting that “the flight of five Christians from within a space of a few weeks is noteworthy, especially as their cases were some of the most publicized among Iran’s persecuted Christian community.”
These five cases were all interconnected and trace back to the same Christmas celebration in 2014.
“There is a sense that Iran wants to force Christians out of the country, but leaving is an incredibly painful and difficult process,” ICC said. “The church is at an important crossroad, even as persecution in Iran increases.”
In Iran, it is illegal for Christians to share the Gospel with Muslims. Open Doors USA, a global persecution watchdog organization, ranks Iran on its annual World Watch List as the ninth-worst county when it comes to Christian persecution.