Iranians praise Pope for role in interreligious dialogue
While religious discrimination continues in their country, Iranian officials meeting in Rome have underlined the positive role that John Paul II is playing in promoting dialogue among all faiths.
Iranian deputies in Rome for last weekend's Jubilee of governors and legislators met in the Iranian embassy at the Vatican 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 said 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, including three belonging to Christians.
However, 'Report 2000 on Religious Liberty', published by Aid to the Church in Need, states that apostasy from Islam is punishable by death, for both the person abandoning Islam and the person responsible for the apostasy. The report reveals that Christians are leaving the country 'because they can no longer open restaurants, small kiosks, be hairdressers or dentists'. The report claims that the life of a non-Muslim is worth far less than that of a Muslim.