Authorities have fined a Christian couple the equivalent of three months’ wages for handing out a Christian booklet to children.
The report comes from Barnabas Fund, a worldwide ministry that supports persecuted Christians.
The incident has taken place in Azerbaijan, the small country between Iran and Russia which has a 96 percent Muslim population.
Barnabas Fund explained the couple was charged with possessing religious literature that did not bear a government “control mark” and violating a law against “clergy and members of religious associations holding special meetings for children and young people.”
Safqan and Gulnar Mammadovs each were fined 1,500 manats, about $880, on April 16.
The conflict arose when their 6-year-old son took some Christian books to school and handed them out to classmates.
The actions by their son “led to the head teacher calling the police who then raided the parents’ home, seizing Bibles, Christian pamphlets and CDs of worship songs,” Barnabas Fund said.
Police also discovered that on New Year’s Eve 2018, the couple held a holiday event at their home in which 12 children “each received a party gift of sweets and a picture book about the birth of Jesus.”
Barnabas Fund said a pastor who was present at the event was interrogated by officers who later searched his home and seized his Christian materials.
The couple appealed their fines, but their arguments quickly were rejected by the Shirvan Appeal Court.
“The court hearing lasted only 10 minutes and issued an unfair decision,” said a source for Barnabas Fund.
Among their options is a direct appeal to President Ilham Aliyev.
In a separate case, three Christians were forced to pay similar fines for holding a Bible study in the northern town of Sheki.