Christian Refugee from Iran, Arrested at Mall of America for Sharing Gospel with Muslims, Will Plead Not Guilty
On Thursday morning, Christian pastor Ramin Parsa, a former Muslim refugee from Iran who got arrested at the Mall of America for sharing his testimony with Somali Muslims in August 2018, will meet with the city attorney's office for a settlement conference. He will defend himself against charges of misdemeanor trespassing.
"Tomorrow morning on March 7th at 9:00 AM I will stand before a judge and plead NOT guilty on the charges a Muslim in Minnesota brought against me for sharing the Gospel in a private conversation," Parsa said in a Facebook post on Wednesday. "I was interrupted by that Somali woman who did not like the subject of my talk although she was not a part of the conversation."
His settlement conference will take place on the second day of Lent, a period of the Christian calendar devoted to repentance and fasting, remembering the fasting and temptation of Jesus Christ in the wilderness.
Ramin Parsa told PJ Media that the timing of this court appearance has a particular spiritual resonance for him since it takes place at the beginning of Lent.
"Yes, it’s the same time as Jesus was tested in the wilderness. We Christians go through tests and trials, but we overcome them by the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ," the pastor told PJ Media. "As we get closer to the days of suffering of our Lord, we arm ourselves with the same mind, deny ourselves, pick up the cross, and follow Jesus. Christianity is not about 'everything gets better in our life' but it’s self-denial and being ready to pay any price for Christ's sake."
He spoke at the Minnesota State Capitol Wednesday night to share his story. He warned about Islam but said, "We love Muslim people." He also warned against Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and other anti-Semitic Muslims.
In August 2018, Parsa was visiting the Mall of America when two Somali Muslim women came up to talk with him. They asked him if he was still a Muslim, and he said no, so they asked why. As he was speaking with them, a third Somali Muslim woman reported him to mall security. The other two women asked the third one not to interrupt.
Mall security told him to stop speaking with the women, and he did. Then, after he bought a coffee, security arrested him and held him in "mall jail" for hours, without giving him food or water or letting him use the restroom.
Mall security called the police, and the state charged Parsa with trespassing.
The pastor recalled facing persecution in Muslim countries and then finally coming to the United States, where he thought he would be free to practice his faith without fear.
"When I became a Christian, I was stabbed, I ran away from Iran. I went to Turkey for two years as a refugee. We had a church and we were passing out Bibles. I was arrested," Parsa told PJ Media last year. When at last he came to America, he was relieved. "With tears in my eyes, I was so thankful to be in America, where I can express myself, nobody can stop me or oppress me for my faith... and then this happened to me."
In January, the pastor's lawyer told PJ Media his pre-trial hearing was held on December 11, 2018, but the matter was not resolved. "The city attorney’s office is continuing to prosecute Pastor Parsa for allegations of misdemeanor trespassing."
The lawyer said the settlement conference will involve "further negotiations and legal proceedings regarding Pastor Parsa’s First Amendment rights and the charge." A jury trial has already been set for April 29, unless the state drops the charges.
Parsa has called on Christians to share the gospel and warn against the dangers of Islam. "As Christians, we must lay aside lukewarmness, and foolish arguments and shake the dust of religion and legalism and get on fire for Jesus and share the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ with boldness," he wrote. "The apostles of Jesus said: 'Shall we obey man or God?' If we don’t wake up, our cities, states, country will be lost."
Follow Tyler O'Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.