Ex-Muslim Christian Pastor, Refugee From Iran, Arrested for Sharing His Testimony — in Minnesota
Read an update on Ramin Parsa's case here.
In late August 2018, Ramin Parsa, a Christian pastor who fled Iran as a religious refugee, was arrested for privately sharing his faith testimony in the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn. He fled persecution in Iran and Turkey, only to find persecution in the land of the free and the home of the brave.
"I came to the U.S. as a political and religious — as a Christian — refugee. They oppressed me for my faith in Iran. I was stabbed in Iran," Parsa told PJ Media in an interview on Tuesday. Then last week, he was arrested for a private conversation about his faith, handcuffed to a metal chair for four hours without water, and later charged with trespassing.
"These things might happen in other countries, oppressive dictatorships, but not in America," the pastor said.
Parsa, a pastor at Redemptive Love Ministries International in Los Angeles, Calif., traveled to Minnesota for two days to visit two different churches. He went to the Mall of America (MOA) on Saturday, August 25, with an elder from one of the churches, and with the elder's 14-year-old son. Shortly after entering the mall, he struck up a conversation with two Somali-American women.
"Our conversation was casual. At first, we were not talking about the gospel," Parsa recalled. "They asked me, 'Are you a Muslim?' I said, 'No, I used to be a Muslim and I'm a Christian now.' I was telling them the story of how I converted."
A passerby could not stand the discussion, however. "Another lady told the guard, 'This guy is harassing us!'" MOA security came and told Parsa to stop soliciting. "I said, 'We're not soliciting.' But we just left," the pastor explained.
The pastor and his friends went into a coffee shop, bought a latte, and came out. Parsa told PJ Media he thought that would be the end of it. He was sorely mistaken.
"When we came out of the coffee shop, three guards were waiting for us, and they arrested me right there," the pastor recalled. "They came after me and arrested me, and said, 'You cannot talk religion here.'"
Parsa told security he was a pastor. "They told me, 'We arrested pastors before,'" he recalled, still shocked by the answer. "It was something normal for them, they were used to it."
Meanwhile, the two Somali-American women who wanted to hear the pastor's story argued with the woman who reported him to security. They defended Parsa. Onlookers asked why the man was being arrested. "They said, 'Because he's a Christian,'" Parsa told PJ Media.
All this was bad enough, but the guards proceeded to abuse the pastor once he was in custody.
"They handcuffed both my hands to a metal chair that was bolted to the ground in a basement," Parsa said. He said it reminded him of the KGB, the notorious secret police in the Soviet Union.
"They began to file a report and they wanted to take my picture. I said, 'You cannot take my picture — you arrested me wrongfully,'" the pastor recalled. "They said, 'Then you're going to stay here longer.'"
Later, Parsa asked for a glass of water. They refused, unless he would allow them to take his picture. He asked to go to the bathroom. Again, they refused. Shortly before the police came, his captors relented.
"He gave me half of a really small cup of water," the pastor said. "He was trying to buy me out with that water."
After nearly four hours, the police arrived.
"The police came to open my handcuffs, and the handcuffs were very tight. It was hurting my hands," Parsa recalled. "The guard said, 'I don't think it hurts that much.'"
He suggested that the security guards treated him with special malice because he is a pastor. "I believe they treated me worse," he insisted.
The Mall of America did not respond to PJ Media's request for comment.
After the police took the pastor's mugshot and fingerprints, they charged him with criminal trespassing. He paid $78 to bail himself out, and his friends picked him up at 2 a.m. While that bail amount may seem low, the pastor insisted, "Every cent is too much for something I haven't done."
"I've gone through this before -- in Muslim countries I was arrested for passing out Bibles," Parsa said. "I didn't expect that would happen in America. As a citizen in America, I have rights. They denied my basic rights."
The pastor compared the mistreatment he suffered in Minnesota to the persecution he faced in Iran and Turkey.
"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 recounted. He mentioned Pastor Andrew Brunson, an American pastor imprisoned in Turkey and charged with terrorism. "They thought the American government was paying us to pass out Bibles. I said I wish they would," he remarked, wryly.
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," Parsa said.
When his family heard the news, they thought it couldn't possibly have happened in America. "When they realized it happened here, they were really shocked," the pastor remarked.
Parsa posted about the ordeal on Facebook, and shortly thereafter, the government of Iran arrested his cousin for handing out Bibles. "We are praying that my cousin will make it out. My nephew is in hiding," he said.
The pastor became famous after capturing video of a plane crash in Mexico on July 31. As the plane crashed, Parsa's video recorded him saying, "In Jesus' name! In nomine de Jesus!" Miraculously, all 103 people on the AeroMexico flight survived.
Parsa insisted that persecution against Christians is real in America, and not just because of his story.
"We have a football coach who was fired because he prayed before the game," he said, mentioning former Bremberton High School coach Joseph Kennedy, whose lawyers appealed his case to the Supreme Court in June. "We have a baker in Colorado who was upholding his faith and he was sued and fought for nearly six years," the pastor added, referencing Jack Phillips, who refused to bake a cake celebrating a same-sex wedding and was vindicated by the Supreme Court but then attacked once again recently.
"It seems like the only people who can be bullied are the Christians," Parsa said, noting that if the constant mockery aimed at Christians were to be redirected toward Muslims, "it would be an outrage." He wondered why the LGBT activists do not request same-sex wedding cakes from Muslim bakeries. "In Muslim countries, they kill the gays. They throw them off the building. I saw with my own eyes, people being executed."
"Christians are being persecuted and bullied, and nobody says anything to defend them," the pastor said.
While Parsa lives in California, he will have to appear in a Minnesota court to face the charges. He told PJ Media, "We just consulted with a lawyer -- we're going to fight this, to drop the charges."
If the pastor can confirm his story, it seems the Mall of America may end up facing charges.
Update: For the latest on Ramin Parsa's case, go to this story from November 2018.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.