Pray for the persecuted!
Ever since the Iranian Revolution of 1978, Christians have suffered acutely in Iran. Following the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2005, conditions have steadily grown more severe, bringing Iran to the second position in this year’s World Watch List.
Taking the Shiite totalitarianism of his predecessors to a new extreme, Ahmadinejad has sent out spies to monitor Christian groups and report them to the police. Over the last few years there has been a constant stream of reports about Iranian Christians being arrested. Former prisoners have reported being tortured to reveal the names of their brothers and sisters in Christ.
An ever increasing wave of arrests began in 2008 and continues to the present. It is suspected that these arrests are a tactic used by the Iranian government to demonstrate their absolute control, and distract attention from internal problems.
State of the Church in Iran
It is estimated that there are about 250,000 Christians in Iran. Approximately half of these belong to the officially recognized Armenian, Assyrian and Chaldean Churches. The government allows these churches to exist, provided they are subject to the government’s demands. For example, representatives of these churches have been forced to sign statements saying they will not witness to Muslims and will bar former Muslims from fellowship.
Those Christians who are not part of the government approved churches are forced to meet in small house churches under conditions of utmost secrecy. When a house church is discovered, the ramifications for Christians attending it can range anywhere from boycotts of their businesses to torture and even execution. Once known to be Christians, if they are not arrested, they typically encounter great difficulty finding and keeping a job, and may be demoted or even fired. As a result, Christians can find it almost impossible to gain an income and provide for their families.
While all Christians in Iran are subject to mistreatment, the most severe persecution is reserved for converts from Islam. In 2008, Ahmadinejad’s government passed a law mandating the death penalty for any Muslim that converts. While Muslim converts often flee the country to escape the apostasy penalties, many have not been so fortunate.
A reliable source, who must remain unnamed for security reasons, spoke of some of the challenges facing Muslim converts in Iran:
“According to Islamic law, an apostate must return to Islam or die, and the government wants to start punishing converts now with execution; women are to be imprisoned for life in such cases. I know a Christian couple who were flogged because of their faith. The husband was a former Muslim and she was an Assyrian Iranian. They had to have a Muslim wedding ceremony because the traditional churches wouldn’t marry them. The couple attended a house church and were arrested in September 2005 along with fellow house church members. When their case came before the court, the judge ruled that the wife had abandoned Islam because a Muslim wedding is equal to a conversion in Islam. For two years the couple had to report regularly to authorities until a verdict was reached, but the wife stopped going after she was sexually harassed by an official. As a result, security forces came to their home with a court order to whip them as punishment.”
God is on the Move
It may seem impossible that the gospel can be growing in a nation where all missionary activity and Christian witnessing is strictly forbidden. However, the Lord is able to work even without missionaries, as seen by the fact that many Muslim-background believers are telling of converting after being given visions and dreams attesting to the truth of Christianity.
Even Ahmadinejad’s severe regime is backfiring and being used to advance Christ’s kingdom in Iran. The theocratic government seeks to legislate on every aspect of life from clothing to the type of hairstyles permitted. This, together with rising inflation, high food costs and increasing unemployment has left a large percentage of the population, especially the youth, deeply disillusioned. In their emptiness, many young people are secretly turning to Christ. According to a reliable source, even children of government ministers and mullahs have been converting to Christ.
Source: Open Doors USA
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