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( – Despite the recent turnover of control to the Iraqi interim government, Iraqi Christians in the region still face an uncertain future, according to Agape Press. “It’s kind of a bad news, good news situation,” said Jerry Dykstra, spokesman for Open Doors, a ministry that serves the persecuted church. “The good news,” Dykstra explained, “is that there’s more freedom now that Saddam has been deposed; however, the bad news is that there’s so much violence there that many Christians are afraid to come out of their homes.” There are an estimated 400,000 Christians in Iraq . Dykstra said these believers are deeply concerned about the future of their country and whether they can openly worship their Lord. Iraq ’s elections scheduled for January 2005 may answer those questions. But violence continues under the interim government. A solution to violence, especially against Christians, in neighboring Iran has also been elusive for the Muslim-majority government there and is expected to increase. According to Christianity Today, since coming into office in 1997, the presumably reform-minded President Mohammad Khatami has shown no ability to rein in conservative clergy’s persecution of religious minorities. Islamic leaders in government take their cues from the conservative Ayatollah Ali Hoseini-Khamenei, Iran ‘s “supreme leader.” “So, although Iranian Christians have been continually persecuted,” said Abe Ghaffari, executive director of Iranian Christian International, “we expect that it will get worse.” In a country of 67.7 million people, 99 percent are Muslim, though reportedly they are growing more resentful of conservative clerics. There are some 220,000 Christians (more than half Orthodox, and perhaps as many as 15,000 Protestant), according to Operation World. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom noted that discrimination against non-Muslims prevails in education, government and other areas in Iran . It reported that at least eight evangelicals have been killed by Iranian authorities in the past 13 years, and 15 to 23 are missing or “disappeared.”