CHRISTIANS FEAR RENEWED OPPRESSION IN IRAN
‘Leaders Are Now Extremists And They Decide About Life And Death’
For Immediate Release
SANTA ANA, CA (ANS) — Iranian Christians are frightened.
According to Open Doors sources, Muslim background believers (MBBs) are outlawed for the first time in years. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejads regime is dealing a severe blow to Christian revival in the country.
Since mid-2004, we have noted a dangerous trend in the country. The last 10 years were relatively calm, said Stefan van Velde. Between 1990 and 2004, Christian life wasnt easy, but we counted fewer arrests and fewer incidents of torture than in the period before 1990.
But in the last phase of Mohammad Khatamis presidency, the situation deteriorated for the Christian population. Almost 90 church leaders were arrested in September 2004. One of them, Hamid Pourmand, is still in prison. He was sentenced to three years imprisonment and miraculously escaped the death penalty. Persecution has worsened since Ahmadinejad took office. I heard that all mayors have been given the order to crack down on all Christian cell groups.
Police and secret services also contribute to this persecution. Since the summer of 2005, more Christians have been temporarily arrested and beaten. Ghorban Dordi Tourani, a house church leader, was assassinated in November 2005. Van Velde said, I fear more Christians will be murdered for their faith. The civilians have not become radical, but the leaders are now extremists and they decide about life and death.
Iran s new policy has brought fear to the church. Ethnic Christians are still allowed to express their faith within their own church walls, but Muslim background believers face tremendous risk. The government wants them to return to Islam. Churches are forbidden to support these MBBs. As a result, ethnic churches are removing their support from their brothers and sisters of Muslim origin.
That is regrettable, said Van Velde. The MBBs now form little cell groups which only meet in secret. This makes it more difficult for the government to track them down. At the same time, its very hard for organizations like Open Doors to reach them, too. Its increasingly difficult to perform our work. This is a problem, because most MBBs are new converts to Christianity. They have very little knowledge of the Bible. There is a big risk that false doctrines will arise.
Still, a large group of Christians with a Muslim background continue to practice their newfound belief. Van Velde said, They arent intimidated by the government and continue to spread the gospel. Muslims who came to the Lord in the past few years fear nothing and nobody.
Islam is the official religion in Iran , and all laws and regulations must be consistent with the official interpretation of Shariah law. If you covert from the Muslim faith, you can be killed as Mr. Tourani was last fall.