Iran: Seduction and persecution of the Church
– the Church in Iran requires committed prayer support
By Elizabeth Kendal
World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission (WEA RLC)
Special to ASSIST News Service
AUSTRALIA (ANS) — According to the Shia Islam of Iran, in the end times the Muslimprophet Jesus will return with the Imam Mahdi, the hidden 12th Imam -the Shiite Messiah. The Shiite Jesus will worship the Imam Mahdi andlead the final jihad. As it says in the Quran, ‘. . . and on theDay of Resurrection he [Jesus] will bear witness against [those whoutter the “monstrous falsehood” that Jesus was crucified].’ (Sura4:155-160)
Even though the Muslim Jesus and the biblical Jesus have little in common and actually oppose each other, President Ahmadinejad went out of his way to publicly wish Iran ‘s Christians a happy Christmas and New Year. (See link *) However his message sounded very like an attempt to seduce them into believing that Shiite Iran is more Christ-honouring than the ‘oppressive powers’ in ‘Christian states’ which have created havoc in Iraq and ruined Iran’s Christmas by levelling sanctions against it. Then when he met with Armenian ‘families of martyrs’ on 6 January, Ahmadinejad equated Iran’s Armenians who died in the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988) with Islamic martyrs and told the (Christian) Armenians, ‘We are all like members of a single family heading for common goals.’
It is reasonable to infer that Ahmadinejad means to seduce the official church of ethnic Armenian and Assyrian Christians into becoming compliant – even grateful – collaborators in exchange for limited ‘privileges’. Ahmadinejad could then appear supportive of the church and religious liberty in general. And Ahmadinejad needs friends. Iranian women, students, intelligentsia and trade unionists are all becoming increasingly courageous in their willingness to risk their life and liberty to protest the regime’s repression and belligerence. Ahmadinejad’s seductive efforts will present the official church with a painful, watershed choice: collaborate or share the persecution.
But there is another well-established reality in Iran : Persian Christianity is unacceptable as it involves conversion from Islam, which is anathema and impermissible. Christian fellowships that evangelise Muslims reap the wrath of the Islamic regime. Persecution escalated dramatically through 2006 under Ahmadinejad’s direction. On 10 December 2006 Iranian secret police raided Christian fellowships in Karaj, Tehran, Rasht and Bandar-i Anzali, confiscating computers, literature and materials and arresting 15 believers they accused of evangelism and actions against the national security of Iran. All but one have since been rele ased after forfeiting money, job permits and even house deeds as bail.
Reportedly, new government directives will soon place the church even more under the thumb of the intelligence ministry and security forces. We can expect further escalation in both seduction and persecution through 2007 as Ahmadinejad attempts the standard, age-old Islamic strategy of using the church to persecute the church.
LINK: Ahmadinejad wishes Christians a prosperous New Year
PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR:
- God to give Iran’s Armenian and Assyrian Christians great spiritual discernment and wisdom as well as moral clarity and courage so they will not be deceived, seduced or tempted but will trust God completely, embracing the call of Christ (Luke 14:27) and the unity and love found in the body of Christ.
- imprisoned house fellowship leader Behrouz Sadegh-Khandjani, that God will comfort, protect and deliver him as well as enhance his wisdom and understanding through this trial.
- God to protect all Iran’s evangelists – from the trained Bible scholar and career missionary to the humble child sharing their simple faith with a friend – so the gospel of salvation through the biblical Jesus can spread across the nation; may the Holy Spirit accompany the word and enlighten many hearts.
‘Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by t he water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.’ Jeremiah 17:7,8 NIV