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7/3/07 Islamic Republic (MNN) — Norm Nelson of Compassion Radio is traveling through the Islamic republic for several weeks in July.

Less than one half-percent of people are Christians in this region, and even those are closely monitored by the government. Witnessing to Muslims is banned as well.

This is Nelson’s fifth trip to the country. “We travel as those who are Ambassadors for Hope,” said Nelson. Despite the persecution there, he says the most important story for Christians is the growth of the church there. “I think there is evidence of the power of Christianity at its highest level in these parts of the world. And when Westerners have the opportunity, or take the opportunity, to travel to places like that, they get a sense of the power of the Gospel that they simply do not get in the western world.”

Nelson may get the opportunity to meet Christians during his stay. The current situation for Christians in the Islamic republic is similar to the early church. “Christians are regarded as a destabilizing influence,” said Nelson. “That doesn’t mean that tremendous things are not happening.”

The growth of the church is currently greater outside the western world than inside the western world. This is even true in the Islamic republic though witnessing to Muslims is banned.

Christians from the west can get a new perspective on the church by traveling to places where Christianity is under attack. “When we show up in countries where being a Christian is very difficult, where persecution is going on, the saints are encouraged. They realize that they are not forgotten, and that they have spiritual brothers and sisters in other parts of the world that know that they exist, that stand with them in a supportive way, and are praying with them,” said Nelson. He stresses that even if we cannot visit them, we can pray for those who pay the price for their faith.