ICC Note: We have no desire to get involved in the politics of whether the US should attack Iran or not but we wanted to post this because it does highlight one very important outcome that an attack on Iran would have. That is and increase in persecution of Chrsitians in Iran as well as the rest of the Islamic world.
Ministry Leader Warns Against U.S. Military Intervention in Iran
Rejects ‘Axis of Evil’ label
By Mark Ellis
Senior Correspondent, ASSIST News Service
LAKE FOREST , CALIFORNIA (ANS) — His warnings against the invasion of Iraq fell on deaf ears. After a recent trip to several major cities in Iran , he’s issuing similar warnings about the unintended consequences of American military action. “We could lose more than we could gain,” says Norm Nelson, president and host of Compassion Radio, regarding the growing probability of a military strike by the U.S. or Israel against Iran ‘s nuclear facilities. ” Iran is a breakthrough country for Christ if we can keep our hands off,” he declares.
Nelson recently returned from an “assessment trip” to Iran , where he visited Tehran , Yazd , Shiraz and Isfahan . He made contact with Christians in two cities, and noticed distinct differences since his last visit.
“It has changed since Ahmadinejad took over,” he notes. “There’s a level of fear and looking over one’s shoulder. I was told not to interview certain people, especially journalists who might be blacklisted.”
He took note of the cautions, which included warnings against spies in hotel lobbies. “I had to be careful talking on the telephone,” he says. “It was reminiscent of the former Soviet Union during the Cold War.”
Despite the oppressive atmosphere, his contacts informed him of many encouraging signs of God’s work in Iran . “The underground church is growing; there is real conversion growth,” he notes. “People are coming to know Christ in a direct manner – through dreams and visions. It is difficult to quantify this sort of conversion growth in Iran . But it is happening, and it is significant.”
At the same time, many Christians are leaving Iran by choice, due to pressures applied by the current regime. “In one city the Christian population decreased by 1,000 in the past two years – from 5,000 to 4,000.”
The exodus of Christians from Iran is cause for concern, he says, and resembles the reduction in the Christian population that has taken place in Israel ‘s Palestinian Territories and in Iraq . “Christians have been present in Persia since the earliest days of the Christian movement,” he says. “It is tragic to see the reduction of the Christian presence in Iran . They have been a faithful witness to the Gospel for centuries.”
The economy is a shambles, with high unemployment and inflation, according to Nelson. Many Muslims want to leave Iran as well, due to all these factors, he notes.
Nelson drove by Iran ‘s nuclear plant at Natanz, which is protected by surface-to-air missiles. Then he met with a university instructor who argued strenuously for Iran ‘s right to develop nuclear power for peaceful purposes.
“President Ahmadinejad is not the supreme leader,” Nelson notes. The supreme leader is the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, a cleric, along with other clerics who form an authoritative religious “umbrella” over Ahmadinejad. If they oppose a policy of the president, it will not happen, according to Nelson.
“Khamenei issued a fatwa saying that if Iran developed a nuclear weapon, it would be a sin,” Nelson says. “For Ahmadinejad to go against that would bring trouble for him.”
Nelson appeals for patience by the Bush administration. “We know there are plans to invade Iran ,” he notes. “What God is doing could be set back by political impatience.”
“Even people opposed to Iran ‘s government have a patriotic national pride,” Nelson observes. “If we attack, they will rally to support a man (Ahmadinejad) they hate.”
Some believe that if the U.S. hesitates, Israel may strike first. “If Israel bombs them, it will be just as if the U.S. did it,” he suggests. Many in Iran believe that because Israel and Pakistan possess nuclear weapons, they have a right to such weapons as well.
Norm also conferred privately with several young Iranian scientists and journalists, spent time with Muslim clerics at the Khan Theological College in Shiraz , and had a surprisingly friendly meeting with members of Iran ‘s elite Revolutionary Guard. He says his meeting with the clerics started stiffly, but ended positively. “It’s all very doable when you go with the right spirit.”
Nelson rejects the “axis of evil” label applied by President Bush to Iraq , Iran and North Korea after the September 11 attacks. Nelson and his wife, Cher, will make their third trip to North Korea shortly, and visited Iraq earlier this year.
“It’s not that evil doesn’t exist in Iran ,” he argues. “It does.” “But the axis of evil runs through every human heart. Jesus Christ is just as much at work there as he is here.”
The clerics pointed out to Nelson that they have already felt invaded by American pornography via satellite. “Why can’t you do something about that?” they asked. Nelson talked to them about the high value Americans place on freedom.
“We don’t want that kind of freedom,” they responded.
Nelson and his wife refer to Iran , Iraq , and North Koreas as the “Axis of Opportunity.” On previous trips to Iran , they have done post-earthquake relief work both in the southern city of Bam , and in the northern Mazandaran Province ; and participated in Christian/Muslim Interreligious Dialogue held at Tehran ‘s Institute for Political and International Studies.
“We’re all sinners; we’re all the same in that sense,” he says. “We must pray for the church God is building in Iran .”