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Christians Suffering Inside Iran

‘Persecution And Discrimination Are Seen By Iranian Christians As A Part Of Their Being Christians’

ICC Note

Iran has been severely persecuting Christian converts from Islam. This article reveals that Iranian Christians are standing firm in their faith despite the persecution.

06/08/2009 Iran (ANS)-Christians pay a high price in Iran for their decision to follow Jesus. The Iranian government controls churches and persecutes Muslim Background Believers (MBBs); arresting them as they commit the “crime” of leaving Islam. Presidential elections are scheduled in the country June 12. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is running for re-election. Sandra (not her real name), who oversees the work of Open Doors inside Iran , recently was interviewed on the situation in Iran .

Q: It was in 2005 that the situation worsened for Christians in Iran following the conservative Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s election as president. He promised the restoration of an Islamic government. How have Christians been affected by this?

A: Gradually their freedom to practice their faith has been restricted. Ordinances curtailing the rights of Christians were in existence since the revolution of 1979. They are now more rigorously enforced than before. Christians can not meet with Muslims in order to share their faith; Muslims are not allowed to visit a Christian church. Ahmadinejad applies the laws more stringently in order to prevent Muslims from converting to Christianity.

Q: In what way?

A: In the past, Iranian Muslims sometimes went to a church and asked for a Bible out of curiosity. Now this does not happen as often as before. Churches are more closely monitored by security forces. We know that some church boards include members who inform the government about church activities instead of standing loyally by their church. One-and-a-half years ago the Assemblies of God church in Tehran was forbidden to continue holding their Sunday school. The government restricts the things children are taught. The church is forced to let the government approve discipleship materials. Paradoxically, Islamic clerics examine Christian children’s materials.

Q: Apart from the government, who else is a persecutor of Christians?

A: Decidedly Islamic clerics, who stir up hatred against believers in their mosques on Fridays, thus inciting other Muslims. The authorities harass independent or evangelical Christians and MBBs as well as arresting, interrogating, mistreating and torturing them. In addition, relationships with family and friends are essential in the Iranian society. People meet frequently, having some tea together. Devoted Muslims consider Christians to be unclean; therefore they do not want to drink tea with them. This isolation, though it does not apply to all Muslims and all Christians, may be a heavy burden. And, of course, it is regarded as a disgrace for families if people leave Islam, notwithstanding that Iran is highly secularized. First of all, the apostate is shunned. Husbands divorce their wives, jobs are terminated and being ostracized by their family as well as socially is a harsh punishment for many MBBs. However, if the family members feel the Christian’s new faith is genuine, there is a chance for him or her to be once again accepted by the family. But the main sources of persecution are the government and the secret police.

Q: Can conversions be extremely dangerous?

A: Correct, as a Muslim is forbidden to leave Islam. The government wants to punish converts with execution; women are to be imprisoned for life in such cases. According to Islamic law (Shariah), an apostate must return to Islam or die.

Q: How do Iranian Christians cope with persecution?

A: It’s normal for them. In conversations, it seems not even important for them to mention what they experience. Persecution and discrimination are seen by Iranian Christians as a part of their being Christians, just like Jesus predicted it in the Bible.

Q: What is the expectation of Christians for the future?

A: More persecution. In recent years their situation and that of MBBs in particular has worsened.

Q: What can we learn from our fellow believers in Iran ?

A: The urge to serve God. MBBs in particular are highly motivated – enthusiastic teachers or evangelists. Of course they do not like to be scrutinized, discriminated against, arrested or mistreated. Christians know that being a Christian means to have no rights. They know that it means not to be heard, and that people will not listen to them because they are Christians. And they accept it.

Open Doors is urging believers in the West to pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ in Iran during this important election.

An estimated 100 million Christians worldwide suffer interrogation, arrest and even death for their faith in Christ, with millions more facing discrimination and alienation. Open Doors supports and strengthens believers in the world’s most difficult areas through Bible and Christian literature distribution, leadership training and assistance, Christian community development, prayer and presence ministry and advocacy on behalf of suffering believers. To partner with Open Doors USA, call toll free at 888-5-BIBLE-5 (888-524-2535) or go to our Website at www.OpenDoorsUSA.org. For more information on MBBs, go to www.secretbelievers.org.

(For more information or to set up an interview, contact Jerry Dykstra at 616-915-4117 or email [email protected]).

From Jerry Dykstra

Media Relations Director

Open Doors USA

616-915-4117

[email protected]

www.odusa.org

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