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ICC Note: Despite unprecedented and miserable levels of persecution against Christian that plagues Iran, it has been named as having the fastest growing evangelical population in the world. According to Open Doors’ list, the estimated annual growth in Iran is 19.6 percent with possibly more than a million Christians coming from Muslim backgrounds. This means that in the last two decades more Iranians have come to Christ than in the last 13 centuries combined.

09/23/2016 Iran (Christian Today): Christians in Iran face relentless persecution. Ranked ninth on Open Doors’ list of countries where it’s most dangerous to be a Christian, open churches are forbidden and converting from Islam – the state religion – is punishable by death for men, and life imprisonment for women. Last year more than 100 Christians were arrested or imprisoned and allegations of torture have emerged.

And yet, the church in Iran is thriving.

In 2015, mission organisation Operation World named Iran as having the fastest growing evangelical population in the world, with an estimated annual growth of 19.6 per cent. According to Mark Howard of Elam Ministries, an organisation founded by Iranian church leaders with the purpose of expanding the church in Iran, more Iranians have become Christians in the last two decades than in the previous 13 centuries combined.

“In 1979, there were an estimated 500 Christians from a Muslim background in Iran,” he says. “Today, there are hundreds of thousands – some say more than one million. Whatever the exact number, many Iranians are turning to Jesus as Lord and Saviour.”

So what’s causing this growth?

The problems for Iranian Christians began in 1979. The Iranian revolution of that year resulted in the creation of a hard-line Islamic regime with a very strict interpretation of Shia Islam. Since then religious minorities, including Christians, Baha’is and Sunni Muslims, have been targeted by successive governments.

“Religious minorities are generally viewed with suspicion and treated as a threat to the regime,” a country expert told Christian Today.

The source, a researcher for religious freedom charity Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), who remained anonymous for security reasons, said minorities regularly face harassment, imprisonment, torture and even death.

Article 23 of the Iranian constitution states that “the investigation of an individual’s belief is forbidden and no one may be molested or taken to task simply for holding certain beliefs”, but the reality for religious minorities is very different.

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