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ICC Note:

Iran has been labeled a country of particular concern by the State Department under the International Religious Freedom Act since the year 1999. Over fifteen years later, the Iranian regime continues to target Christians for persecution. Conversion from Islam is punishable by death, and the regime forces the underground Christian community to live in isolation and fear. Despite the risk of persecution, many Iranians are open to hearing the Gospel. Iranian youth in particular have shown great interest in Christianity, an interest which the regime has responded to with greater tenacity of persecution.

 

10/05/2017 Iran (Mission Network News) – Iran continues to pop up in the headlines often, and not for great reasons. An Iranian female chess player had to switch to the U.S. national team after being banned by Iran for refusing to wear a hijab. Iran’s breach of human rights has been challenged by Amir Hekmati, a U.S. marine corps veteran. Hekmati was in Iran visiting family when he was imprisoned and tortured by the Iranian government on espionage charges.

The U.S. State Department has categorized Iran as a Country of Particular Concern since 1999 under the International Religious Freedom Act. An annual report released by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom earlier this year stated, “During the past year, the government of Iran engaged in systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom, including prolonged detention, torture, and executions based primarily or entirely upon the religion of the accused.”

USCIRF’s report also revealed in Iran, “As of December 2016, approximately 90 Christians were in prison, detained, or awaiting trial because of their religious beliefs and activities.”

Levi MacGregor with Voice of the Martyrs Canada says the violations of religious freedom and human rights are especially stringent on the Iranian Christian population.

“We call what’s happening in Iran ‘the squeeze’, and the squeeze is when persecution is at such a rate that Christians are really just feeling pressured all the time and they’re living in an environment that is hostile to them, so their day-to-day living is very difficult. They can’t express their Christianity in any public way. Even in private, they have to be careful about what they say, how they act.”

Yet, MacGregor points out, “On the other hand, there is a great openness towards the Gospel in Iran right now. The people of Iran have discovered that Islam is not the solution to their problems. Islam is the problem. So right now, Iran is experiencing a great time of openness to the Gospel, especially among the younger generations which are unafraid to admit that there are issues with the government and are unafraid to pursue other alternatives to Islam.

“We want to be there to help them find that alternative, and there really is only one alternative that is going to bring them the peace and the joy that they’re looking for, and that comes from the Gospel.”

But spreading the Gospel is, understandably, much more difficult in a country like Iran. In order to empower the indigenous Church in Iran, it requires partnerships — lots and lots of partnerships.

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