Persecution and Grace Fill Iran’s Streets
By Claire Evans
11/14/2018 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – The massive waves of unrest which have plagued Iran this past year point toward the people’s frustration with the moral and economic bankruptcy of a governing Islamic elite. “This is a very enlightened generation of younger people in Iran,” said Dr. Mike Ansari from Heart4Iran, an Iranian Christian partnership platform. “People are smarter and wiser and they can see through the fog of confusion created by the Iranian government.”
The Islamic Republic of Iran was created in 1979 with the intention of safeguarding Islamic principles by enshrining them into piety politics that define every aspect of life. One generation later, and Iranians have had enough with the harshness imposed by the Islamic regime. “They are taking a sense of pride in their past and heritage. They want to know what their ancestors were before they were forced to be Muslims,” continued Dr. Ansari.
Iran has a rich Christian history, and Iranians are not ignorant of the persecution which the Church has faced under the modern regime. In their quest for discovering the meaning of life, many Iranians have encountered the Gospel message. “When the Church is ready for persecution, we also see grace,” added Dr. Ansari.
“As Christianity is growing fast in Iran, the top religious leaders are alarmed. They then put pressure on the Revolutionary Guard’s security police as, ‘What are you doing to stop Christians?’ …The strategy of the government is not a widespread arrest and execution. Their strategy is to arrest a few, but publicize their arrest to put fear in the hearts of 1-3 million Christians and make them isolated, fearful, and prisoners in their homes,” explained Dr. Hormoz Shariat of Iran Alive Ministries.
This past year, International Christian Concern (ICC) has documented at least 100 cases where Christians have faced continued harassment, interrogation, detainment, imprisonment, or another type of judicial action intended to repress the Church. Many other cases continue to be investigated. Often, these believers have experienced persecution for decades, but the pressure on them has increased within the past year.
One such example is the family of Pastor Victor Bet-Tamerez. He was arrested four years ago, the day after Christmas, on charges of acting against national security and espionage. If his appeal against these charges fails, then he will be sentenced to 10 years in prison.
“God is very much alive in Iran. He is moving and he is building his Church in Iran and it is growing and there is a lot of good news that is happening inside the country.”
This year, the judiciary under the guidance of Judge Ahmadzadeh turned their attention toward the rest of the pastor’s family. In January, Pastor Bet-Tamerez’s wife was sentenced to five years in prison on the same charges as her husband. In July, their son Ramil was sentenced to four months in prison on the charge of holding house churches. Sadly, this family is not the only one to have experienced such persecution by the government because of their faith.
The perpetrators of Christian persecution are well-known to many: Judge Ahmadzadeh, Judge Ahmad Zargar, and Judge Mohammad Moghiseh, among others. They often send Christians to jails, such as Evin Prison, notorious for their human rights abuses. Meanwhile, the judiciary’s close relationship with the Revolutionary Guard ensures that even those believers who freely walk the streets do so under surveillance and harassment.
Miraculously, God works even among the perpetrators of these human rights abuses. Ali was a Revolutionary Guard member who would convert to Christianity and eventually have to flee the country after spending time in prison. He currently works with the underground church inside Iran to help prepare them for the inevitable persecution.
“In my opinion, Christians need to know their position,” Ali said. “We need to recognize this situation. When you decide to be Jesus’ disciple, don’t run away from these matters and don’t be surprised by them. You need to be prepared.”
This preparation is all the more important as Iran ramps up the persecution facing the Church. According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide, “Local observers note that as the Iranian regime has grown more unpopular and citizens have become more vocal in their criticism of corruption in official circles, the government has become increasingly reliant on the support of hard-line ayatollahs, who favour increased pressure on religious minorities.”
Despite the challenges facing the Church, many Christians are hopeful. Ali shared, “The hunger of the persecuted is the biggest potential. That person says, ‘I want to use everything for the glory of the name of the Lord. I want to become everything for everyone for glory of the name of the Lord’ … The persecuted Church is thirsty to use all the potentials for the glory of the name of the Lord.”
Dr. Ansari added, “What we are dealing with, unfortunately nowadays, is that there is no choice but to hear the negative news about Iran. However, God is very much alive in Iran. He is moving and he is building his Church in Iran and it is growing and there is a lot of good news that is happening inside the country.”
For the past year, Iranians have protested against a regime that seeks to control their souls. The days have been filled with ever increasing persecution against the Church. But they have also been filled with ever abundant grace as the Church continues to grow.
For interviews with Claire Evans, Regional Manager, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: firstname.lastname@example.org