The State of the Christian Community in Iran in 2018

Most of the news concerning Iran centers around the protests taking place. However, there is another important element that is well worth looking at and that is the fact that Christianity is rapidly growing in this predominantly Muslim country. Following is an overview of how the Christian community is faring as well as a call for prayer for the situation in this volatile nation.

In 2006 Reza Safa, an Iranian evangelical pastor who converted to Christianity from Islam, predicted that Iran would be the first Islamic nation to convert to Christianity. This may seem like an impossible prediction considering the fact that Iran has a track record for persecuting Christian converts but facts on the ground back up Reza Safa’s claims.

Mahabat News, Iran’s Christian News Agency, reported just last year that Christianity is growing at an exponential rate. Fox news noted in 2016 that the number of Iranian Christians attending secret house churches could be as high as one million. Even well-known Islamic seminary official Ayatollah Alavi Boroujerdi has conceded that a growing number of young people in Iran are ditching Islam and becoming Christians.

Unfortunately, the fact that Christianity is growing in the country does not necessarily mean that the country is becoming more accepting of what Islam commonly views as a Western religion. According to Iranian law, rejection of Islam is synonymous with rejecting the state of Iran itself.

Christian converts are accused of engaging in anti-government and anti-Iranian activities simply for becoming Christians. House churches are forbidden and it is against the law to preach the Gospel in Farsi, Iran’s official language.

Christmas is often a particularly trying time for house churches in the country as believers gathering in large numbers to celebrate Christ’s birth are raided, arrested and threatened. Members of a house church in the city of Dezful have stated that the authorities who raided their gathering in late 2017 not only confiscated Bibles and other Christian materials but also threatened to beat house church members to death or force them out of the country.

At the same time, there is more freedom of religion in Iran than in a number of other Muslim countries. Open Doors has ranked Iran as being the eighth most repressive regime in the world, behind Islamic countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Somalia. President Hassan Rouhani is in fact a moderate Islamic president, especially when compared to conservative Muslim presidential possibilities.

While some Christians in Western nations are calling for the overthrow of this democratically elected government, many Christians in Iran are naturally wary of what such a happening would entail. Revolutions in the Middle East and Northern Africa have rarely resulted in increased freedom of religion for Christians and other minorities.

Coptic Christians in Libya who enjoyed freedom of religion under former president Qaddafi are now rounded up, imprisoned and tortured. Iraq offered freedom of religion and had a thriving Christian population under Saddam Hussein; now the country is ranked by Open Doors as being even more repressive than Iran. Bashar Assad in Syria did persecute Christians to some extent but the situation has worsened exponentially since ISIS and other radial Muslims took control of various parts of the country.

It is also important to note that Western powers that back the protestors are likely to see results that are the opposite of those they hoped for. As world leaders such as Donald Trump, Nigel Farage and Benjamin Netanyahu encouraged protestors to take a stand against the Iranian government, anti-regime protests began fizzling out.

While Iran’s brutal National Guard naturally played an outsized role in stopping the protest movement, the fact is that the overwhelming majority of Iranians don’t want Western powers interfering in their country.

Furthermore, such interference could worsen the persecution of Christians who are automatically assumed to be “friends of the West” solely on the basis of their religious affiliation.

It is a troubling time for Iran as the country is beset with problems to which there are no easy solutions. While the Christian community in the nation is growing faster than any other body of believers in the world, they do need a great deal of support in prayer. Christians the world over who are concerned about their Iranian counterparts would do well to ask God to give the believers boldness and wisdom and to bring peace and stability to the nation no matter what political changes do or do not take place.

~ Christian Patriot Daily