By Lyndsey Koh
In Iran, believing in Jesus Christ and the Bible’s authority is tantamount to “spreading propaganda against the regime.” Recently, this manifested itself in the affirmed sentencing of two Iranian Christians.
According to International Christian Concern, Saheb Fadaie and Fatemeh Bakhteri were sentenced to 18 months and 12 months in prison respectively for these propaganda charges.
It is difficult to know how any case prosecuting an offense against Islam will be handled in Iran.
Dr. Mike Ansari with Heart4Iranexplains, “Iranian penal code has been very vague when dealing with apostasy. In fact, apostasy is not codified under Iran’s penal code at all. As such, judgment is delivered based on the authority of Islamic sources. The judgment, therefore, may range anywhere from detention to execution.”
Social and political factors can also influence what kind of legal treatment Christians face. Lately, icy relations with the West are causing Iranian Muslims in power to crack down harder on Christians.
“Definitely in Iran, US sanctions are being felt and the Iranian authorities are blaming the West. The recent increase of Iranian conversions from Islam to Christianity is also being treated as a Western plot to weaken the revolutionary ideologies of an Islamic Iran. This has led to more arrest of new converts to Christianity all across Iran.”
According to The World Watch List with Open Doors USA, Iran is the 10th most dangerous country for Jesus followers. Much of the persecution Christians face stem from a need for the Iranian status quo to maintain power.
“Iran is an Islamic government so if you take Islam out of it, it would collapse. Therefore, the government cannot afford to see its citizens gravitate towards other faiths or beliefs that challenge their authoritative grip over Iran.”
Despite increasing pressures, the Church in Iran is growing at an encouraging rate. According to Operation World, Iran has seen the largest recent growth rate among Evangelical Christians.
Ansari says the young people of Iran are even venturing to question the Islamic faith. As they seek answers, some are meeting Jesus.
“The Iranian youth are influencing political, social, and religious developments in Iran. They are no longer satisfied with empty promises and the rule of zealous, religious leaders. They love Iran and they want a new season of change ushered into Iran which will bring prosperity, freedom, and tolerance.”
IDOP: An opportunity to pray for Iran
The International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP) is this Sunday, November 4. It is a time when Christians around the world can take time to pray for and with our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ.
“Although advocacy and human rights efforts play a vital role in decreasing pressure on the persecuted, we have seen prayer open doors that have been closed for many years, which is nothing short of a miracle.”
Some churches and organizations have two Sundays set aside for IDOP, including November 11 as well. Ansari explains, “The idea is to have everyone around the globe start and finish their week remembering and praying for the persecuted.”
Ansari encourages believers to take some time during IDOP to focus prayers specifically for believers in Iran.
“We seek to bring global awareness to the plight of Iranian Christians who are persecuted systematically under Iranian Islamic government…. Please pray for the existing minorities and the new converts to find peace, legitimization, and legal rights.”
Please ask God to give Muslims in Iran dreams and visions that would reveal the truth of His Word. Pray for persecuted Christians in Iran to sense God’s peace and to be courageous in their stand for the Gospel.
Resources on the Iranian Church
Starting on November 4, you are invited to join Iranians in praying for their nation on a new website, www.roozedoa.com. “A coalition of Iranian Christians have produced a short documentary which will be aired on Mohabat TV, SAT7 PARS, and [other] satellite channels all across the globe,” says Ansari.
Heart4Iran exists to advocate for Iranian Christians, share their stories, and encourage the persecuted Church in Iran. A large part of their ministry is satellite television broadcasting on Mohabat TV to encourage the Iranian underground Church.