Iran Crying For Freedom
As hundreds of thousands continue to pour out onto the streets of Tehran and all Iran’s major cities demanding fair elections, Iranian Christians are crying out to God for freedom and are asking the global church to stand with them in prayer.
For nearly thirty years the church has struggled against severe restrictions and outright persecution which has driven many Christians underground. Church services are infiltrated, pastors are regularly called for questioning, phones are tapped, outreach illegal, and Christians cannot even publish the Bible or Christian literature in Iran’s national language, Persian. Those who have evangelized and campaigned for religious freedom have paid a heavy price. Eight prominent Christians have been killed since 1979 and there are reports that many others have been arrested, imprisoned, and even further deaths.
While the early years of the revolution were relatively trouble free, intimidation of the church increased after the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini died in 1989 and was succeeded by Ali Khamanei. Under Khamanei the Iranian regime took a very harsh stance against the church. There was some easing of pressure under the reformist President Mohammad Khatami (1997 – 2005), but under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (2005 - ?), who vowed ‘to stop’ Christianity, there has been severe intimidation.
In 2008 over 50 ordinary Christians were arrested, some being held for weeks in solitary confinement. In 2009 this has continued. On March 5th Marzieh Amirizadeh (30) and Maryam Rustampoor (27), two active Christians, were taken from their home in Tehran to Evin prison where they are still being held. These two young women have both spent time in a two by two meter cell in solitary confinement, which one of them described as being ‘like a grave’.
For Maryam and Marzieh and the thousands of other Christians who were formerly Muslim, the outcome of the present political turmoil could crucially impact the level of suffering they have to face. If the position of hard-liners is strengthened there is a real danger they could unleash more persecution against the church. There is a law making its way through the legislative bodies making the death sentence for male apostates mandatory, and life imprisonment for women. If the moderates are strengthened, then, as happened under Khatami, there is a hope that the intimidation and arrests will come to an end as the regime signals it is willing to tolerate more diversity.
While the outcome of the political turmoil might impact the level of suffering the church faces, it should not affect the church’s remarkable recent history of growth. This will continue. If the moderates gain the upper hand there will be more freedom for Christians to share with the most open people to the Gospel in the Middle East. If the hard-liners are strengthened and there is more suffering, as the last thirty years has shown, this will only increase Christians’ determination to witness to Jesus.
“Iranian Christians are pleading for believers around the world to pray that God will touch the nation of Iran at this time,” says Sam Yeghnazar, Founder and Director of Elam Ministries, who are publishing a new prayer guide, next month called ‘IRAN 30’ to help Christians discover what is happening behind the headlines and to know how to pray effectively.
IRAN 30 is endorsed by George Verwer, Ravi Zaharias, and other influential Christian leaders. Click here to view a sample of the book and pre-order copies of ‘Iran 30’.
For more information on Iran and Christians order ‘Iran: Open Hearts in A Closed Land’ by Mark Bradley, published by Authentic Media from here.