Ever since the first missionary journeys of the early Apostles in the first century AD, there has been a Christian presence in the area of present-day Iran, for a long time known as Persia.
Christianity has always been a minority religion, firstly under the widespread and ancient Zoroastrianism, which still has a very small following today, it then continued as a minority after the Sunni led Islamic conquest of 640 AD. This was superseded by the Shi’a Muslims around 1500 AD. They held sway over the next 450 years, with Christians suffering varying levels of persecution, often dependent on the political happenings of the time, leading up to the removal of the last Shah of Persia in 1979 and the establishment of the Shi’a based Islamic Republic of Iran.
Iranian society is now governed by Islamic Law, which means that the rights of, and professional possibilities for Christians are heavily restricted.
Christians are forbidden from sharing their faith with non-Christians in Iran.
It is illegal to produce Christian literature in Iran.
It is forbidden to hold services in Farsi, the common language of Iran.
If Christians attend an underground house church, they face constant threat of arrests.
Secret house churches are monitored and frequently raided and dozens of Christians are imprisoned in appalling conditions.
Converts from Islam face persecution from the government, from their families, and theoretically still face the death penalty. Consequently many converts keep their faith a secret.
Leaders of Christian convert groups have been arrested, prosecuted, and given long prison sentences for “crimes against the national security.”
Christians from Armenian and Assyrian churches, indigenous to the region, are allowed to practice their faith openly, provided they use their own indigenous languages and do not use Farsi.
Even so they still face discrimination, and it is illegal for them to share the gospel with Muslims.
While this sounds a hopeless situation, reports from contacts in Iran show that the underground church is growing fast, and that the number of Christians is believed to be between 500,000 and 1 million. One thing helping this in the last few decades has been the advances in Information Technology, which has made high-quality teaching materials available from abroad.
Persecution is on the increase mainly because the authorities are aware and fearful of this growth and are determined to stop it.
• Thank God for the continuing growth of the church in Iran.
• Pray for Cristians imprisoned for their faith, to be emboldened to share the gospel with their guards and fellow inmates.
• Lift up to God our Iranian brothers and sisters, especially those who convert from Islam.
• Particularly pray for those who have been disowned and cursed by their families for their new faith.
• Pray for the safety of those who meet together in secret to worship the Lord.
• Pray for employment opportunities for Christians in Iran.
• Pray for an easing of the persecution of Christians in Iran and for a strengthening of their faith.
• Pray for a change in the laws of Iran to allow freedom of religion.
• Thank God for modern Information Technology, and pray that internet and social media Christian teaching will continue to be available to all in Iran.