What does persecution look like in Iran?
In Iran, if you're part of a traditional Christian community, for instance, Armenian or Assyrian Christian, your faith is likely tolerated. But you will also be treated as a second-class citizen. In addition, you are not allowed to worship or read the Bible in Farsi, Iran's language, or have any contact with Christians who have converted from Islam. If you're caught supporting converts, you may be sent to prison.
For Christians who convert from Islam, not even the veneer of tolerance is present. Conversion from Islam to Christianity is illegal in Iran, and anyone caught as a convert can be arrested and imprisoned. The government views conversion as an attempt by the West to undermine Islam and the Islamic government of Iran. This means that anyone who is discovered to be a member of a house church can be charged with a crime against national security, which can lead to long prison sentences. Anyone arrested or detained can be tortured and abused while in jail. Some Christians are released and monitored—and know a second arrest would mean a long prison sentence.
Christian converts who left Islam can also face pressure from their families and communities. Converts can lose their inheritance, unmarried Christians can be forced into marriage to a Muslim, and married believers may be forced to divorce or face losing their children.
Converts from Islam experience the greatest risk of persecution. Government control is highest in urban areas, while rural areas are less monitored. However, there are fewer chances for believers to meet outside of urban areas.
“Jesus changed my life, and I witnessed and still see how He changes people! For instance, Vahid was a boy who cursed me and caused me a lot of trouble. When I told him the simple truth that ‘Jesus loves you,' he stopped. Today, Vahid serves with me. It is encouraging and a blessing to me to witness such transformations, in my life and others'. It’s not easy but it is worth it.”Sanaz, a Christian convert in Iran
What has changed this year?
The situation in Iran has remained largely the same. Despite the releases of sentenced Christians early in the reporting period, in July 2023 another wave of mass arrests took place. Life in the Islamic Republic continues to be difficult for believers; converts attend underground churches under incredible risk. But God is still working and moving among His people there and continues to grow the church in Iran.
Open Doors raises prayer support for the believers/Christians in Iran.
How can you pray for Iran?
- Pray for secret converts from Islam in Iran. Pray they would find fellowship and that God would protect them from arrest and imprisonment.
- Ask God to change the hearts of the Iranian government, that they would allow freedom for all religions.
- Praise God that the church in Iran is growing! Ask God to continue to pour out His Spirit on Iranian believers.
Heavenly Father, we pray for our brothers and sisters in Iran who risk so much to follow You. We think of those in prison for their faith, would You be with them, right now, showing them Your grace and mercy? We also think of those forced to flee the country; be with them and help them to know they aren't alone. Finally, we pray You would strengthen the courage of the underground church in Iran—thank You for their example, and may they couple wisdom with boldness. In Jesus' name, Amen.