Iran has been an Islamic Republic since the 1979 revolution. The world’s leading Shia Muslim country has been ruled by an Islamic cleric, Supreme Ruler Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, since 1989.
Historic Assyrian and Armenian Christian minorities, whose languages are not understood by the majority Muslim population, are allowed to worship in their own languages. Christian worship in the national language of Farsi (Persian) is forbidden, as is evangelising Muslims. Farsi-speaking Christians are converts from Islam and therefore punished as apostates in line with Sharia (Islamic law), which is rigorously enforced in Iran.
Hardliner Ibrahim Raisi’s appointment as president in August 2021 demonstrated every likelihood of such a policy being maintained. The Christian convert community, however, continues to grow, from a handful of believers in 1979 to hundreds of thousands.
The authorities often charge converts with “acting against national security” and engage in exhausting them psychologically by continually releasing and re-arresting them in order to push them to flee abroad or return to Islam. Iranian intelligence officers regularly force arrested converts to sign an agreement promising never to meet with other Christians again after their release.
In August 2022 a pastor and four female converts lost appeals against jail terms and fines for involvement with “house churches”. Pastor Shahbazian’s ten-year sentence will be followed by a two-year ban on travelling abroad and two years of internal exile. Pastor Anooshavan Avedian was similarly sentenced in April 2022, and two members of his congregation were internally exiled.
Prayers were answered in October 2022 when Naser Navard Goltapeh was unexpectedly released mid-way through a ten-year sentence for running a “house church” and alleged links to Christian groups outside Iran.
Pray that God will renew the strength of Christians in prison and those forced to flee Iran. Ask that new Christian leaders replacing those exiled or jailed will be given wisdom to shepherd the Lord’s people. Pray also that Farsi-speaking Christians will be permitted to worship freely in their own language.