Iran is the leading Shia Muslim country and has been an Islamic Republic since the 1979 revolution. An Islamic cleric, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is the Supreme Leader and appoints key judicial and military posts.
Historic Assyrian and Armenian Christian minorities, whose languages are not understood by the majority Muslim population, are permitted to worship in their own languages. There are thought to be around one million Muslim-background Christians inside Iran. These are the main target of persecution, as well as any Christians who evangelise Muslims or conduct worship in Farsi, the national language.
Such Christians are often charged with “acting against national security” and imprisoned. For example, seven Christians from a Muslim background were convicted of “propaganda against the state” and sentenced to a variety of penalties in June 2020, including prison, fines and other punishments. Their convictions were based on possession of Christian literature and other materials that suggested they had been evangelising Muslims.
There are also many Christian converts from Islam amongst the Iranian diaspora. The government seems to have a strategy of getting new converts to leave the country voluntarily, by arresting them and releasing them again soon afterwards. Because so many do leave, it means that most leaders of convert groups have little theological education.
In May 2020, the Iranian parliament approved changes to its Islamic Penal Code that make it easier to repress and punish converts from Islam and Christians seeking to share their faith. Anyone found guilty of using “mind control methods” or “psychological manipulation” for “deviant educational or propaganda activities that contradict or interfere with Islamic teachings” can now be punished, even with the death penalty.
Ask that new believers leading convert groups will be equipped by the Lord to nurture even newer converts toward a firm grounding in their faith. Pray for courage for imprisoned Christians and for those who have to flee their homeland and families.
The above content can also be found in the Praying for the Persecuted Church (2021-2022) booklet