Report Writer :Amir Shakib
News of incarceration among new Christian converts in recent years has become an ordinary matter. Media and human rights organizations publish reports of arrest or conviction of new Christian convert’s citizens on a weekly (if not daily) basis.
House churches and new Christian converts
Iranian Christians are recognized by Iran’s constitution and practicing their religious obligations in their ethnic Churches (Armenian and Assyrian) is permitted under the same constitution.
In Catholic churches in Iran, Like other Catholic Churches worldwide, order of mass is being held in non-Persian languages . In Iran – especially after 1978 Islamic revolution Muslims are not allowed to convert to Christianity. Even learning about Christianity is not tolerated.
Closure of Some churches and Christian centres due to the increasing government pressure, has led to a growth in the number of unofficial house churches in the country. Which are mostly Protestant , including evangelical churches and congregations communion.
Millions of people around the world are members of evangelical churches and they do not limited to a particular country or community. In Iran’s churches, Armenians, Assyrians and new Christian converts, worship Christianity in Persian language.-
In an interview with the Voice of Iranian Pastor Mohammad Reza Modaber, Editor of Iranian Christian News Agency (Mohabat News) said: “In the years following the revolution in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Social exclusion recorded increasingly among new Christian converts in the churches. Now, following orders of the security authorities, all churches refuse to admit non-christian Persians.
Church gatherings are only for worship ceremony and there has not been any records of subversive or anti-government activities among christian communities. Amid increasing oppression from Islmic government, nowadays religious gathering and congragations take place in private houses which are famous as “house Churches”. Christians in These meetings, chant Christian hymns and read the Word of God and the pray for the Lord Jesus.”
New Christian converts in Iran
There are not accurate statistics of the number of new Christian converts in Iran. International Organization (Open Doors) that cover the news of the Christians under pressure in World, says around half of Iranian Christian, its mean one hundred and twenty five thousand people, are Persian speakers or new Christian converts.
Modaber, 222 Church’s pastor, insists that there is no possibility for an accurate census among new Christian converts, He said: “Approximate number of new Christian converts in Iran, should be around 2 million people. However, this figure is approximate, and is based on the views of active Christian’s organizations in Iran.
Increasing number of new Christian converts in Iran in recent years, has made concerns for Iranian authorities and the islamic regime. Most of new christian converts, after conversion from Islam to Christianity, are prosecuted by the Iranian authorities.
After arrest, new Christian convert citizens, are indictedof waging war against God and spreading corruption on earth.if charged, their fate is execution. In some cases, they are sentenced to long terms imprisonment with charges such as propaganda against the regime.
All of these causes are reasons of increasing trend of exedus among new Christian converts. Modaber, in an interview with the Voice of Iranian says: “possession the Bible for muslim-born non-christian is a crime in Iran. Although There is not an official crime in criminal law, but there is a direct link between having a copy of the Bible, facing discremination and hatrad from judge and interrogator and the final penalty imposed.” So it’s easy to say that the main reason for leaving Iran for new Christian converts is oppression. They are facing suppression from family, community and government for religious reasons. Deprivations of work, education, family… etc. are tolerable to some extend. But When threats and harassment, endanger the lives of individuals, migration is the only remaining option. The Iran’s Government welcomes the trend to drive the Iran’s new Christian converts out of their country. we have winessed similar cases before.”
Essentially the first question which arises after the initial encounter with the increased population of new Christian converts inside and outside of Iran, is why Iranian increasingly convert to Christianity in these days?
Some people believe that conversion to Christianity is a warranty for the refugee’s cases. They mention various reports of withnessing new Christian converts other religious rituals like Ashoura(Muslim ritual), After their protection visas were granted and accuse new converts, specially with Muslim background with lying.
In other hand although many ,like Pastor Modaber, condemne those who abuse the name of jesus and Christianity for their alterior purpose of obtaining ideal referral for refugee’s centres, and it is not supported by any church, but he also belive that their condition and cases should be reveiwed objectively. When they do it from desperation and contrary to their religious belief, and play Christian roles, they must have strong reasons for escape from their previous condition and background. It is better to hear their views before judgment them.
Nevertheless Modaber insists, “The main reason which attract people to join the congragation is the truth of salvation and eternal life in words of Christ. Where they will be able to replace anger, hatred, and envy, with kindness that it is divine origin. The Faithful, man, after meeting with his creator, will obtain power and kindness without expecting any reward.