We know that new Christians in Iran face many problems, but we also know that God is faithful… Although we cannot estimate the number of active churches or house churches, God is moving. It amazes me, and gives me both fear and joy, to see how much God is working among our people. Despite our problems, His light is visible in our lives.” Man from northern Iran, interviewed by SAT-7
Iran is one of the most difficult countries in the world to be a Christian.
Despite recent economic, political and foreign policy progress, it remains a repressive country in which human rights abuses, arbitrary detentions and mass executions continue. The Islamic Republic carries out regular crackdowns on civil rights activists, journalists and religious minorities.
Christians who have left the majority religion to follow Christ, face the continual threat of arrest, the loss of their jobs and rejection by their communities. House churches are routinely raided and Christians rounded up by security officials. Scores are currently in jail, serving sentences of up to eight years.
A man from Iran told SAT-7: “Becoming a Christian in Iran is a crime. One of the most common problems that believers face is attending house churches; people come and go very slowly so as not to draw attention. When worshipping, there were moments when we wanted to sing praise with passion but due to the fear of our neighbours hearing our voices and making problems for us, we couldn’t do that. We had to hold those passions and kill those desires inside us.”
Growing every day
Despite the dangers, Iranians are turning to Christ in large numbers. According to Operation World, Iran has the fastest-growing evangelical population in the world. Every day, two or three people from Iran tell SAT-7 that they have given their heart to Christ after watching a Christian programme on our Farsi-language channel.
But for many Iranian Christians, the pressure becomes so great that they have to flee their homeland. In some cases, Christian detainees are given “exile sentences”, requiring them to move away from Iran.
SAT-7 has been filming documentaries about Iranian believers who have had to leave their country, interviewing them on their often dangerous escape through Turkey and Greece.
The Seven Labours of Nostalgia, filmed last year, explored their reasons for fleeing, the heartache of leaving home and loved ones behind and the challenges they face as refugees. A new documentary, Beyond Persecution, will show how Iranian believers are rebuilding their lives elsewhere.
Hardships at home and abroad
During filming, Iranian Christians have shared some of the difficulties they faced in Iran. A teenage girl said:
“I couldn’t say that I am a Christian at school and if I or anyone spoke about this, I would be expelled. If people where we were studying or working found out about our faith, they would not accept us among the community. And if traditional religious families find out, they might help have the Christians arrested.”
They also testified to God’s grace and faithfulness amid the difficulties they now face as foreigners in other countries. One woman said:
“We are struggling with finance and jobs in Turkey, but I live comfortably because of Jesus’ blessings in my life. Comfortable in the sense that I have patience and I lower my expectations in life. I was not greedy for wealth in this world and this helps me to have peace in my mind and heart and have God in my life.”