Iran (MNN) — As Congress plods
through budget debates, the international Church is waiting and watching and
At issue is the survival of the
Lautenberg Amendment. Rep. Lamar Smith, R.-Texas, chairman of the House
Judiciary Committee, is opposed to it, though few reasons are given.
Originally created 22
years ago to help persecuted religious minorities flee the USSR, it was later expanded
to include religious refugees from Iran. Islam is the official religion in Iran, and all laws and
regulations must be consistent with the official interpretation of Sharia
law. Apostasy laws are enforced
as well as death penalties for those found guilty of breaking the law.
The risk for believers is that if the
amendment is not renewed until 2012, there may be a hole in issued visas,
which would effectively trap persecuted minorities in Iran. Evangelist Sammy Tippit is aghast at what that
could mean. "This country was founded on
people looking for and searching for religious freedom–and the freedom to
believe and to follow Christ in the way that they so desire. For us to cut that
off and to stop that, we'd be going against the tradition and the foundation of
Tippit has had firsthand
experience with the ire of Iran against Christians. "We've had our Web site
attacked from Iran. I'm an ‘Enemy of the State' because of our television
broadcasts that have gone into the country."
Tippit's connections with
believers there indicate that only extreme circumstances would force a decision
to flee. "Most of them want to stay in
the country. That's their home. They want to minister, they want to witness.
It's only out of absolute necessity that they come to the place where they have to leave."
Worse yet, for those who
do escape, their options are limited to some of the neighboring countries
which often kick refugees back to Iran. "They're persecuted, they're going to be thrown in prison, or they're
going to lose their lives or their families." The Amendment is key because "it
gives them permission to come out of the country and immigrate to the United
States," says Tippit.
What's really confusing
to Tippit is the reasoning behind the opposition when the sacrifice of keeping it
seems minimal. "It's not going to cost any money. We're not
talking about opening up to terrorists. We're talking about people who are
being persecuted for their faith." Tippit adds, "I think it's something where the Christian community has
gotten caught in the crossfire of some things that are happening in the U.S. Congress."
The program, helped by
Austria's embassy, offers Iranian applicants who are members of a persecuted
religious group the same opportunity to be granted refugee status in the U.S.
that is given to applicants in other countries throughout the world.
Tippit suggests contacting
the members of the House Judiciary Committee to express support for keeping the
Amendment in place.
Pray. Iranian Christians continue to be arrested, and
many church services are being monitored
by the secret police. Believers who are active in churches or the cell group
movement are being pressured.
There is still
great hope. An open door offers an avenue of escape. However, even if the door closes, it won't stop the Gospel. "To be honest with
you, I think that evangelism will continue to take place, because like I said,
a lot of it is not happening by someone like myself or other ministry organizations; God
is just working in an incredibly supernatural way. People are coming to Christ."