Iran (MNN) — The Christian Church has been persecuted by the government in Iran for years. Believers are viewed as second-class citizens and have been killed, beaten, and sentenced to prison for years. House churches have also been spied on, raided, and forced to close.
Middle East Concern’s Daniel Hoffman says the high number of arrests have been an ongoing process for the last few years.
Threats as the Church and to the Church
“I think [the Iranian government] sees the Church as a threat,” Hoffman says.
“They see anything that challenges the nature of the Islamic government as a threat and therefore everything that challenges Islam is a threat to the Islamic government because they derive their legitimacy from the fact that they are an Islamic government. So, they see evangelism as a, I feel like, a form of cultural warfare of western ideas coming into the country, trying to undermine the state and the legitimacy of the state.”
Hoffman says they govern in the way Islam instructs them to. This has often resulted in the pressures and persecution of believers, particularly those who convert from Islam to Christianity.
Many believers attend house churches, though there is a constant risk in doing so. Some attendees may be spies for the government, others may have an interest in Christianity, but begin to report to the government, and finally, some attendees may be pressured or forced to report on the people and the leadership in the House Church.
However, instead of retreating from faith, Christianity seems to be flourishing under the government’s persecution and pressures. According to a CBN News article from August 2017, Christianity is spreading among many youths in Iran.
“We see in Iran and other contexts as well that pressure on the Church and trying to destroy the Church can very often have the opposite effect, that it strengthens the Church, it makes the people more committed to their faith and to their Lord, both in their own private practice and in their desire to share about Him and share Him with other people,” Hoffman says.
Yet, the ruling of the government has also opened the eyes of Muslims.
Looking Elsewhere for Satisfaction and Hope
Hoffman says the results of the government’s work, “which people see in their daily life, for many of them, is rather disappointing both in a cultural sense, and economic sense, and a political sense in many different ways.”
Iranians, especially youths and women, are questioning Islam because they aren’t finding satisfaction from it. As a result, they’ve begun to look elsewhere and many are turning to liberalism and atheism, even though atheism is punishable by death in Iran.
“Especially the younger generation, they look around and they are very unhappy with their lives and their prospects, not just their own lives, but their future prospects and that of their children as well, and they despair. They don’t see any improvement anywhere in the near future so they’re thinking of ways to escape their despair and their disillusionment.”
Because of the despair, suicides among youths and women have risen over the last few years.
Iran News Update reported in November 2017 that female suicide attempts have risen by 66 percent over the last five years, and male suicides have risen by 71 percent. Regime officials said the increase in suicides has become a ‘tsunami of suicide’.
A state expert, Nemat Ahmadi, said the increase of suicides may be due to depression and feelings of hopelessness. The Iran News Update article credits that Iran faces poverty, high unemployment, and large gaps between the wealthy and impoverished, which could also affect people’s behavior.
Hope has been lost among so many of these people. They are searching for answers and finding none. They are looking for hope in money, religion, or the denial of religion, but still are not finding satisfaction. They see no reason to keep going because they cannot see the hope Christ has to offer them.
Hope must be stirred among these non-believers and persecuted believers.
Please pray that the Lord will strengthen believers as they stand firm against persecution. Pray they will act as loving witnesses to those who have become atheists and give them hope to keep going. Pray also for those who have left Islam and are searching for answers to find Jesus and choose Him as their Savior.