Iran (MNN) — Iran’s harsh and unjustifiable courts have no limits when it comes to sentencing religious minorities like Christians.
But The Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) shares that this is a mix between a good news/bad news story.
Recently, 18 Christian converts were sentenced to prison for practicing their faith, according to Fox News.
They were arrested–some as early as 2013–for breaking Article 500 of the Islamic Penal Code, which states, “Anyone who engages in any type of propaganda against the Islamic Republic of Iran or in support of opposition groups and associations, shall be sentenced to three months to one year of imprisonment.”
Their total sentences came out to nearly 24 years.
They’re not the only Christians who have been suffering from unfair arrests and sentences in the nation.
Pastor Saeed Abedini was sentenced to eight years in prison in 2013. Christian Today says he was found guilty for creating a network of Christian house churches and “attempting to sway Iranian youth away from Islam.”
His wife has been traveling the world since 2012 to campaign for his release, getting attention from President Barak Obama and many American Christians.
According to VOM’s website, since 2010, 400 Christians have been arbitrarily arrested by Iranian authorities. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) released in their annual report that persecution of religious minorities has increased since President Hassan Rouhani was elected.
“This is still someone who wants to protect the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Todd Nettleton of Voice of the Martyrs says.
“He wants to protect the Mullahs who are in charge of that country. And he sees Christianity as a direct threat to his government and particularly to the Mullahs there,”
Christianity’s Threat to Islam
“The reason there’s so much persecution is because the church is growing so rapidly, and the government, again, sees that as a direct threat,” Nettleton says.
VOM reports Iran is likely the fastest-growing church in the world, though the numbers still seem small, at 200,000 to 500,000 Christians out of the nearly 78 million people in Iran.
“These arrests, these prison sentences, are a part of what [the government sees] as the answer. [They think] ‘if we put more people in prison, if we lock more people up, surely that will stop the growth of Christianity….’ But the reality is: that does not stop the growth, and in some cases, it seems like the church grows faster when there is persecution,” Nettleton adds.
Why would the church expand because of so much persecution? Could it be because non-believers are seeing the faith and love in Christians despite the fear and imprisonment pushed on them?
What’s being done and what can you do
VOM stands firm in believing that healing comes from Christ first. That’s why they’re distributing Bibles.
“Christians can become more strong in their faith. They can study God’s Word, but also as an evangelism tool,” Nettleton says.
“Many of the Muslims in Iran are very open to the Gospel. They would love to have a Bible to read and to look at the life of Christ…. Having Bibles is a key part of the work we do in Iran.”
VOM is also helping in other ways. They are doing Gospel broadcasting, helping the persecuted, encouraging the church, and giving training for house church leaders.
“Because the house churches are growing so fast, there’s a desperate need for leadership and for people to be equipped and trained, to step forward and become a group leader and a pastor. Voice of the Martyrs is helping through our partners that are working in Iran.”
VOM is asking for your prayers over this haunted and hurting country. Pray for the persecuted church to stay strong in their faith and to not give into the pressure of society that contradicts their Christian beliefs.
“Our prayer is that God will reach more Muslims in Iran, that He will reach government leaders, that He will reach Mullahs and Islamic leaders. Those are the prayers that really have an impact in the world that we live in.”
Buy Bibles for Christians in difficult areas by clicking here.