Growing church to face persecution

By June 30, 2009

Iran (MNN) — Iran's top legislative body, the Guardian Council, confirmed on Monday that incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won the contested June 12 presidential election. The decision followed a recount of ten percent of the votes. 

Protests erupted in Iran after claims that the election was rigged. Reports say around 20 people have been killed in clashes between demonstrators and police. 

"Right now, we are seeing the outcome of what we understood for a long time to be the case, which is scholarship and research tells us about 70 percent of the Iranian population are dissatisfied with the Iranian state and would advocate for a more free, freedom of religious state, with the separation of state and religion," said Carl Moeller of Open Doors USA

The instability has not put a stop to Open Doors' work in Iran. The organization is praying for a co-worker who was arrested during a scheduled outreach at the beginning of the protests. In the meantime, Open Doors still provides Bibles, Christian literature, discipleship training, television programs, and satellite broadcasting for Iranian Christians. 

"We are still maintaining call centers that are masked and secretly routed from Iran to Farsi-speaking operators in the free world, so those types of things continue to go on, and those types of discipleship and Church-building activities will be taking place despite the political upheavals that are going on," Moeller said.

Iranians have been opening up to the Gospel, and a quiet Christian revival is sweeping the nation. 

"We are seeing all across Iran a real religious revival because Iranians are suffering from deep spiritual emptiness," Moeller explained. "The social problems and the difficulties of living in a totalitarian regime have created a desire on the part of the average Iranian to find real peace in their heart. And this peace is being found through Jesus Christ. Hundreds of thousands of people are coming to faith in Jesus Christ and finding in Him the real answers to the problems that they have."

When the election crisis is over, however, Christians expect the government to crack down on religious freedom. Open Doors' sources in Iran say the restrictions on internet and cell phone use are only the beginning of the coming repression. 

"The biggest problem that we see with the current protests is that right now, this has evolved into a political struggle between two elements that both are totalitarian and repressive. It isn't a case of freedom versus totalitarianism any more," Moeller explained. "So regardless of the outcome, we believe that there will be increasing pressure on the church there, and time will tell the exact impact of that for individual Christians. But we know that it will be severe."

Nevertheless, Iranian Christians are not about to give up their new-found faith. 

"People are willing to pay the cost of the price of their faith because it actually does provide the deepest answers to the longing they have in their heart," Moeller said. "New Christians often tell their family members, friends and neighbors about Jesus."

One Iranian became a Christian while attending school in Scandinavia. Within a month of returning home, he had introduced 50 of his family members to salvation through Jesus Christ. After a year, their home church had grown to include 250 members. 

Another man stole a pastor's satellite dish. When he turned on the satellite dish, it was set to Christian programming sponsored by Open Doors in Tehran. As a result of hearing the Gospel on TV, the thief received Christ. He then told all of his friends about Christ, many of whom were also involved in criminal activity. Twelve people now attend a house church begun by these new believers.   

Moeller encouraged Christians around the world to pray for Christians in Iran. 

"Obviously, there is fear," he said. "And as we've seen so graphically shown on our television screens over the last few days and weeks, the force of this regime is severe. It is not open to challenge from the average Iranian. And of course, coming to faith in Jesus Christ is one of the greatest challenges to Islamic totalitarianism that this regime could face. But these brothers and sisters in Christ are willing to face that cost. And many have done so at the cost of their lives or their freedoms, or their families."

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