Iran (MNN) — Iran's supreme religious leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called on
Muslims this week to fight the "blind and savage terrorism" fueled by
the West. That bodes ill for believers,
who are often targeted because of assumptions that Christianity is
Greg Musselman with
Voice of the Martyrs Canada says there's
reason for concern. "(Iran President Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad
has stated that he is going to really go after the underground churches. [He claims] they're illegal, they shouldn't be
happening. There's these apostasy
laws…. We need to be praying for the legislators in Iran that they would do
the right thing and that they would be guided by the Lord."
Will these statements unleash a wave of violence against Christians? "Unfortunately, when there is this kind of
violence taking place, Christians are targeted," explains Musselman, adding
that it is not always the faith aspect that draws negative attention. Sometimes, it is not directly
faith-related. He says, "The churches,
if they're displaying crosses or if they're not dressing like Muslims," can
paint the mark.
However, the harsh reactions aren't necessarily creating the
response expected. A combination of
disillusionment and despair is actually acting as a catalyst for the
Gospel. Musselman notes that "we're
seeing these underground churches springing up all over Iran, where there are
young people coming to know the Lord."
God is raising up a group of Christians with youth and
passion. Voice of the Martyrs Canada is
doing what they can to resource the remnant church in Iran. "You work with the people that already
know the culture and already speak the language. You empower them to go back into
their homeland, or broadcast, get Bibles in–those kinds of things."
Christians make up less than one-half of one percent of the
population. The open witness of the Gospel is banned, and government spies
monitor Christian groups. Musselman says
Iranian believers know what they're risking when they accept Christ.
The oppression produces a refined body of Christ. "You
see the fruit of that when you see people's lives being changed and you see these
Muslims that come to know Christ become pastors and evangelists. You see the
passion that they have, because they have a deeper understand of what Jesus
Christ really means."