Iran shows defiance; believers forced underground

By July 10, 2008

Iran (MNN) — Iran is playing a
dangerous game with diplomacy and nuclear arms and now faces fresh sanctions.

Iran successfully test fired nine
long and medium-range missiles  on
Wednesday.  The existence of a nuclear
program has sparked a war of words and more threats.  Iran expects talks on its disputed nuclear
program to begin within days.

All of this, says Open Doors'
Carl Moeller, puts believers in a precarious position. "The government
itself is actually responding to this internal political pressure and the
external realities of Christian influence in Iran with greater
repression."

Although foreign missions are not
allowed to enter Iran,  many agencies are
cooperating with the existing church.   As a result, as more Muslims have become
disillusioned by their religion, a growing number have converted to
Christianity. 

That often leads to more
oppression.  According to a recent
Compass Direct report, a newly converted Christian couple was arrested by
police for holding Bible studies with Muslims in their home and attending a
house church.

31-year old Makan Arya and 28-year
old Tina Rad were seized from their home in east Tehran after one of Makan's
relatives informed security police of the couple's Christian activities. Eventually
the couple was pressured into signing a statement claiming they had not changed
their religion from Islam and promising that they would stay away from their
house church and other Christians.  

Christians make up less than
one-half of one percent of the population and the persecution has forced
believers underground.   Iran is
considering a change in their penal code that would mandate the death penalty
for apostasy from Islam.

In spite of that, officials at
many ministries working to reach Iran say they've been flooded by the increase
in the response from Iran.   Many believers though, are cut off from
fellowship and have limited access to resources that will help disciple
them. 

Moeller says that's why they can't
give up. "Organizations like Open Doors that are committed to serving
persecuted believers within Iran find it more difficult to do the things that
we do. Let's just say that the impact of increasing Bibles, and the teaching
and evangelism programming, is profound."

He urges prayer. "It is
important that we remember that it's a spiritual battle and that we engage the
forces of the enemy that would seek to use these political pressures and these
tortures and these arrests to stop the growth of the church. But when God
moves, no force on earth can stop it."

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