Persecution expected to mount

By July 2, 2009

Iran (MNN) — Iran's Guardian
Council has closed the issue of the June 12 presidential election's legitimacy,
confirming incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the winner. Now the government is gearing up to punish
those it holds responsible for the unrest of the last few weeks. 

According to news reports, the
Basij militia and hard-line supporters of the regime are calling for the arrest
of opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi. The Basij letter alleged that Mousavi has "supervised or assisted in
punishable acts" and introduced "pessimism" into the political atmosphere,
AP News reports. 

The regime has also been blaming
western media, especially the BBC, for the protests. Tom Doyle with  E3 Partners says allegations like
these will be used to persecute Christians. 

"Iran basically has 2 songs that
they play: It's either going to be the
fault of the West, or the fault of the Jews," he explained. "They
are definitely going to be singling out believers in Iran because they see that
as their connection to the West, kind of an
evil plot to undermine them. So we're
just praying for the church, because they've been under so much persecution as
it is. But we fully expect that there'll be more because the government's not
going to let this go by without punishing someone, and we're concerned that it
will be the church."

Even though Christianity began in
the Middle East, the hard-line Islamic identifies it with the western world
and claims that nothing significant happened in their region until Islam appeared. Doyle said this idea doesn't fly with many Iranians. 

"They're not Arabs in Iran,
they're Persian," he explained. "They
see themselves as they were, several centuries before Islam even began, as the
power of the world, the Medo-Persian Empire that we read about in the Old
Testament. And so for hard-line Muslims
to say that there was really nothing going on in their country and that they weren't
anything until Islam arrived just flat is not true. And the people there don't buy it."

Iranians tend to be fairly open
to the Gospel, and their fast-growing house church movement includes between 1
and 2 million people. 

"It's one of the fastest-growing
churches in that whole region," Doyle said. "There has just been more openness to the Gospel because they're much
more free thinkers in Iran…They're very open to exploring other ideas, and of
course that's been a great thing for the Gospel.  They've been interested in knowing about Jesus." 

If persecution mounts in Iran, Doyle
believes the Gospel will only spread more among the people. 

"Inevitably it's what grows the
church," he said. "There were probably
about 500 believers in Iran in 1979, and of course the thought was that the
Islamic revolution and that dictatorship there would just squash the church. But it did anything but that. It actually made
the church grow through the persecution and the martyrdom. Many famous believers who were leaders in
Iran were killed for their faith, and this made the church grow."

Christianity spread like wildfire
in China after the Tiananmen Square protests 20 years ago, and Doyle believes a
similar situation could occur in Iran. He
compared the iconic image of a man standing before a tank in the square to the
image of Neda, a woman shot and killed during the protests. 

"The youth are behind this new
revolution in Iran, and now they even have pictures of this young woman dying
that's gone all around the globe," he said. "That's going to be pretty hard to stop;
that's going to be etched in people's minds as they look back over what a
nightmare this has been, this election." 

The unrest of recent weeks reflects
a real and widespread discontentment with the status quo in Iran. 

"I think what the protests and
all of that are about is that there is just 30 years of hard-line Sharia law,
corrupt leadership that the people are rejecting," Doyle explained. "They're tired of it. They don't like what's
happened to their country, being isolated from the rest of the world. So I
think it was a rejection of that mainly. It was bigger than just the election." 

Iranian Christians face significant
challenges and momentous opportunities in the coming months. Pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ. 

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