Suffering Christians bathe Friday’s elections in prayer

By June 10, 2009

Iran (MNN) — The stakes are high
in Iran's presidential elections on Friday. 

Pundits say hard-line conservatives
champion the president and his religious fervor, while moderates want to pull
the country back from the brink of economic meltdown and political isolation.

Carl Moeller with Open Doors says as
young people grow more disillusioned with their government, a door may be
opening. "In
the future there is definitely the possibility of more openness in Iran. However, the latest
indications are that Ahmadinejad will likely be re-elected."  

Christians pay a high price in
Iran for their decision to follow Jesus. But, Moeller says, hope is not lost. "That does not mean there is not a
movement of Christians underground and others who are looking for more freedom.
Their hearts are yearning for more freedom. Certainly, Christians are at the
forefront of that because they have been the most oppressed."

What follows are two
questions from an interview with Sandra (not her real name), who oversees the work
of Open Doors inside Iran.

Q: It was in 2005 that the situation worsened
for Christians in Iran following the conservative Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's
election as president. He promised the restoration of an Islamic government.
How have Christians been affected by this?

A: Gradually their
freedom to practice their faith has been restricted. Ordinances curtailing the
rights of Christians were in existence since the revolution of 1979. They are
now more rigorously enforced than before. Christians cannot meet with Muslims
in order to share their faith; Muslims are not allowed to visit a Christian
church. Ahmadinejad applies the laws more stringently in order to prevent
Muslims from converting to Christianity.

Q: Apart from the
government, who else is a persecutor of Christians?

A: Decidedly Islamic
clerics, who stir up hatred against believers in their mosques on Fridays, thus
inciting other Muslims. The authorities harass independent or evangelical
Christians and MBBs (Muslim-background believers), as well as arrest, interrogate, mistreat and
torture them. In addition, relationships with family and friends are
essential in the Iranian society. People meet frequently, having some tea
together. Devoted Muslims consider Christians unclean; therefore, they do not
want to drink tea with them. This isolation, though it does not apply to all
Muslims and all Christians, may be a heavy burden. And of course, it is
regarded as a disgrace for families if people leave Islam, notwithstanding that
Iran is highly secularized. The 'apostate' is shunned: husbands
divorce their wives, jobs are terminated, and the convert is
ostracized by their family
as well as society — a harsh punishment for many MBBs. However, if the family
members feel the Christian's new faith is genuine, there is a chance for him or
her once again to be accepted by the family. But the main sources of
persecution are the government and the secret police.

The Iranian government
arrests believers as they commit the "crime" of leaving Islam. According to Islamic law (Sharia),
an apostate must return to Islam or die.

Iranian Christians see persecution and
discrimination as part of following Christ, just as Jesus predicted. More persecution is expected. Muslim-background believers (MBBs) are highly motivated teachers or evangelists.

Moeller urges you to "pray
for the church in Iran that it remains strong despite the intense persecution. Pray for those who are turning to faith in Jesus Christ from
Islam, that they would be strong in the face of almost overwhelming obstacles."

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