There are only about 800,000 Christians in Iran, from a population of over 83.5 million – that’s less than one per cent of Iranians.
What does persecution look like in Iran?
The Iranian government sees the conversion of Muslims to Christianity as an attempt by Western countries to undermine the Islamic rule of Iran. Christians from a Muslim background are persecuted the most, primarily by the government, but also by their
families and communities. Secret churches are often raided, and their leaders and members have been arrested and given long prison sentences for “crimes against national security.”
Many Iranians are nominal Muslims, and so some new Christians find acceptance from their families. Converts from stricter Muslim families face more persecution at home.
Christians from Armenian and Assyrian communities are recognized and protected by the state, but still treated as second-class citizens. They are not allowed to tell others about Jesus or to speak in Persian during their church services.
What has changed compared to last year?
Persecution has remained extreme in Iran, with a small increase in the number of reported incidents of violence. COVID-19 has hit the country hard, and many believers are in desperate need of food and aid. Measures to combat the virus have also made
communication between Christians difficult, and they are increasingly exploring online fellowship and discipleship.
Many Iranian prisoners, including some imprisoned for their faith, were released from prison in order to combat the spread of COVID-19 in packed jails. However, other Christians remained in jail and the sentencing of other Christians continued.
Christians from a Muslim background are most vulnerable to persecution from the government and from their communities.
Government control is highest in urban areas, while rural areas are less monitored. However, the anonymity of urban areas gives Christians more freedom to organize meetings and activities than in rural areas, in which social control is higher.
Open Doors supports the church in Iran through partners with online ministry presence, multimedia productions, and advocacy. Special attention is given to Christian leaders, women, former prisoners, youth and youth leaders, and children.
How can you pray for Iran?
- Pray for believers in isolation. Many Christians don’t dare to share their faith with anyone around them, or don’t know any other believers. They depend on online resources to learn more about God.
- Pray for Christians who are currently locked up in prison for their faith. The conditions in Iran’s prisons are very poor and the pandemic has only made the situation worse.
- Pray for those who advocate for the rights of Christians in Iran, both within and outside the country, that they would be listened to and that God would protect them.
Lord, please comfort Christians who have been imprisoned for their faith, that they may know You closely and hear You speaking powerfully to them. Bless the work Open Doors does for Iran, that its advocacy will bear fruit and encourage believers. Please give Iranian believers opportunities to tell others the good news of Jesus’ love for them.