Praying with fire: Iran arrests 100 Christians in Muslim convert crackdown
Some blame US sanctions for crackdown on growing evangelical movement by hardline mullahs
Iran has arrested more than 100 Christians in the past week, amid a growing crackdown by the Islamic Republic.
Many of the 114 detained were converts to Christianity from Muslim backgrounds, accused of “proselytising”. They had to report the history of their Christian activities and were told to cut contact with any Christian groups, according to Open Doors UK, a charity that speaks out on persecution against Christians.
While Christianity has existed in Persia for 2,000 years, many believers fled after the shah was deposed in a coup and Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was installed in the Islamic revolution of 1979. There are no official records, but there are estimated to be 350,000 remaining in Iran – 1% of Iran’s population, with a rising trend toward converting to Christianity.
Christian advocacy groups report a growing underground evangelical movement in Iran. While worship is permitted under the Islamic Republic’s constitution, conversion to Christianity can be a crime meriting a sentence of more than 10 years’ imprisonment. Iran’s powerful mullahs are committed to expanding the influence of Shia Islam and blame “foreign influence” for the conversions.
Some groups say they have reported a worsening of treatment of Christians following the US reinstatement of sanctions on Iran. “There are many reports that this has contributed to the government’s ever-increasing dependence on hardline Islamic ayatollahs, who naturally see Christianity as a threat to their power,” said Jeff King, president of International Christian Concern. “For this reason it’s not surprising that we’re seeing an increase in Christian persecution.”
It has become increasingly common for authorities to arrest worshippers, raid house churches and confiscate Bibles.
– © The Daily Telegraph