IRAN: CHRISTIAN PERSECUTION SET TO INCREASE IN 2020
Forced exodus of Christians underway
Release has identified Iran as country of growing concern for Christian persecution in 2020. Release’s Iranian partner describes a ‘forced exodus’ of Christians as the government acts to ‘exterminate the Persian-speaking church’.
A survey of Release International partners has highlighted Iran as a country where persecution is likely to increase in 2020. A national clampdown on Christianity has driven many Iranian church leaders overseas. And the restrictions are getting worse.
Release’s partner reports persecution has been increasing in Iran for the past four years.
The partner, who cannot be named for his own protection, describes a ‘forced exodus of the Christian community’. He adds: ‘Hundreds are fleeing in desperation. If they stay their lives will be in danger.’
The regime is taking steps to eradicate Christianity, he says. ‘Their overall goal is to eliminate the Persian-speaking church and only allow Christian minority groups to operate.
‘There is a campaign to stop the spread of Christianity, to arrest house church leaders and those involved in evangelism and teaching.
‘If a Muslim is baptised as a Christian he or she can end up in prison for a year, while the person who performs the baptism can be jailed for four to five years.
‘Persecution is on the increase because the authorities are aware of the growth in the number of converts and house churches – and are determined to stem this.’
The Release partner believes Christians in Iran are likely to face increasing pressure in 2020. ‘This has led to a number of believers leaving Iran – and this movement is likely to continue in the coming year.’
Although many Iranian Christians are applying for asylum to the West, most have been refused. ‘Some Christians have been waiting eight years in Turkey to get asylum to the West.’
One bright spot for Iranian Christians has been the advances in information technology, which has made available high-quality teaching materials from abroad. ‘Twenty years ago that was impossible,’ says the Release partner, ‘but today the church has some amazing tools at its disposal.’
Release International has been supporting the families of Christian prisoners in Iran, training house churches and supplying Christian literature.