Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
Converts from Islam to Christianity are most at risk of persecution, especially by the government and to a lesser extent by society and their own families.
The government sees the growth of the church in Iran as an attempt by Western countries to undermine Islam and the Islamic regime of Iran. House groups made up of converts from Muslim backgrounds are often raided, and both their leaders and members have been arrested, prosecuted and given long prison sentences for “crimes against national security.”
The historical communities of Armenian and Assyrian Christians are recognized and protected by the state, but they are treated as second-class citizens and are not allowed contact with Christians from Muslim backgrounds.
Hamed Ashouri, who was sentenced to ten months’ imprisonment for Christian activities. He refused to inform on other Christians, resulting in him being beaten by the authorities. “I thank God for considering me worthy of enduring this persecution because of Him.”
The severity of persecution facing Christians in Iran remains largely unchanged.
Sadly, things may get worse following changes to the country’s penal code, which further strangles religious freedom. Under the amendments, teaching the Bible or telling others about the Christian faith—which contradicts the teaching of Islam—could result in prosecution, as could the claim that Christians can communicate with Jesus, whom Islamic teaching regards as a prophet. Christians could also be accused of “insults … with the intent to cause violence or tensions.” This vague wording is open to interpretation, making Christians more vulnerable to unjust accusations.
Further challenges may ensue following the swearing in of Ebrahim Raisi as the country’s new president in August 2021, succeeding Hassan Rouhani. He’s seen as a hardliner with ultra-conservative Islamic views.
Converts from Islam to Christianity are most at risk of persecution, especially by the government, and to a lesser extent, by society and their own families.
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, Christian multimedia initiatives and advocacy.