Iran’s government is clearly trying to lessen the actual impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The government is already under tremendous pressure for its violence against protestors who were protesting gas prices, and then its actions in the aftermath of Iran’s accidental shooting down of a passenger jet. “The situation is not good at all,” reports a believer. “Inflation is so high that people cannot afford to buy meat, poultry or even fruit, and they have started to consume more beans.”
Life in Iran was already hard before COVID-19, but the pandemic has dragged the country into an even deeper economic crisis. “There is an increase in illegal activities to make money,” a leader overseeing several groups reports. “Women are increasingly forced into the Islamic practice of ‘temporary marriage’ in exchange for money to support their family, a legal practice threatening some Christians who live in Islamic families too.”
Even as it disguises the true number of sick, embattled Iranian President Hassan Rouhani admitted that “25 million” Iranians may have been infected by COVID-19. The church, largely operating underground, has not been spared by the coronavirus pandemic. Despite that fact that some Christians were released from prison when COVID-19 first began impacting Iran, more recently Christians—like Pastor Victor Bet-Tamraz and his wife, Shamiram Issavi, pictured on the left—have been arrested or sentenced to years in jail, just for following Jesus.
The sense of hopelessness and fatigue present in Iran has not bypassed Christians. “I see spiritual attacks happening,” says a leader in the region. “And while some are actively reaching out to those in need, others don’t feel they have the strength to do so.”