SANTA ANA, Calif. (Nov. 12, 2010) – House Church leaders fear an increased wave of persecution successive to a speech of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. In his narration he warns against the “network of house churches” that “threaten Islamic faith and deceive young Muslims.” Iranian Christians hope that the speech will not result in more pressure, but will attract more Iranians to Christ.
On Oct.19, Ayatollah Khamenei spoke to a crowd in Qom, known as the second most holy city after Mashhad. In his speech the supreme leader mentions the various ways in which he sees that Islam is attacked; that the pure principles of Islamic faith are taken away from young Muslims. He refers for example to Salman Rushdie, Hollywood films and cartoons that want to destroy Islam. Further he warns against attacks from philosophies or religions like Sufi Islam, nihilism and the Baha’i faith.
In the same sentence, Khamenei warns about the attack of the enemy by expanding the “shabakeye kelisahaye khanegi” or “network of house churches.”
“I think this is the first time that he openly agitates against the house church movement and mentions it specifically,” a church leader from Iran tells Open Doors. The church leader, who requests to stay anonymous for protection of his identity, further comments: “Speeches like this often have far reaching consequences in the country. Not that the people of Iran react with violence against Christians, but behind the scenes, the security services and religious police will take measures. That is what leaders of house churches fear the most of at this moment.”
“To mention an upside of this,” the church leader adds, “now Khamenei mentions and acknowledges that there is a house church movement; this may encourage secret believers or motivate seekers for the Christian faith to find out if strands of these networks are available in their city or neighborhood.”
Open Doors is asking its supporters to keep the church of Iran in their prayers. It is known that numerous Christians are imprisoned for their faith. The church daily experiences the limitations of the harsh regime, Christians are closely watched and some churches are under permanent surveillance of the authorities by video cameras.