House church leaders fear an increased wave of persecution following a speech by Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Addressing a crowd in Qom last month, Ayatollah Khamenei warned against the “network of house churches” that “threaten Islamic faith and deceive young Muslims.” The supreme leader’s comments came in the context of a warning against what he believed to be attacks against the pure principles of Islamic faith, including Hollywood films and cartoons that are at odds with Islam, and philosophies or religions such as Sufi Islam, Nihilism and the Baha’i faith.
“I think this is the first time that he has openly agitated against the house church movement and mentioned it specifically,” said a church leader from Iran. “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 at this moment.”
However, many Iranian Christians hope that the speech will attract more Iranians to Christ. “To mention an upside of this,” the church leader added, “now Khamenei has acknowledged that there is a house church movement; this may encourage secret believers or motivate seekers of the Christian faith to find out if strands of these networks are available in their city or neighborhood.”
Father today we pray for the safety of Iranian house churches and their leaders. We ask that You protect them from watchful eyes that intend to do harm, and that any plans to penetrate their networks with the intention of stopping them from meeting, will fail. Father we give praise and thanksgiving for the growth of the church in Iran and pray that those searching for a relationship with You will be able to, unhindered. And for Christians in prison because of their faith, we ask that You strengthen them and reassure them of their salvation.
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