Since Christmas, more than 70 Christians have been arrested in Iran in a large, well-coordinated strike. Most of those arrested belong to the house church movement. Many were released from custody, but a dozen or more remain in detention. Those charged with trying to convert Muslims face the possibility of a death sentence. Officials say that more detentions are possible, and Tehran’s governor said in a recent speech that evangelicals are “corrupt and deviant.”
According to a Washington Times report, Saman Kamvar of the Iranian Christian News Agency attributes the increased persecution of evangelicals to remarks made last year by Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. Khamenei denounced the house church movement during a speech on Oct. 19, warning Iranians against the “network of house churches” that “threaten Islamic faith and deceive young Muslims.”
Christians, including traditional groups such as Armenians, Assyrians and Chaldeans, make up less than 1 percent of the population. About 0.2 percent are evangelical Christians, and many of those are part of the house church movement. Because the Iranian government cannot monitor them, house churches present a greater threat than historically established churches.
VOM works closely with house churches in Iran, supporting them with literature, Bibles and other ministry tools. Contacts tell us that Iranians are very open to the gospel right now, after a generation of living under the heavy hand of Islam. House churches are growing daily as Iranians trust Christ with their lives. Pray that these recent arrests will only strengthen the commitment of new Christians. Pray that house church leaders who are under surveillance will find creative ways to continue sharing the gospel.