Iran (MNN) -- Iran's Supreme Leader is taking off the mask. Todd Nettleton with Voice of the Martyrs USA says, "This is another step in what is becoming a very open animosity between the Iranian government and the house church movement in Iran."
On Oct.19, Ayatollah Khamenei gave a speech in which he mentions the various ways in which he sees that Islam is attacked. He noted that young Muslims are being separated from the pure principles of Islamic faith by distractions, differing philosophies, and religions.
In this speech, the ayatollah warned about the danger presented by the "network of house churches." The rapid growth of the church has been noted by both the Christians and by the Iranian government.
The fact that Khamenei took special care to target the network of house churches is telling, and it could have a long-term effect that can't be determined yet. Nettleton says, "The concern is that local officials and others will take that as permission to go even further in their attacks against the house churches and in their attacks against the Christians. This really gives the idea that the supreme leader of the government is saying, ‘We've got to do whatever it takes to stop these house church networks from growing.'"
This could be an effort to stem the disillusionment that's become evident among the young people of Iran. The first crack in the veneer was seen at the height of mass post-election protests that took place in Iran, known as the Green Revolution. "When elections are stolen, or when they [young people] see corruption, they see that as being Islam," explains Nettleton, adding that when they make that connection, they often take it one step further and conclude, "'Islam is failing.' So they are very open to other ideas, including the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That's part of the reason the church is growing so rapidly."
Khamenei's speech painted Christians in a bad light, one that portrays them as an enemy to their country. It's likely that scrutiny will increase, too. "We know that the authorities focus on arresting the leaders. They focus on knowing who's behind the meeting, who's organizing them, who's leading them. Those are the people they go after."
However, by acknowledging the "threat" of the house church, has Khamenei given it credibility? The thirst for hope is growing ever stronger. Believers know the risk they take by being bold in their faith. Pray that they won't be intimidated into silence. Nettleton urges us to pray "that this hunger can be filled by people who are sharing the Gospel and spreading the good news of Christ." Read more at Mission Network News