Iran: Church Is Witnessing 'One of Fastest Growing Church Movements,' Even in Persecution

Iranian Christians are witnessing one of the "fastest growing underground church movements" in the world, a ministry has said, but are also under intense persecution.

"The persecution of minorities has been a constant under the current Islamic regime in Iran. The Iranian converts to Christianity have been systematically arrested and persecuted as heretics," Mike Ansari, president of Heart4Iran Ministries, told The Christian Post in an email last week.

Major watchdog groups have highlighted the multiple arrests and extended prison sentences being handed down to Christians in recent months, including the 10-year jail term for Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani in May.

At the end of September, Iranian Christians Saheb Fadaie and Fatemeh Bakhteri were also sentenced to 18 and 12 months in prison, respectively.

The two believers were found guilty of "spreading propaganda against the regime," apparently for preaching about the ascendancy of Jesus Christ and the ultimate authority of the Bible, Christian Solidarity Worldwide noted.

A charge a number of believers have been sentenced for has been promoting "Zionist Christianity."

Ansari said that as historians have observed, the persecution is stemming from a "historic and organic growth of Christianity inside Iran, evidenced by one of the fastest growing underground church movements in the world."

"However, with church growth comes persecution. Iranian Muslims who become Christian face arbitrary arrest and detention. Most of the arrested individuals are coerced to divulge information about their house-church activities and those of their friends, under the threat of criminal persecution, or arrest of family members," he added.

"Extended detentions without formal charge, trial or sentencing are common. The government actively screens digital communications, monitors phone conversations and conducts raids on persons of interest."

The president of Heart4Iran Ministries, a group that helps connect and supports underground believers, said that it's extremely difficult to provide statistics about how many Muslim background believers are deciding to become Christians.

"There are many other groups and ministries reaching Iranians and to this date there has not been an academic assessment of conversion rate from Islam to Christianity inside Iran," Ansari explained.

"However, Heart4Iran processes around 700 daily contacts with Iranians asking about Jesus."

Mervyn Thomas, CSW's chief executive, separately asserted that arresting believers for discussing Christian doctrine "is not only a grave violation of their right to espouse a religious belief of their choosing, but also criminalizes the Christian faith, which the Iranian Constitution purports to recognize

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