IRAN - The Growing Church

Arno Froese

Local pastors report hundreds of secret churches attracting hundreds of thousands of worshippers. Evangelicals claim Christianity is growing faster in Iran than in any other country.

The spiritual gap between Iran’s Shia ayatollahs and the people they rule is widening. The strictures of the theocracy and the doctrine of Shia supremacy alienate many. So growing numbers of Iranians seem to be leaving religion or experimenting with alternatives to Shiism. Christians, Zoroastrians and Bahais all report soaring interest. Leaders of other forms of Islam speak of popular revivals. “There’s a loyalty change,” says Yaser Mirdamadi, a Shia cleric in exile. “Iranians are turning to other religions because they no longer find satisfaction in the official faith.”

Formally, the ayatollahs recognize other monotheistic religions, as long as they predate Islam. The constitution allocates non-Muslim “peoples of the book”—Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians—five of the 290 seats in parliament. They have their own schools (with Muslim headmasters) and places of worship. Iran hosts the Muslim world’s largest Jewish community.

Repression isn’t working. The state says over 99.5% of Iran’s 82m people are Muslim. But its numbers are not reliable. A poll of more than 50,000 Iranians (about 90% of whom live in Iran) conducted online by Gamaan, a Dutch research group, found a country in religious flux. About half of the respondents said they had lost or changed their religion. Less than a third identified as Shia. If these numbers are even close to correct, Iran is much more diverse than its official census shows.

Many Christian converts like the fact that women may take part in services alongside men. Some draw parallels between the martyrdom of Shia imams and Christ. But some new members of Iran’s minority religions may also be attracted by certain non-spiritual benefits. For example, they can apply for refugee status in America as persecuted minorities, usually leading to quicker approval.

-www.economist.com, 23 January 2021

Arno's commentary

There is little doubt that in the long run, Iran will be unsuccessful in the establishment of a theocracy. 

The country of almost 60 million people, according to Iranian statistics, is 98% Muslim. That, however, has been disputed globally. The CIA World Factbook records that, while 58% speak Persian, 26% are Turkic speakers and 9% Kurdish. Thus, a division is self-evident.

Life expectancy stands at about 72 years, and per capita GDP at $12,800 (2008). Seventy-seven percent of the population is literate. 

Iran’s insistence on developing nuclear technology, ostensibly for peaceful purposes, is vehemently opposed by Israel. 

Refugees are the issue. The following excerpt reads:

At the end of 2005, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimated there were 111,684 refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced persons (IDPs) and other persons of concern from Iran. The countries hosting the largest populations of Iranian refugees were Germany (39,904), the United States (20,541), Iraq (9,500), the United Kingdom (8,044), the Netherlands (6,597), and Canada (6,508).

-www.migrationpolicy.org, 1 September 2006

Iran, formerly known as Persia, is listed as the second Gentile world empire after Babylon in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. Some 2,600 years ago, the Persians acted differently than today: “Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord spoken by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying, Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, All the kingdoms of the earth hath the Lord God of heaven given me; and he hath charged me to build him an house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Who is there among you of all his people? The Lord his God be with him, and let him go up” (2 Chronicles 36:22-23).

Arno Froese is the executive director of Midnight Call Ministries and editor-in-chief of the acclaimed prophetic magazines Midnight Call and News From Israel. He has authored a number of well-received books, and has sponsored many prophecy conferences in the U.S., Canada, and Israel. His extensive travels have contributed to his keen insight into Bible prophecy, as he sees it from an international perspective.

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