The number of Christians may be shrinking in the United States and Western Europe, but Christianity is growing like wildfire in much of the rest of the world. And particularly in regions where it would seem to have the most difficulty. Such as the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The phenomenon has attracted the attention of Newsweek, no less, which is far from being a Christian publication. It has published an article by Daniel Pipes, Iran’s Christian Boom, which begins with this:
Something religiously astonishing is taking place in Iran, where an Islamist government has ruled since 1979: Christianity is flourishing. The implications are potentially profound.
Consider some testimonials: David Yeghnazar of Elam Ministries stated in 2018 that “Iranians have become the most open people to the gospel.” The Christian Broadcast Network found, also in 2018, that “Christianity is growing faster in the Islamic Republic of Iran than in any other country.” Shay Khatiri of Johns Hopkins University wrote last year about Iran that “Islam is the fastest shrinking religion there, while Christianity is growing the fastest.”
Accurate statistics of an underground movement are hard to come by, but it is estimated that there were 370,000 Christians from a Muslim background in 2013; 720,000 in 2020; and a million or possibly more today.
They form house churches consisting of only four of five members. (Contrast those congregations, where the church really is growing, with the American notion of church growth through megachurches.) There are few clergy, so these congregations are lay-led, usually by women. Not that they don’t want pastors. There just aren’t many. There are a few, such as Rev. Hossein Soodmand, who was executed for apostasy.
Further confounding the Mullahs who rule Iran, when these Muslims become Christians, according to the article, they also turn into supporters of Israel!
The Iranian government is responding harshly, but with fear for its existence. According to the law, someone born of Muslim parents who converts to another religion must receive the death penalty. Bibles are confiscated. Citizens are under surveillance for suspected Christian activity. Suspected Christians are subject to arrest, interrogation and torture.
Nevertheless, the number of Christians keeps growing. In fact, there are too many to kill or to arrest. Government and Islamic leaders say that reversing the number of conversions to Christianity must be the country’s top priority.
Indeed Lela Gilbert and Arielle Del Turco argue that the regime considers Christianity “an existential threat.” And it should, notes Reza Safa, the Iranian-born founder of Nejat TV (“ministering to Muslims living in Farsi-speaking nations”), who titled a book The Coming Fall of Islam in Iran. He sees Iran’s Christians as “an army of God” who are bringing Iran to “the brink of another revolution, this time orchestrated” by a Christian spirit.
The article blames the harshness of Islam and the Islamic government for driving so much of its population to Christianity, so that repressive measures only discredit them all the more. Certainly, “another revolution” would mean a significant blow against Islamic terrorism. But it would also mean a significant blow against Western secularism.