Former Muslim highlights plight of Christian converts in Iran

February 9, 2019

Traditionally, most Iranian Christians have been members of the Armenian Apostolic Church, an ancient Church that broke off communion with Holy Orthodoxy after the fourth Ecumenical Council, the Council of Chalcedon in 451, in a dispute over the definition of the divine and human natures of our God and Savior Jesus Christ. Other Christians in Iran are members of the Assyrian Church of the East, the Chaldean Catholic Church, and the Roman Catholic Church.

Although the Iranian government guarantees Christians the right to representation in the Iranian Parliament, the right to produce non-halal food, and more, all too often these rights exist only on paper. Christians in Iran not infrequently suffer expropriation of their property, the forced closure of churches, and other forms of persecution. Converts to Christianity, as this article shows, are often singled out for particular harassment and persecution. Kiaa Aalipour says that the Christian faith in Iran is seen as “a constant threat to the Islamic identity” of the country.

“Former Muslim highlights plight of Christian converts in Iran,” by Deborah Gyapong, Canadian Catholic News, February 8, 2019:

OTTAWA – An increase in Muslims converting to Christianity has prompted a crackdown by Iran’s theocratic government, says an Iranian convert to Christianity.

“Iran is one of the fastest-growing evangelical churches in the world,” said Kiaa Aalipour, a representative of Article 18, a London-based NGO supporting persecuted Christians in Iran.

Aalipour was a featured speaker at the Canadian launch of the Open Doors International’s 2019 World Watch List, an annual guide to global persecution of Christians. For the 18th straight year, North Korea topped the list for “extreme persecution,” followed by Afghanistan and Somalia.

Iran moved up one spot from last year to ninth on the 50-country list. The Christian faith in Iran is seen as “a constant threat to the Islamic identity” of the country, Aalipour said.

Forty years ago, at the time of the Islamic revolution in 1979, Iran had about 400-500 Christian converts, Aalipour said. Now, said Aalipour, there are 800,000 to a million converts, who meet secretly in a fast-growing house church network under the threat of arrest and imprisonment.

“Despite persecution the Church is growing,” he said.

“Even sons and daughters and close family members of the Ayatollah’s are coming to Christ. (The Ayatollahs) are seeing the threat come closer and closer and that’s one of the reasons why persecution is on the rise.”

Aalipour, born and raised a Muslim, fled political oppression in Iran to the Netherlands, where he eventually found “peace in Christ” through exposure to ex-patriot Iranian Christians and local evangelicals there. He and his family recently moved to Canada.

The Islamic government does not allow any Christian materials in Farsi, the language of Iran, he said. Though Christianity in Persia predates Islam by hundreds of years, the theocratic Shi’ite Muslim government of Iran only recognizes Armenian and Assyrian churches that worship in Armenian or Syriac and Aramaic. If members of those churches help out the Christian converts by providing them with pamphlets or Bibles in Farsi, those clergy or parishioners become quickly unregistered, Aalipour said.

In December, more than 100 Christians were arrested in one week. Aalipour showed a video of a house church meeting as well as pictures of Christian churches and centres that have been shut down, including St. John’s Catholic Research Centre. He showed pictures of several Christian leaders who have been arrested and jailed, including one family where the husband, wife and teenaged son were all imprisoned, leaving a nine-year-old daughter to fend for herself. That family is now living as refugees in Turkey….