Christians in The Islamic Republic.
by Nick Bishop
The situation between the USA and Iran has often been a tinderbox, and particularly so in 2020. Ever since the Iranian revolution of 1979 led by Ayatollah Khomeini, relations between the US and Iran have been dire.
It is generally accepted that the revolution happened in Iran because of the Shah who was seen as an agent of the West, therefore, oppression of the Iranian people. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini became the figurehead of the Iranian revolution which overthrew the Shah.
American hostages were taken and President Carter sent a military rescue team which failed. The hostages were later released when Reagan negotiated with the Islamic Republic.
There followed an 8-year war with Iraq and the West (hypocritically) backed Saddam, as did the Arab Gulf nations, while Iran fought the war very much on its own. Relations between Iran and Israel are in the gutter today, but back then because Saddam was also Israel’s enemy, so Israel aided Iran with military equipment.
After Saddam was overthrown by the US/UK invasion of 2003, this left Iran in a stronger position as a regional power in the Middle East. Tensions since then between the US and Iran have escalated as both powers vie for domination in Iraq and the wider middle east. Certainly with Trump pulling out of the nuclear agreement with Iran, imposing sanctions on the country also was a predictable act of the US. Iran has responded by saying they refuse to even talk to the Americans.
With the assassination of Iranian General Qasem Solemani in Iraq ordered by Trump, the situation has escalated things to where a war between the US and Iran, looks not just a possibility but a probability. Iran responded by firing missiles at American bases in Iraq, injuring a number of soldiers. Then Iran (mistakenly) shot down an airliner, which has also added fuel to the fire.
Iran despite the fact it is a so-called Islamic republic, does have other religious minorities. Indeed there are 370,000 Christians in the country who obviously faired better perhaps under the regime of the Shah, but have suffered since the revolution of 1979. Iran is a kind of democracy, as long as all candidates for President adhere to the Islamic constitution where people can vote for their favourite candidate. However, the President is not the head of state, the Ayatollah, (the current one is Ali Khamenei) is, so any President (President Rouhani as of now) may find themselves curtailed in their decision making.
The Iranian constitution states there is freedom of faith for all, but Christians and others have found this, by and large, not to be the case. Christians have suffered decades of persecution, as they are looked upon as agents of the west. Also, Christians have been dismissed from work, lost their pensions, and had their property seized by the government. Christians are not allowed to gather for worship or for any other kind of event. As with Communist countries like China, there is an underground church in the country. Iranian Christians know the risks of worshipping Christ, but, remain unafraid and indeed the Christian community in Iran is reportedly growing exponentially. Iran now has 800,000 to a million converts to Christ and as a church, we rejoice in this.
The Iranian regime right now is ‘up against it’, what with the death of Solemani, sanctions biting which were imposed by the US, plus sections of the Iranian populace demonstrating against the regime, and along with the likelihood of war, the regime could collapse.
As Christians, we must pray for Iran, hoping God will bring about peaceful change and for the wider Middle East.
God bless you xxx.
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