Iranians Turn "Massively" To Christianity, Despite Execution Threats

Monday, September 3, 2007

By BosNewsLife Special Reporting Unit

TEHRAN, IRAN (BosNewsLife) -- Despite reported execution threats and police abuse, Iranians "massively" turn to Christianity, fueling an "unprecedented" demand for Persian Bibles and New Testaments, BosNewsLife learned from Iranian sources Saturday, September 1.

The International Antioch Ministries (IAM), which supports Iranian Christian churches, said the number of Christians in Iran "is growing fast" with "current estimates" varying "from 500,000 to as high as one million."

IAM said the development has led to massive "requests for Iranian-language Bibles, particularly by new believers." Iranian Christians, including new converts, "are contacting the ministry through IAM’s 24-hour satellite television network, Iranian Christian TV (ICTV), but the requests are more than the ministry can fulfill," IAM said in a statement.

"During our daily two-hour, live, call-in evangelistic TV broadcasts, we receive constant requests for Bibles from both Christian and Muslim television viewers which, at this point, we are not able to fulfill," said IAM Presient Hormoz Shariat.


However distributing and obtaining Bibles has been made difficult by Iran's feared religious police, IAM and other sources have said. Iranian officials have confiscated Bibles and printing Bibles is illegal in Iran. "Yet demand for the Gospel is increasing exponentially," in the Islamic nation, IAM said, despite apparent dangers.

Iran's theocratic regime strictly forbids "the proselytizing" of Muslims and targets any citizens believed to have abandoned Islam, human rights watchers say. Under Iran’s strict interpretation of Islamic law, anyone who leaves Islam for another religion has committed a capital offense and could be executed.

IAM has begun a campaign with other Christian groups to raise money and awareness about the lack of Bibles in Iran. Reports of the spread of Christianity comes amid growing uncertainty among Iranians about their future as its leadership continues a controversial nuclear program.


On Saturday, September 1, the head of the UN nuclear watchdog, Mohamed Elbaradei, said, a cooperation deal struck last month between Iran and his agency offers Tehran "what may be its last chance to come clean" about its atomic program.

Under the deal, the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Tehran agreed on a rough timetable for addressing lingering concerns about Iran's nuclear activities, Reuters news agency reported from Berlin, Germany.

There was a brief moment of joy last week however when Osnabrueck Symphony Orchestra, a 60-member ensemble from Germany, performed two nights in Tehran for hundreds of enthusiastic Iranians who rarely get the chance to hear live Western music.

Music gradually made a comeback in Iran in the 1990s under reformist President Mohammad Khatami, when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad replaced him in 2005, the new hard-line president banned state radio and television from playing Western music. The ban has not been universally followed, but live Western concerts have largely been absent under Ahmadinejad's rule, a reality bemoaned by many audience members, The Associated Press news agency said.

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