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Iran: Seduction and Persecution of the Church

January 16, 2007

According to the Shia Islam of Iran, in the end times the Muslim
prophet Jesus will return with the Imam Mahdi, the hidden 12th Imam
- the Shiite Messiah. The Shiite Jesus will worship the Imam Mahdi
and lead the final jihad. As it says in the Quran, \'. . . and on
the Day of Resurrection he [Jesus] will bear witness against [those
who utter the "monstrous falsehood" that Jesus was crucified].\'
(Sura 4:155-160)

Even though the Muslim Jesus and the biblical Jesus have little in
common and actually oppose each other, President Ahmadinejad went
out of his way to publicly wish Iran\'s Christians a happy Christmas
and New Year. (See link *) However his message sounded very like an
attempt to seduce them into believing that Shiite Iran is more
Christ-honouring than the \'oppressive powers\' in \'Christian states\'
which have created havoc in Iraq and ruined Iran\'s Christmas by
levelling sanctions against it. Then when he met with Armenian
\'families of martyrs\' on 6 January, Ahmadinejad equated Iran\'s
Armenians who died in the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988) with Islamic
martyrs and told the (Christian) Armenians, \'We are all like
members of a single family heading for common goals.\'

It is reasonable to infer that Ahmadinejad means to seduce the
official church of ethnic Armenian and Assyrian Christians into
becoming compliant - even grateful - collaborators in exchange for
limited \'privileges\'. Ahmadinejad could then appear supportive of
the church and religious liberty in general. And Ahmadinejad needs
friends. Iranian women, students, intelligentsia and trade
unionists are all becoming increasingly courageous in their
willingness to risk their life and liberty to protest the regime\'s
repression and belligerence. Ahmadinejad\'s seductive efforts will
present the official church with a painful, watershed choice:
collaborate or share the persecution.

But there is another well-established reality in Iran: Persian
Christianity is unacceptable as it involves conversion from Islam,
which is anathema and impermissible. Christian fellowships that
evangelise Muslims reap the wrath of the Islamic regime.
Persecution escalated dramatically through 2006 under Ahmadinejad\'s
direction. On 10 December 2006 Iranian secret police raided
Christian fellowships in Karaj, Tehran, Rasht and Bandar-i Anzali,
confiscating computers, literature and materials and arresting 15
believers they accused of evangelism and actions against the
national security of Iran. All but one have since been released
after forfeiting money, job permits and even house deeds as bail.

Reportedly, new government directives will soon place the church
even more under the thumb of the intelligence ministry and security
forces. We can expect further escalation in both seduction and
persecution through 2007 as Ahmadinejad attempts the standard, age-
old Islamic strategy of using the church to persecute the church.

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* Link to: Ahmadinejad wishes Christians a prosperous New Year
http://www.isna.ir/Main/NewsView.aspx?ID=News-847295&Lang=E

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PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR:

* God to give Iran\'s Armenian and Assyrian Christians great
spiritual discernment and wisdom as well as moral clarity and
courage so they will not be deceived, seduced or tempted but
will trust God completely, embracing the call of Christ (Luke
14:27) and the unity and love found in the body of Christ.

* imprisoned house fellowship leader Behrouz Sadegh-Khandjani,
that God will comfort, protect and deliver him as well as
enhance his wisdom and understanding through this trial.

* God to protect all Iran\'s evangelists - from the trained Bible
scholar and career missionary to the humble child sharing their
simple faith with a friend - so the gospel of salvation through
the biblical Jesus can spread across the nation; may the Holy
Spirit accompany the word and enlighten many hearts.

\'Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in
him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its
roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves
are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never
fails to bear fruit.\' Jeremiah 17:7,8 NIV

~~~~

SUMMARY TO USE IN BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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SEDUCTION AND PERSECUTION OF THE CHURCH IN IRAN

Before Christmas, while Iran\'s secret police were interrogating
more than a dozen newly imprisoned Christian house fellowship
leaders, Iran\'s President Ahmadinejad wished Iran\'s Christians a
happy Christmas. So while Ahmadinejad attempts to seduce the
historically Christian ethnic Armenians and Assyrians, he is
dramatically escalating his persecution of Persian Christians and
those who evangelise Iranian Muslims. Reportedly the government is
moving to place the official church even more under the thumb of
the intelligence ministry and security forces. The government may
be seeking collaborators. Please pray for all Iran\'s Christians and
churches as 2007 threatens to bring further difficulties and
suffering.

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The WEA Religious Liberty Commission sponsors this
RL Prayer List to help individuals and groups pray
specifically and regularly for religious liberty
issues, and in particular to uphold the Church
where it is suffering persecution.

RL Prayer is moderated by Ron Clough, a commissioner
of the WEA RLC and convenor of the Australian EA RLC.
Elizabeth Kendal researched and authored this message.