By Jeremy Reynalds
IRAN -- The wide range of Iranian people watching Christian television programs or accessing Christian websites shows an increase in the interest of Iranian people in converting to Christianity.
According to the Iranian Christian News Agency "Mohabat News," that's in addition to the number of contacts that people, especially from religious cities of Iran, make with Christian media.
Mohabat News said that one of the most critical issues of concern to human rights organizations is that the Islamic Republic of Iran exercises religious discrimination, and takes violent action against members of religious groups that are deemed to be a threat to the regime. Iranians who choose to convert to Christianity are also considered a danger to the regime's security and existence.
As a result of the growing number of people coming to Christ, Mohabat News said, the Iranian authorities have already initiated a battle against widespread conversion to Christianity. The security authorities of the Islamic Republic actively harass and threaten Christians in a variety of ways.
Mohabat News said some of the Ayatollahs (Islamic clerics) in Iran who oppose the regime, believe that the large increase in the frequency of arbitrary detention and harassment of Christians is because the younger generation is increasingly dissatisfied with the Islamic faith.
Mohabat News talked with Shahram Nikoo, an Iranian Christian and the spokesman and manager of the Iranian Church in Europe.
Mohabat News asked, "Do you have any evidence to show that the acceptance of Christianity is growing in Iran?"
Nikoo said, "Yes, the wave of acceptance of Christianity in Iran is increasing on a daily basis.
We know this from Christian television networks which are being broadcast through satellite signals, and also the feedback people give from inside Iran regarding these programs. It's also obvious from the (viewing numbers) on our websites. All these factors show that many people in Iran are interested in committing their lives to Jesus Christ."
Mohabat News asked Nikoo, "How do you evangelize these groups of people? Do you do it freely or (secretly?)"
Nikoo said, "We do nothing in secret and everything is completely open. All evangelical television programs are accessible through satellite channels and/or Internet. Praise the Lord that today we are living in a world which gives us the opportunity to communicate with people around us ... The people themselves are eager to discover the gospel and study it. Some other people also come to the faith through dreams and visions."
Mohabat News asked Nikoo, "Is the Internet the only way to support the people who want to know about Christianity, or are there also books and other literature available for this purpose?"
Nikoo said, "No, there are no Christian books or literature available in Iran. The only resources available to the people who want to know about Christianity are the Internet and satellite television."
Mohabat News asked, "Are the websites ... (dealing with this) subject ... to filtering?"
Nikoo said they are blocked, but there are ways to get around the filtering.
Mohabat News asked, "Geographically, are there any areas in Iran in which more people convert to Christianity?"
Nikoo said, "There are more people coming to Christ from the religious cities like Qom and Mashhad in comparison to other cities."
Mohabat News asked Nikoo, "Are the people who believe in Christ only from the Shi'ite Muslim background, or are there people from other backgrounds as well?"
Nikoo said, "At this time there are people from various religious backgrounds who have converted to Christianity including Baha'is, Sunni Muslims, Zoroastrians and so on."
Mohabat News asked, "It's being said that the security authorities of Iran have undertaken contradictory behaviors towards Christians who have been arrested. In a statement recently published by some human rights organizations, (it was said) that when they arrest someone, one of the first things they do is to make a false financial or moral allegation against the arrested person. (They) then tell the individual that if you repent and return to Islam, all your crimes will be pardoned. Please speak about the treatment of arrested Christians at the time of their arrest."
Nikoo said, "I'm not living inside and I've never faced this issue closely but the reports that I have heard confirm your words. Unfortunately, inappropriate behaviors are being used against Iranian Christians, especially those who have an Islamic background. It's really surprising that the Islamic Republic is pressuring Christian converts to this extent. These people really have nothing to do with politics and they're not trying to change the regime. These people have just changed into different and better people. It's so puzzling why a regime is trying to persecute its own people rather than encouraging them."
Nikoo added, "We have people who were addicted to drugs before they believed in Jesus and now that they've accepted him as their Savior, their lives have been totally changed. Now they are sharing their faith with other addicts around them and encouraging them to give up drugs. There were situations in which couples were losing their family life, and after believing in Jesus they were both living happily together and had started a new life in their Lord."
Nikoo said, "What's the problem if people who had a ruined life change their lives and share this better life with others?"
Mohabat News asked Nikoo what are the major problems faced by Christian prisoners after their release.
Nikoo said, "During the past seven or eight years, I've met with some Christians who had been jailed for their faith. The main problem they had was with their landlords. When the landlords realized that they were arrested for being Christians he/she would force them to vacate their house. Also, in their workplace they faced problems with their employers who fired them from their job because of being jailed for their faith. Actually, the Christian prisoners in Iran lose their right to have a house or a job, and as a result they have a really difficult life. The attitude of society toward them would change, and they'd be considered as criminals among their community."
Mohabat News said, "Do you mean that people reject them, or is this from the authorities?"
Nikoo said, "People reject these Christians as a result of fear of the authorities. It's kind of an indirect pressure from the authorities."
Mohabat News asked Nikoo, "What kind of sentences do the judicial authorities issue for Christian prisoners? What is their crime?"
Nikoo concluded, "Mostly, Christians who are arrested get released after signing a commitment to not evangelize and paying a prescribed amount of bail. But I've heard that these people are subjected to various other pressures for converting to Christianity."
For more information about Mohabat News go to www.mohabatnews.com
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