‘I have to bring back the child who became a Christian,’ says Shia cleric

‘I have to bring back the child who became a Christian,’ says Shia cleric

Photo: Shafeghna

A prominent Shia cleric has bemoaned how the younger generation of Iranians are leaving Shia Islam for other faiths, including Christianity, and said he views it as his responsibility to “bring them back”.

Ayatollah Sayyid Muhammad Javad Alavi Borujerdi, whose grandfather was one of the teachers of the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Khomeini, made the comments as part of a public address to Shia students in the religious city of Qom yesterday.

“Some people who are separating from us [leaving Shia Islam] came to me,” he said. “Among them, some young people have found a very strange desire for Zoroastrianism. Some people have told me that there is a house-church in Qom, and the number of Wahhabis has increased. Some even seem to be becoming Buddhists! These are our problems.

“God knows that the child who went and became a Christian, his responsibility will not be removed from my shoulders. This child is a Shiite. I have to bring him back. I have no right to abandon him. We can’t be complacent that he left!”

The ayatollah also admitted that the perception of the clergy has greatly diminished in modern-day Iran, and queried why.

“Many of these were people who always followed us and were by our side in everything,” he said. “What did we do to the people? Do the young people of the new generation have anything to do with us? We are strangers to them. They follow anyone but us! Why? What happened that we can not attract them anymore? 

“The imam of the mosque used to be the community’s pillar! People would die for him! Even girls who did not wear a full hijab would come to the imam and ask their religious questions. We are now only insisting that this girl fix her hijab, while her original beliefs are gone! Belief is one story; action is another. Belief precedes action, but belief has been damaged. We have a problem in passing this heritage to the next generation.”

Reacting to the comments, Article18’s director, Mansour Borji, said he noted several admissions in the speech: “Admission of the loss of religious credibility and traditional respect for the Muslim clergy, who are disconnected with the younger generation. Also, contrary to state propaganda that blames the declining interest of youth in Islamic observance – i.e. hijab – on the ‘the enemy’, Ayatollah Borujerdi points his finger at the autocratic state of Iran, by admitting that the faithfuls’ sacrifices have been abused. Despite that, the ayatollah fails to see that people can embrace other faiths for personal reasons too, and not just as a social reaction to a corrupt ruling class.”

Although the Iranian regime claims that as many as 95% of Iranians are Shia Muslims, a 2020 survey by a secular Netherlands-based research group found that less than one-third of respondents identified as Shiites, while nearly half said they no longer had any faith, and others said they had converted to other faiths such as Zoroastrianism or Christianity.

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