Iran ranks eighth in global persecution of Christians

Iran ranks eighth in global persecution of Christians

Iran has risen to eighth place in the latest annual listing of the 50 countries in which the persecution of Christians is most prevalent.

The 2021 World Watch List was published yesterday by international Christian charity Open Doors. North Korea, Afghanistan and Somalia top the list, as they did last year. Iran was ranked ninth last year.

According to the new list, Eritrea and Yemen are ahead of Iran, with Iraq, Syria, Sudan and Saudi Arabia ranking 11th to 14th, respectively.

“The Iranian government sees the conversion of Muslims to Christianity as an attempt by Western countries to undermine the Islamic rule of Iran. Christians from a Muslim background are persecuted the most. Secret house-churches are often raided, and their leaders and members have been arrested and given long prison sentences for ‘crimes against national security’,” Open Doors’ report states.

The Iranian government has repeatedly imprisoned Christian citizens without providing any evidence of these loosely-termed charges. Persian-language churches have been closed by the government in recent years, and security forces have attacked house-churches and even confiscated the Christians’ Bibles as evidence of a crime.

Open Doors explains that, unlike converts, “Christians from Armenian and Assyrian communities are recognised and protected by the state, but still treated as second-class citizens. They are not allowed to tell others about Jesus or to speak in Persian during their church services”.

The report adds that the persecution of Christian converts is not limited to the Iranian government, and that sometimes the families of the converts also harass them.

“Measures to combat COVID-19 have also made communication between Christians difficult, and they are increasingly exploring online fellowship and discipleship. Many believers are in desperate need of food and aid,” adds Open Doors.

“Many Iranian prisoners, including some imprisoned for their faith, were released from prison in order to combat the spread of COVID-19 in packed jails. However, other Christians remained in jail and the sentencing of other Christians continued.”

In a report to the European Parliament last year following the release of its 2020 list, Open Doors explained: “Usually, ‘hammer repression’, such as the physical removal of Christians due to extreme violence, becomes the headline in the news, but there is also a daily, silent repression that deprives Christians of basic rights, including teaching and the right to work, and puts their lives under severe pressure.”

Article18’s 2021 annual report is due to be published in the coming days, and will include detailed accounts from last year of Iranian Christians being subjected to exile, imprisonment, deprivation of education, raids on house-churches, flogging, confiscation of personal property, and even deprivation of the right to have an adopted child.

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