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Don’t Forget Iran’s Christians
Now it’s Iran’s turn in the spotlight, with, apparently, a growing wave of pro-democracy fervour.
Particularly exciting to the online community is the emergence of numerous English-language blogs and other websites from Iranians, both within and outside their country.
I presume it all has to be good for the country’s tiny, beleaguered Christian community. Unfortunately, right now the Christians of Iran don’t seem to be on the radar screens. I can’t learn much at all about their present plight.
According to the US State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report:
The Government estimates the Christian community to number approximately 115,000 to 120,000 persons; however, the U.N. Special Representative (UNSR) used the figure of 300,000 in a 2001 report. The majority of the Christian population are ethnic Armenians and Assyro-Chaldeans. There also are Protestant denominations, including evangelical churches. The UNSR reported that Christians are emigrating at an estimated rate of 15,000 to 20,000 per year.
Here are some of the websites I’ve been checking (some now no longer online). I’d be happy to learn of more.
Iranian Christians International seems to be one of the main sources of information. Its article, “Iranian Christians – Who Are They?” is an authoritative overview:
By 2002, ICI estimated the number of [Evangelical] Iranian Christians worldwide to be over 60,000, half being Muslim converts and the other half from various religious minorities….Of course, the Muslim clergy in Iran were already aware of this phenomenal growth. Accordingly, they increased their persecution of the Church in 1983 when they imprisoned Rev Mehdi Dibaj, a Muslim convert….The depth of Iranian Christians' commitment to Christ came to the forefront when both the secular and Christian news media published Rev. Mehdi Dubai's written defence in early 1994. Christian leaders have since recognized it as one of the most important documents ever produced by the Church. Then during the same year, Bishop Haik Hovsepian-Mehr, Rev. Mehdi Dibaj and Rev. Tateos Mikaelian were martyred in Iran.
The Center for Religious Freedom has more on Iran’s Christian martyrs.
Christian Monitor has a page of links to half-a-dozen reports on religious persecution within Iran, and a separate page with links to three articles on Christians in Iran.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide has an extensive fact sheet on Iran:
It is not always easy to track the persecution of the Christian minority in Iran. Most Christians are afraid to report persecution. Only the most severe incidents are recounted to church leaders or to the outside world and some are reported months or years after they occurred, often by refugees who have fled Iran.
There’s more. But Iranian Christian English-language bloggers? I can’t find them.
June 20th, 2003