A new report from the U.K. government corroborated what persecution watchdogs have long warned: Iran is a dangerous place for Christian converts and those embracing biblical faith.
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The report noted that the vast majority of Iranians — 99.6% — are Muslim, with just .3% embracing other religions, including the Christian faith.
Iranian Christians are generally placed into three categories. The first, ethnic Christians, include Armenians, Assyrians, and Chaldeans, who tend to be Orthodox or Catholic. While generally protected by the state, individuals in these groups are considered second-class citizens.
The second group, non-ethnic Christians, are typically Pentecostals, Presbyterians, and Anglicans who speak Farsi.
The third group, Christian converts, are more recent converts from Islam, typically embracing biblical faith after 2005 or 2006. The Iranian government’s handling of these three groups is not equitable, with Christian converts purportedly facing the most restrictions and abuse.
“Ethnic” Christians are considered to not be “at real risk of persecution of serious harm from the state.” This is the same for “non-ethnic” Christians who converted before 1979 and through 2005 and 2006, though the situation is different for Christian converts, Fox News reported.
“In general, a person who is found to have converted to Christianity and who seeks to openly practice their faith in Iran, are likely to be subject to treatment or discrimination by the state that is sufficiently serious, by its nature or repetition, to amount to persecution,” the report reads.
Of course, Christians generally face more restrictions than those in other groups, as churches and Christians are forced to register with the government, and proselytization is precluded.
“Churches are monitored by security officials to ensure Christians of a Muslim background do not attend and those that do not comply with these restrictions have been closed down,” the report reads.
The U.K. report builds upon other documented data showing the horrific treatment of Christians in Iran. Open Doors USA’s “World Watch List” ranks the nation as the ninth most challenging place in the world for Christians to live.
“Converts from Islam to Christianity are most at risk of persecution, especially by the government and to a lesser extent by society and their own families,” Open Doors reported. “The government sees the growth of the church in Iran as an attempt by Western countries to undermine Islam and the Islamic regime of Iran.”
It continued, “House groups made up of converts from Muslim backgrounds are often raided, and both their leaders and members have been arrested, prosecuted and given long prison sentences for “crimes against national security.”
The latest U.K. report comes as Iranians continue to flood the streets one month after a woman named Mahsa Amini, 22, fell into a coma and mysteriously died.
Arrested by the so-called morality police, she was accused of not properly donning her hijab, an Islamic head covering Iranian women are implored to wear in public. It’s unclear what happened next, but Amini inexplicably died, sparking widespread furor and rare public demonstrations.
Some experts wonder if the outrage reverberating throughout Iran will be enough to threaten the restrictive regime. Read more about the story here.
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