By Erin Rodewald // August 21, 2018
(This article was originally written for and posted to 21Wilberforce)
As the 40th anniversary of the Islamic revolution in Iran approaches, there is growing speculation that the aging theocratic regime is on the brink. Since December, tens of thousands of ordinary Iranians have taken to the streets in protest of their government’s hardline policies and failing economic decisions. While the Iran nuclear accord of 2015 infused billions of dollars into Iran’s economy, Tehran’s power elite used that capital to fund foreign adventurism and regional terror rather than help its own citizens.
In May, the U.S. withdrew from the Iran Deal, and last week it reinstated strict sanctions, contributing to the free fall of Iran’s already unstable currency. Even tougher sanctions are on the way in November. Meanwhile, demonstrations across all sectors of Iranian society have grown larger and more insistent, including chants of “death to the dictator.”
“History is in the making in Iran,” writes Dr. Hormoz Shariat, founder of Iran Alive Ministries, a U.S.-based broadcasting network that delivers Christian programming to Iranians via satellite. “We are seeing the end of this regime. I believe we will see a major change in Iran soon and it will be in weeks, months, but not years.”
The prospect of change has put many of Shariat’s target audience — Iranian Christians — in the regime’s crosshairs as the ayatollahs seek to consolidate power. Benjamin Weinthal, a research fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies writes of increased pressure on Iran’s persecuted Christian community, saying the Islamic Republic has been “ramping up prison terms and other judicial actions.”
Consider Naser Navard Gol-Tapeh, an Iranian convert to Christianity confined to a cell in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison since January. He is charged with threatening national security by planting house churches. In a letter to the Iranian authorities Naser writes, “is the fellowship of a few Christian brothers and sisters in someone’s home, singing worship songs, reading the Bible and worshiping God acting against national security?”
In July, four pastors were brutally beaten, arrested, and sentenced to ten years each for promoting Christianity. Among them is Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, who was sentenced to death by the Iranian courts six years ago for converting to Christianity but released after an international outcry. Just days after the four pastors were imprisoned, a Christian couple and ten others from a church in Bushehr were sentenced to one year in prison each for “propagating against the Islamic Republic in favor of Christianity.”
We hope for a day when all religious minorities can meet together in peace without having the fear of getting harassed, arrested, tortured or killed by the government
“Hundreds of Christians have been arrested by Iranian authorities and charged with disrupting national security for being a Christian and participating in home churches,” said Maryam Rostampour, speaking at the recent Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom in Washington, D.C. Herself a former inmate of Evin Prison, Rostampour longs for change. “We hope for a day when all religious minorities can meet together in peace without having the fear of getting harassed, arrested, tortured or killed by the government.”
The Trump administration is hopeful too and is counting on sanctions to provide necessary diplomatic and financial pressure to move Iran in a positive direction.
Speaking to members of the Iranian diaspora in the United States, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said recently, “What grieves us so badly about the treatment of religious minorities in Iran is that their presence far pre-dates the regime. They are a historic part of the rich fabric of an ancient and vibrant Iranian civilization. While it is ultimately up to the Iranian people to determine the direction of their country, the United States, in the spirit of our own freedoms, will support the long-ignored voice of the Iranian people.”
- Sign the petition to free Christian pastor Yousef Nadarkhani
- Learn how to support Iran Alive Ministries and its satellite broadcasts to Christians
- Read the Executive Order reinstating sanctions on Iran