Iran, a Muslim-majority nation, is seeing a staggering number of people leaving Islam for Christianity. According to the documentary, “Sheep Among Wolves Volumes ll,” Iran has the fastest growing church in the world.
This film is produced by Frontier Alliance International Studios, and it delves into the realities of an underground movement where persecuted Christians are gaining traction in a country that promotes radical Islamic terrorism. The director, by Dalton Thomas, calls the progress of the massive acceptance of Jesus in this brutal nation, “the Iranian awakening.”
Interestingly, this monumental conversion movement is different than what American Christians are used to seeing. This movement, “It owns no property, no buildings, no central leadership, and is predominantly led by women,” Thomas stated.
The name of the documentary was inspired by the New Testament Bible verse Matthew 10:16. It says, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”
Iranians who have a Muslim-background are now leading a vast departure from Islam and are excepting Jesus at unprecedented rates. They are also acknowledging Jesus as the Jewish Messiah and are swiftly becoming pro-Israel.
The intelligence minister of Iran has publicly admitted that Christianity is gaining traction and increasing throughout the country. There are reports that Mahmoud Alavi, who is the Islamic Republic’s intelligence minister, gave a speech where many Shi Muslim clerics were in attendance. Here Alavi said that Christianity is, in fact, spreading in throughout Iran.
He also suggested that a lot of these converts are just ordinary people with regular jobs. When Alavi created a summon to ask converts why they were converting, the answers were quite interesting. A standard response was that they were looking for a religion that gave them peace. They relayed that they were told that Islam was about peace, but in all reality, it could not be further from that.
The Iranian Christian movement says that instead of implementing the construction of church buildings, their main goal is making disciples instead. Their focus is not on just converting people, but to make true disciples. The leader stated, “Disciples forsake the world and cling to Jesus ’till he comes. Converts don’t. Converts run when the fire comes. Disciples don’t.”
The risks for these people who are embracing Christianity is exceptionally high. Iran is a country very well-known for its intense persecution of Christians. On the world’s top persecutors of Christians, The Islamic Republic ranks number 9 on the list. According to the law, Christians are prohibited from discussing their faith with any non-Christian. The official language of Iran is Persian, and it is forbidden for churches to hold services in this language.
Since 1999, Iran has been classified as a “Country of Concern” by the U.S. This is because, in 1998, the U.S. International Religious Freedom Act indicates that its regime violates religious freedom.
There is a report from 2018 to the U.S. State Department that focused on religious freedom. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reacted to it by saying that Iran’s crackdown on Christians continues to be a “shock to the conscience.”
The report expresses that Christians, especially those who are considered evangelicals and converted from Islam, are still experiencing disproportionate levels of arrests and other persecution. Harassment and surveillance are also issues that are faced on a disturbing degree. Not only are Christians continually imprisoned, but according to reports, medical care is often withheld from them while in prison.
A pastor, Youcef Nadarkhani, was convicted of “promoting Christianity” and is serving a 10-year prison sentence. The pastor and three others were taken to prison after their homes were raided. During the raid, the use of shock weapons and beatings were used. They are still waiting for the decision on their appeal to a 2016 conviction. They were sentenced to 80 lashes for consuming communion wine.
Two Iranian Christian women are begging the world to listen to their stories and realize the real threats of those who are imprisoned for their faith. Maryam Rostampour and Marziyeh Amirizadeh were both born to Muslim families in Iran. They later excepted Jesus as young adults who were studying theology in Turkey. By 2009, both were arrested by the Iranian regime and spent hundreds of days imprisoned.
There they were tortured and interrogated. They received immense pressure to recant their faith, but ultimately they refused. They cited that their personal relationship with Jesus was what got them through this time. Eventually, the Iranian government released them after continual international pressure. Other governments and Christian advocacy groups worked to make this happen.
After their release, the threats continued, and these two women were forced to leave Iran. After being registered as refugees in Turkey, they were selected to resettle in the United States. They expressed their thankfulness to America for welcoming them and providing a place to live their faith with freedom and without constant fear. However, the new U.S. policy is restricting access to persecuted Iranian Christians at this point.
“We hope for a day when all religious minorities can meet together in peace without having a fear of getting harassed, arrested, tortured, or killed by the government, “Rostampour stated.
The penal code in Iran is extreme, and the consequences are severe. The code recommends the death penalty for those who are non-Muslims to try and convert Muslims. The death sentence is also used for those who commit enmity against God and the insult against the Prophet.
Data collected in 2018 by the World Christian Database shows that approximately 547,000 Christians are residing in Iran. However, other reports indicate that the number could be upwards of a million at this point. The total population of the country is 83 million making it a highly Muslim-majority country. A report by the U.S. government states that Muslims comprise almost 99.5 percent of the people.
Despite the relentless persecution, criminalization, and minority numbers, Iran is experiencing one of the quickest underground Christianity movements. Iranian Christians have made clear that their faith in Jesus outweighs the Muslim pressure to reject their faith.