Iran is the country hit hardest by the coronavirus (COVID-19) after China and Italy. What does the virus mean for Iran’s Christians? Here are five things you should know.
20 March 2020
Iran is the country hit hardest by the coronavirus (COVID-19) after China and Italy. Iran is also the country with what is thought to be the fastest growing house church movement on the planet. What does the virus mean for Iran’s Christians? Here are five things you should know:
At the time of writing, the Iranian authorities have reported almost 18,000 cases of COVID-19; sadly so far 1,135 people have died from the virus. However, experts believe that the real numbers could be higher, as many of the reported cases are government employees whose deaths are more likely to be recorded. One house church leader reports: “We are dying here and no one seems to care. A lot of people around us fall ill and end up in hospitals or are dying.”
Iranian prisons are a hotbed for the virus. Out of precaution, the Iranian authorities have (temporarily) released 83,000 prisoners. At least seven of them were imprisoned for their faith. Among them is the young Christian activist Mary (Fatemeh) Mohammadi. She has taken to Twitter to speak out against the continued sentencing and imprisonment of people during this difficult time, saying it is ‘inhumane’.
Because of potential for the coronavirus to rip through Iranian prisons, Javaid Rehman, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran, has called for the release of all prisoners of conscience currently held in Iran. Despite this, there are at least 10 Christians imprisoned for their faith who haven’t been released.
A lot of Iranians have lost their jobs due to the crisis. The economy has been hit hard while already being weak due to the US-imposed sanctions. Christians, as well as many other Iranians, worry about their future. Some are struggling to provide the basics for their families.
Despite the difficult situation, Iranian Christians are choosing to follow Jesus and serve their country. One church leader says, “We used to mobilise volunteers to make sandwiches and feed the street children who try to earn a little to support their families on empty stomachs. But, after the coronavirus outbreak, we have prioritised the provision of masks and sanitising gels to help them stay safe.”
Another house-church leader says, “We are doing all we can to provide food packages for the elderly and vulnerable who are unable to go out these days, or for those who have lost their job in these difficult circumstances. Throughout the year we shared the good news of Christ with our neighbours and community; now we have a chance to BE good news.”
Lord Jesus, may Your light break through the darkness in India through Your church. Strengthen our brothers and sisters, that they may face trials with love and grace, and so turn the hearts of their persecutors to You. Soften the hearts of those in power, that they may have compassion on Your church.
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