House Churches Multipying Inside Iran Despite Persecution
Christianity is spreading swiftly inside Iran despite a government crackdown against house churches.
Some Christians argue the actions of the Islamic Republic's have actually created an opposite effect.
A London-based organization that trains Iranian Christians reports hundreds of thousands of new Christians--former Muslims--are worshipping secretly in a rapidly accelerating house church movement inside the Islamic Republic.
According to The Christian Post, a source affiliated with the Pars Theological Centre said the rapid church growth will eventually change Iranian society.
"This is not a political movement at all, but it will have political implications because it is touching the core foundations of society. This is battling prostitution and drug addiction. If you want to live in a country that doesn't fund terrorists, you have to develop the values of the grassroots," the source said.
"It is not anti-Iranian, it's an Iranian movement. It's a great, great number of Muslims turning to Christ."
As a young girl in Iran, Fatima began to question her Muslim faith and began to search for God in other places. One night, she had a dream that she walking with Jesus in a rose garden. Click here to watch what happened next.
So, how many Iranians have embraced Christianity? According to Open Doors USA, as many as 450,000 Iranians are now practicing Christianity inside the country. Other groups have placed the figure as high as 1 million.
Shortly after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected president in 2005, the Iranian government launched a massive crackdown against house churches.
And despite the asendancy of so-called moderates, including Hassan Rouhani as president, the crackdown has continued unabated.
Just last month, an appelate court issued a verdict against four house church Christians in Ahwaz, Iran for holding "illegal meetings" and "attempting to spread Christianity and convert Muslims."
Secret police had arrested Pastor Amin Khaki, Daniel Barounzadeh, Mohammed Bahrami and Rahman Bahmani during a picnic in southern Iran. According to Present Truth Ministries, the plain clothes police drew their guns on the Christians and even beat some of them.
Rahman Bahmani told interrogators he converted to Christianity four years ago and "I changed a lot. I wasn't a good man before and when my wife saw the changes in me, she converted to Christianity as well, and when I was asked how I was healed I would say, Jesus healed me."
Bahmani and the three men were sentenced to one year in prison, and the court banned them from attending, or holding church services for two years.
Only government approved churches are allowed in Iran, and Christian services cannot be conducted in the Farsi language.
But the biggest risk is for Iranians who leave Islam for the Christian faith. They are considered apostates--and under Islamic law, they must be punished by death.
So far, Bahmani and the others have not been charged as apostates. Present Truth Ministries asks that Christians pray for these brothers who remain faithful to Christ. And "Pray that their testimony would go forth for the glory of God."