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Explosive growth of Christian faith in Iran: number of believers to one million

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Missiologists have long spoken of the explosive growth of the church in Iran.Now they have data to back up their claims—from secular research.

According to a new survey of 50,000 Iranians—90 percent residing in Iran—by GAMAAN, a Netherlands-based research group, 1.5 percent identified as Christian.

Extrapolating over Iran’s population of approximately 50 million literate adults (the sample surveyed) yields at least 750,000 believers. According to GAMAAN, the number of Christians in Iran is “without doubt in the order of magnitude of several hundreds of thousands and growing beyond a million.”

The traditional Armenian and Assyrian Christians in Iran number 117,700, according to the latest government statistics.

Christian experts surveyed by CT expressed little surprise. But it may make a significant difference for the Iranian church.

“With the lack of proper data, most international advocacy groups expressed a degree of doubt on how widespread the conversion phenomenon is in Iran,” said Mansour Borji, research and advocacy director for Article 18, a UK-based organization dedicated to the protection and promotion of religious freedom in Iran.

“It is pleasing to see—for the first time—a secular organization adding its weight to these claims.”

The research, which asked 23 questions about an individuals’ “attitude toward religion” and demographics, was run by professors associated with the respected Dutch universities of Tilburg and Utrecht.

The general presumption of doubt risked influencing asylum applications by Iranians seeking resettlement in Europe or elsewhere.

“We do not regard it as remotely plausible that there are as many as 1 million people secretly practicing Christianity in Iran today,” wrote a UK judge in a March ruling establishing best practice guidelines, following a case that ultimately denied asylum to an Iranian convert.

“The huge numbers of converts claimed by various evangelical missions must be viewed in light of the fact that … the more converts they can claim, the greater the incentive for co-religionists to donate.”

Yet despite the widespread skepticism, research conducted by Christian advocacy organizations has begun to produce results.

In 2005, the United Nations created the Geneva-based Universal Periodic Review to evaluate the human rights status of every nation every 4.5 years. During its review session in February, for the first time recommendations for Iran included its treatment of “Christian converts,” issued by Norway and the Netherlands.

“We try to build relations with diplomats as much as they allow,” said Wissam al-Saliby, advocacy director for the World Evangelical Alliance.

“Without such reporting, news of Christian persecution will not filter into Geneva circles, and nations will not feel any pressure.

“It is important for Iran to hear the distinction between its traditional Christian communities, and its converts to the Christian faith.”

But according to the GAMAAN survey, there is another distinction Iran must make.

“The real news is not the number of Christians,” said Johannes de Jong, director of the Sallux (“Salt-Light” in Latin) think tank, affiliated with the European Christian Political Movement.

“It is the massive secularization of Iranian society as a whole.”

Only 32 percent of those surveyed identified themselves as Shiite Muslim. Officially, Iran puts their number at 95 percent.

“The Islam in Iran is a political system, not a faith embraced by any majority,” said de Jong, who has worked with Iranian asylum seekers and opposition politicians over the last 20 years.

“A free Iran would see an implosion of Islam, and a very significant rise of Christianity, Zoroastrism, and atheism.”

The survey already bears this out.

Atheists poll at 9 percent of the population (and nones, or no religious affiliation, overall at 22%); Zoroastrians at 7 percent. The 2011 census numbered Zoroastrians at only 25,000. Extrapolating the percentage from this survey, which GAMAAN stated is 95 percent accurate, that would now be 5.6 million. (Sources said this may indicate a non-Islamic Persian nationalism rather than a true system of belief.)

Nearly half (47%) said they used to be religious but are no longer.

Only 6 in 10 Iranians surveyed said they were born into a religious family. But 6 in 10 also do not say their daily prayers. And 7 in 10 do not want legislation based on religion (68%); state-funded religious institutions (71%); or mandatory head covering (73%). A majority (58%) do not believe in wearing the hijab at all.

And according to a 2019 survey by GAMAAN, 79 percent of the population would vote against an Islamic republic.

While this might seem a fertile field for Christian witness, David Yeghnazar of Elam Ministries warns against the “clay feet” of secularism. For example, almost 4 in 10 Iranians (37%) drink alcohol—which is forbidden in Islam.

“Iranians are attracted to Christianity because they think it is part and parcel of the free, secular, and democratic West,” he said. “It is important for Christian agencies to pry Christianity away from that mould.”

He was also cautious about endorsing the survey statistics as a true estimate of the body of Christ. In a secular survey, “Christian” can imply anything from a “vague attraction” to a “genuine love of Christ and a growing knowledge of the Scriptures.”

Yeghnazar believes the house churches’ lack of governing structure will harm the growing movement. False teaching, financial irregularity, and pastoral dictatorship may begin to plague them.
Sources:christianitytoday

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അൽ-അക്സാ പള്ളി അക്രമത്തില്‍ ഇസ്രയേലിന് ഹമാസിന്‍റെ മുന്നറിയിപ്പ്

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റംസാന്‍ മാസത്തിലെ അവസാനത്തെ വെള്ളിയാഴ്ച വിശുദ്ധഭൂമിയില്‍ ഇസ്രയേല്‍‌ നടത്തിയ അക്രമത്തിനെതിരെ ലോക സമൂഹം ഒറ്റക്കെട്ടായി പ്രതിഷേധിച്ചു. ഇസ്ലാം മതത്തെ സംബന്ധിച്ച് മൂന്നാമത്തെ ഏറ്റവും വിശുദ്ധ സ്ഥലമാണ് അൽ-അക്സാ പള്ളി സംയുക്തം. ഈ സ്ഥലം യഹൂദന്മാരുടെയും ഏറ്റവും പുണ്യസ്ഥലമാണ്, അവർ ഇതിനെ ക്ഷേത്ര പര്‍വ്വതം എന്ന് വിളിക്കുകയും വേദപുസ്തക ക്ഷേത്രങ്ങൾ നിലകൊള്ളുന്ന സ്ഥലമായി അതിനെ ആരാധിക്കുകയും ചെയ്യുന്നു. ക്രിസ്തുമതവും ഈ പ്രദേശത്തെ വുശുദ്ധമായ ആരാധിക്കുന്നു. എന്നാല്‍ ഇന്ന് ഇസ്രായേൽ-പലസ്തീൻ അക്രമത്തിന്‍റെ ഒരു പ്രധാന കേന്ദ്രമാണ് ഈ വിശുദ്ധ പ്രദേശം. ഇന്നലെ രാത്രിയില്‍‌ അൽ-അക്സാ പള്ളിക്ക് സമീപം എന്താണ് സംഭവിച്ചതെന്ന കാര്യത്തില്‍ ഇപ്പോഴും ആശയകുഴപ്പം നിലനില്‍ക്കുകയാണ്. വിശുദ്ധമാസത്തിലെ അവസാന വെള്ളിയാഴ്ച രാത്രി ഏതാണ്ട് 70,000 ത്തോളം പാലസ്തീനികള്‍ അൽ-അക്സയിൽ നടന്ന റമദാൻ പ്രാർത്ഥനയിൽ പങ്കെടുത്തതായി സൈറ്റിന്റെ മേൽനോട്ടം വഹിക്കുന്ന ഇസ്ലാമിക് എൻ‌ഡോവ്‌മെന്‍റ് അറിയിച്ചു. വിശാലമായ ആ കുന്നില്‍ മുകളില്‍ രാത്രിയിലുണ്ടായ അക്രമത്തില്‍ 200 ല്‍ പരം സാധാരണക്കാര്‍ക്ക് പരിക്കേറ്റു. രണ്ട് പേര്‍ മരിച്ചു. പരിക്കേറ്റവരിൽ 88 പേരെ ആശുപത്രിയിൽ പ്രവേശിപ്പിച്ചതായി പലസ്തീൻ റെഡ് ക്രസന്‍റ് എമർജൻസി സർവീസ് പറഞ്ഞു. അക്രമത്തില്‍‌ 17 ഇസ്രയേല്‍ പൊലീസുകാര്‍ക്ക് പരിക്കേറ്റതായി ഇസ്രായേൽ പൊലീസും പറയുന്നു.
Sources:asianetnews

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Anti-Conversion Law Cripples Another Family in Madhya Pradesh

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India – On April 4, 2021, Madhya Pradesh police sheltered a pastor and his family from a murderous mob of 300 Hindu radicals.

According to Morning Star News, Pastor Manu Damor and his wife, Asha finished the Easter evening service when five men began interrogating him and his family and became irritated when Pastor Manu refused them. Later, 300 Hindu extremists attacked the family and four other couples.

Some men started destroying the motorbike, and others broke through the windows, attacking the family’s home, other men tearing off the roof to get inside. “We will kill you and send your dead bodies from here,” one of the Hindu extremists said. Police came in time to stop the mob from burning the house down.

Police detained the family inside the police station for their safety. However, members of the mob harassed the police and filed a false First Information Report (FIR) claimed the pastor and his wife bribed Leela Bai to become a Christian. With no other evidence, police charged the couple under the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religious Ordinance, 2020, now known as the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2021. The law criminalizes religious conversions by “misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, inducement (or allurement) or by any fraudulent means or by marriage.”

Pastor Manu and his wife were not aware of the claims against them nor informed of the charges until brought before a magistrate. They had their three small children with them at the time, 4, 5, and 18 months old. For two weeks, Asha sat in a cell with 23 other prisoners until finally, on April 12, she posted bail and returned to her children. The Session Court, Morning Star News said, refused bail for Pastor Manu and will assign him a new lawyer.

The Christian community does not trust the police to protect them, believing that the police will side with the Hindu extremists to avoid conflict.
Sources:persecution

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