One thing can be certain, the Iranian Intelligence minister, Mahmoud Alavi, undoubtedly understated what is really going on in his country.
According to Iranwire, Alavi recently called a meeting of Shia Clerics to discuss a growing problem of people converting to Christianity in Iran.
There are two main branches of Muslims, Sunni and Shia. The basic difference between the two groups is that Shia believes the leader of Islam must be a direct descendant of Muhammad, while the Sunni do not believe this is necessary. Iran is primarily Shia in belief.
Alavi told the group:
“Christianity is spreading in parts of Iran.”
He then explains why Iranians are becoming Christians. Basically, Muslims are tiring of the violence they are witnessing first-hand in Islam. Alavi said:
“We had no choice but to summon them to ask them why they were converting. Some of them said they were looking for a religion that gives them peace. We told them that Islam is the religion of brotherhood and peace. They responded by saying that: ‘All the time we see Muslim clerics and those who preach from the pulpit talk against each other. If Islam is the religion of cordiality, then before anything else, there must be cordiality and peace among the clerics themselves.”
This is not the first time stories about the growth of Christianity have surfaced in Iran and Alavi’s suggestion that Christianity is spreading in only “parts” of Iran is a coverup because he gave this speech in Qom which is considered the most Islamic city in Iran.
In 2017, Mohabat News reported on a statement made by an Islamic cleric Ayatollah Boroujerdi who warned about “accurate reports indicate that the youths are becoming Christians in Qom and attending house churches.” According to reports, one of those youths was actually the son of an Islamic cleric.
At the time, Boroujerdi was working at an Islamic seminary in Qom and if Christianity is growing in Iran’s most Islamic region, what is happening in the rest of the country?
So how many Christians are there in Iran?
In 2006, the Iranian government stated there were 109,000 Christians in Iran. However, this number was woefully low even at that time, because it is illegal for Muslims to convert to Christianity in that country, and because of that the government did not include those type of conversions in its estimates.
Many believe there are between 300,000 to 400,000 Christians in Iran with Open Doors putting the number closer to 450,000. Other groups who are reporting on the staggering growth of the house church movement in Iran suggest the number could well be much higher.
It has always been anomaly in Christianity on how the church flourishes during times of persecution. And this is no truer than what happened in the Book of Acts when Stephen was stoned to death in Jerusalem for his faith (Acts 7:54 – 8:3).
Shocked by the dramatic rise in persecution, believers fled Jerusalem taking the gospel with them.
And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. (Acts 8:1 ESV)
There is a saying that the “blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church” and as the believers left Jerusalem they started planting churches where they landed.
In Jerusalem, they were worshiping in the Temple (Acts 5:12), but as they moved out they started house churches.
And though Saul (Apostle Paul after his conversion) was going home to home trying to find Christians (Acts 8:3), the Holy Spirit was also moving powerfully through signs and wonders and this eventually led to Saul’s conversion to Christianity (Acts 9:1-19).