In Iran, Christians Do Not Live an Easy Life

August 23, 2023

Since the beginning of the summer of 2023, Iranian authorities have arrested several dozen Muslim converts to Christianity, as well as cradle Christians. The mullahs' crackdown on religious minorities intensifies as the first anniversary of the death of Mahsa Amini approaches, an event that marked the beginning of an era of protest unprecedented in the country since the fall of the Shah in 1979.

Article18, a human rights organization or NGO, specializes in recording violent acts perpetrated against Christians in Iran. It has reported that, since last June, the repressive policy has been in full swing. Thus, throughout this period, 69 Christians have been arrested because of their faith.

The majority of these Christians come from the ranks of converts from Islam – which remains an offense punishable by imprisonment in the country –, but in several cases, Armenian Christians have also been imprisoned.

For Mansour Borji, director of Article18, this is a “new wave of repression of civil liberties, of which the most vulnerable groups, such as Christians, are the primary victims.”

Some of the faithful arrested have been released on bail equivalent to several thousand dollars – an exorbitant sum – while others are being forced to undergo “Islamic re-education sessions.”

Repression intensifies in Iran as the first anniversary of the uprising which took place on September 16, 2022, approaches, following the death of an Iranian woman of Kurdish origin, Mahsa Amini, beaten by the morality police charged by the mullahs with enforcing the maintenance of dress codes. The list of arrests is growing, especially among Christians.

There is a Catholic presence in Iran – estimated today at 2,000 faithful out of 82 million inhabitants – which dates from the Safavid dynasty, in the 17th century. It is the fruit of the European missionary and commercial activity of that time. Its presence that has experienced ups and downs, practically dying out following the Afghan invasion of Isfahan in 1722, then gradually reviving thereafter.

The ecclesiastical district which exercises its jurisdiction over Catholics in Iran was reorganized a few years ago. Originally called “Ispahan of the Latins,” the archdiocese bears the name of the Iranian capital where the Cathedral of the Consolata is located, becoming the Archdiocese of Tehran-Isfahan.

It should be understood that the Christian situation remains more difficult than ever in the Islamic Republic, where Shiite Islam has the status of the state religion, and where the ayatollahs feel threatened by religions which are experiencing growth and making conversions.