Sarah Holliday | The Washington Stand.
Dabrina Bet Tamraz, an Iranian Christian, was only eight years old when she saw a Christian pastor stabbed to death. As Christians in the Islamic Republic of Iran, her entire family have all been arrested for their faith. Her father’s church was shut down in 2009, and in 2017, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison for starting at-home churches, preaching in Persian, and welcoming Muslim converts. In 2018, her mother was sentenced to five years in prison, and shortly after, her brother was sentenced to four months due to “spreading Christian propaganda.” She shared there have been cases of “men who’ve denied their faith because the government said that they would rape their wives if they [didn’t].”
Tamraz herself spent time imprisoned in a men’s detention center. “They interrogated me, threatened me, questioned me,” she said. “I also had to agree to criminal charges against my father and other pastors. If I would not comply, they threatened me with … rape or even execution.”
Two Iranian Christian converts, Maryam Rostampour and Marziyeh Amirizadeh, detailed their persecution in their book, “Captive in Iran.” These two were arrested in 2009 because of their Christian faith. “We were not allowed to have any contact with our family members. For a long time, they didn’t even know we were in prison,” Rostampour said. She described the guard’s behavior as “inhumane,” threatening them with physical torture so severe that they would “vomit blood.” They slept on stone with blankets saturated in urine, often going days without food or water.
In Iran, Rostampour also shared how children are “brainwashed from a very young age.” In schools, they are forced to prove they are dedicated Muslims by reading the Quaran and other Islamic books in Arabic, even if that is not their official language. She said children must stand in line to say, “death to America” and “death to Israel” before attending class. If there is any refusal, public rights are quickly stripped away.
These accounts serve as a glimpse inside the Christian persecution taking place in Iran and in countries across the globe. Jeff King, the president of International Christian Concern, is dedicated to spreading awareness of this intense persecution that is often overlooked. “[I]n the last 20 years, 400,000 Christians have been murdered and 18 million people kicked out of their homes,” he shared on “Washington Watch.”
Even in the U.S., Christians are being pushed out of the public square. King explained how the governments of many countries around the globe will claim they have religious freedom so long as the religion is kept quiet and not spread, which, of course, is not religious freedom. And this is “the problem … we’re seeing creep into the West,” he warned.
In terms of global persecution, a recent report revealed several of the “world’s worst persecutors” — countries that are increasingly dangerous for Christians. Some of the countries that have appeared on the list for years include Nigeria, North Korea, India, Iran, China, Pakistan, Algeria, and Indonesia. New to the list are Eritrea and Azerbaijan. In many of these countries, King said there is a “complete intolerance” toward Christianity. “If you’re caught with a Bible,” he said, “you can be imprisoned. And oftentimes when you’re in prison, you end up in a shipping container in the desert, in the sun, if you can imagine that.”
To give insight on the increasing persecution, Arielle Del Turco, director of the Center for Religious Liberty at Family Research Council, shared with The Washington Stand, “One of the trends we see in countries with a high level of religious persecution is that the opponents of religious freedom — whether they are governments or non-state actors — aren’t always as concerned about Christians who keep their faith private.” Like with the Tamraz family, she continued, “It’s when Christians share their faith and make converts that persecution becomes more likely, sometimes leading to intimidation, harassment, imprisonment, enforced disappearances, or worse.”
For Del Turco, “Oppressive governments view the trend of conversion to Christianity as a threat to their power.” Although persecution often stems from Iran and the Muslim world, “There are spiritual reasons for this as well,” she added. “Satan doesn’t want to see more people following Christ, and so Christians trying to spread the gospel in spiritually dark places are going to face heightened spiritual warfare.”
But in the U.S., she said there is a lesson Christians can learn from this. While American Christians may not be murdered, raped, or imprisoned on a regular basis for faith, hostility still saturates our culture. Del Turco said, “We can live very comfortable lives if all we do is go to church on Sunday. But if we start to incorporate our faith in everything we do and speak God’s truth into cultural issues, we are going to encounter more pushback. I think that’s why we see Speaker Mike Johnson being mocked and slandered so much — he isn’t ashamed of the gospel, and he allows the Bible to shape his worldview.”
She concluded, “Some people in our society can’t tolerate that.”
Sarah Holliday is a reporter at The Washington Stand.
SOURCE: THE WASHINGTON STAND