Iran: More Pressure on Christians
June 30, 2009
SANTA ANA, Calif., (christiansunite.com) -- Joseph Hovsepian says Christians who are protesting the June 12 re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran could face even more intense persecution.
Hovsepian, whose father Bishop Haik Hovsepian was martyred in Iran in 1994, says he is hearing from his friends and relatives in Iran that few Christians are in the streets protesting, although they certainly share the protesters' demands for a full recount of the bitterly disputed election and more freedom.
"We should not forget that the danger for Christians protesting in Iran is double," he states. "If this is how brutally the Iranian government cracks down on its own Muslim protestors who shout 'Alaho Akbar' (God is great), just imagine how much worse it could be for Christians protesting and calling Jesus for help!
"I know that the regime is planning on a very hard and merciless reaction to the point that they are putting together a team to silence the protesters within a week. Many of the protest leaders have been arrested. People live in fear. The danger could be more for Christians. They have already been persecuted for years.
"However, I believe the regime can not be the same anymore. It will certainly change as a result of these protests. I personally hope it will shape towards a better and freer Iran."
Hovsepian, who now makes his home in the Los Angeles area, adds that the current events in Iran have united the Church there.
"They are gathering together and praying that the Lord would make something good come out of this (protests and the world's spotlight). We have seen in the history of the world that during crises and pressures people unite and forget the small difference of opinions. So that is happening to the Church in Iran. They see a window of opportunity to share the gospel with the new generation which is very tired of the dictatorship and the forcing of the Islamic religion on people.
"There is definitely a mixture of excitement, hope and tension. Their hope is in God."
Hovsepian notes that he has been "very encouraged to see many Christians in the West remembering Iran in their prayers and concerned with the situation there.
"My family and I have been in a very unique, emotional period of time. We wake up and sleep with the news from Iran. But we regularly remind ourselves that God is in control. This is what my father would always say when we were worried about him. Knowing the fact that God sees all of this and is in control definitely helps me, especially during crises."
The murder of Neda Agah-Soltan, 26, killed by a bullet while standing on a street in Tehran during a protest, brought back the memory of the brutal killing of Joseph Hovsepian's father. He was stabbed 26 times by an attacker. Haik Hovsepian was an evangelical church leader in Iran.
"The very first time I saw the clip of Neda's bleeding death on the streets of Tehran, I remembered the shocking moment years ago when I saw my father's bloody dead body in the morgue. I was 19 years old. The second time we watched the clip on YouTube with my mother and brothers. We all cried. At first the reaction was anger and hatred. And then we go back on the road of daily forgiveness. We continue to pray as many did for us during my father's martyrdom."
Joseph Hovsepian and his brother Andre made a compelling documentary of his father's death called A Cry From Iran. The film, produced in partnership with Open Doors, has won numerous awards over the past year and a half. For more information, go to www.acryfromiran.com. The Hovsepian brothers are reaching out to Iranian Christians now through a radio and satellite television ministry.
Open Doors reports that in 2008 at least 50 Christians, mostly Muslim Background Believers, were arrested, interrogated, tortured, intimidated and some even killed in Iran. It marked the toughest year regarding Christian persecution since the Islamic Revolution 30 years ago. Iran is ranked No. 3 on the Open Doors World Watch List of the worst persecutors of Christians.
An estimated 100 million Christians worldwide suffer interrogation, arrest and even death for their faith in Christ, with millions more facing discrimination and alienation. Open Doors supports and strengthens believers in the world's most difficult areas through Bible and Christian literature distribution, leadership training and assistance, Christian community development, prayer and presence ministry and advocacy on behalf of suffering believers. To partner with Open Doors USA, call toll free at 888-5-BIBLE-5 (888-524-2535) or go to their Website at www.OpenDoorsUSA.org.