Stories from Iran: Religious Freedom and the Secret Growth of the Underground Church

Stories from Iran: Religious Freedom and the Secret Growth of the Underground Church
February 5, 2020 12:00 ET

Iran's prominent place in the current news cycle has put its human rights violations on full display. Meanwhile, Iran's shameless persecution of religious minorities continues to be too egregious to ignore. On a regular basis, Christians are arbitrarily detained, arrested, tortured, and sentenced to lengthy prison terms. Converts from Islam to Christianity are specifically targeted by the regime and labeled a national security threat, while the historic Assyrian and Armenian Christian communities are treated like second class citizens. This religious oppression continues unhindered, and the current international attention on Iran presents an opportunity to raise the issue of religious freedom violations in Iran.

Yet, in spite of all this, the underground church in Iran is growing rapidly and people continue to turn to the Christian faith. Join Family Research Council as we hear from Christian victims of religious persecution from Iran share their stories.

Maryam Rostampour and Marziyeh Amirizadeh are Iranian Christian converts from a Muslim background. Evangelism is illegal in Iran, but they managed to covertly put copies of the New Testament into the hands of 20,000 Iranians and started two secret house churches. In 2009, they were both arrested and spent almost nine months held in the notorious Evin Prison in Tehran. After their release, they fled to the United States. Maryam and Marziyeh told their story in their book, Captive in Iran. They have shared their experience of persecution in Iran in many venues, including the U.S. State Department's 2019 Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom.

Dabrina Bet Tamraz is the daughter of Iranian Pastor Victor Bet Tamraz. Pastor Bet Tamraz led a church in Iran until it was shut down in 2009. In 2017, he was sentenced to ten years in prison for "acting against national security by forming home churches, attending seminars abroad, and proselytizing Zionist Christianity." In 2018, Dabrina's mother, Shamiram Isavi, was sentenced to five years in prison on similar charges, and her brother, Ramiel Bet Tamraz, to four months in prison for "spreading Christian propaganda." They are currently awaiting the results of their appeals. Dabrina has a powerful story, and she has spoken at the U.S. State Department's 2019 Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom as well as at the United Nations.

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