FAITH UNDER FIRE
Police storm Christian’s home
One believer imprisoned, possessions confiscated
Posted: June 23, 2007
1:00 a.m. Eastern
© 2007 WorldNetDaily.com
Earlier this year WND reported on plans by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to "pave the path for the glorious reappearance of Imam Mahdi," and now confirmed reports from Voice of the Martyrs reveals that the persecution of Christians in Iran is intensifying.
WND reported that Ahmadinejad is urging Iranians to prepare for the coming of the Mahdi by turning the country into a mighty and advanced Islamic society and by avoiding the corruption and excesses of the West. Shiites believe the 12th imam disappeared as a child in the year 941, but when he returns he will reign on earth for seven years, before bringing about a final judgment and the end of the world.
Voice of the Martyrs, which makes available a newsletter providing updates on the persecution of Christians around the world, says in a new report Christians in Iran "are being detained, interrogated and in one case, imprisoned because of their faith in Jesus Christ."
"This new wave of persecution is coming against Christians that meet to worship God in the privacy of their homes," VOM said its sources revealed. "We have confirmed reports that several believers have been interrogated and one house was stormed by an elite police team that confiscated a computer, several CDs and Christian materials. A Christian was arrested in this attack, and remains in prison."
"Clearly, Iran’s government is alarmed at the growth of the Christian faith there," said Todd Nettleton, a spokesman for the ministry that serves persecuted Christians worldwide.
"This is a key time for the church in Iran. We call on Iran’s government to release this Christian believer who is being held, and we call on Christians around the world to pray for our brothers and sisters in Iran," he said.
The organization also asked for prayer for Iranian believers to "remain steadfast in their faith despite this new wave of persecution."
Experts monitoring such persecution say that Christians make up a tiny percentage of the people of Iran, where the government "officially" allows Christians to practice their faith but in reality intervenes and harasses Christians regularly.
For example, Christians are not allowed to print literature, including Sunday bulletins, and converts from Islam to Christianity are labeled apostate and subject to the death penalty. Christian pastors are under constant surveillance, and many are forced to sign documents saying they will not allow Muslims to be in their worship services.
As WND’s earlier report detailed, official Iranian radio broadcast a lengthy series on the imminent appearance of a messianic figure who will defeat Islam’s enemies and impose Islamic Shiite rule over the entire world – even speculating on specific dates the so-called "Mahdi" will be revealed.
"Be joyous my heart, miracles of the Messiah will soon be here," reads a poem used to conclude the first broadcast. "The scent of breaths of the One we know comes from near. Grieve not of sorrow and melancholy, as assured I was … last night that a Savior will come, it’s clear."
After the coming of the 12th imam, or Mahdi, "liberal democratic civilization" will be found only in "history museums," explained the program.
"Contrary to the views of western theoreticians, who usually depict an ambiguous and dark future for mankind, Muslim experts believe human history, despite its many ups and downs, has a very auspicious fate," explained the program. "Muslims believe hopes for the realization of such a happy ending for the world are called ‘Awaiting Redemption,’ and means waiting for man’s problems to be solved by the Savior at the end of time. This awaiting influences many, and inspired them with activity and enthusiasm in confronting darkness and oppression for changing the existing situation. …"
This messianic figure will be a direct descendant of Muhammad, according to the broadcasts.
"In short, when he reappears, peace, justice and security will overcome oppression and deceit and one global government, the most perfect ever, will be established," it said.
"Another beautiful moment of the Savior’s appearance is the coming down of Prophet Jesus (PBUH) from heaven," says the report. "Hazrat Mahdi receives him courteously and asks him to lead the prayers. But Jesus says you are more qualified for this than me. We read in the book Tazkarat ol-Olia, ‘the Mahdi will come with Jesus son of Mary accompanying him.’ This indicates that these two great men are (sic) complement each other. Imam Mahdi will be the leader while Prophet Jesus will act as his lieutenant in the struggle against oppression and establishment of justice in the world. Jesus had himself given the tidings of the coming of God’s last messenger and will see Mohammad’s ideals materialize in the time of the Mahdi."
Ahmadinejad’s mystical pre-occupation with the coming of the Mahdi is raising concerns that a nuclear-armed Islamic Republic could trigger the kind of global conflagration he envisions will set the stage for the end of the world.
"Because we are so free and so comfortable, a lot of us don’t ask about how it is for Christians in the rest of the world. We’ve never been reminded, don’t think about it, and sad to say in some cases, we don’t care," Nettleton told WND.
Unlike the popular contemporary concept that the persecution of Christians happened in biblical times and then ended, he said, such attacks now are escalating in dozens of nations around the world.
But before supporters can get involved in the battles over steadfastness in the faith, they have to understand what is developing, Nettleton said.
"One of our purposes is to be a wake-up call to the American church, and say, ‘Here’s what reality is for our spiritual brothers and sisters in restricted nations,’" he said of the newsletter.
Voice of the Martyrs is a non-profit, interdenominational ministry working worldwide to help Christians who are persecuted for their faith, and to educate the world about that persecution. Its headquarters are in Bartlesville, Okla., and it has 30 affiliated international offices.
It was launched by Richard and Sabina Wurmbrand, who began smuggling Bibles into eastern Europe and Asia in the 1940s. Shortly later Richard was abducted and imprisoned in Romania where he was tortured for his refusal to recant Christianity.
He eventually was released in 1964 and the next year he testified about the persecution of Christians before the U.S. Senate’s Internal Security Subcommittee, stripping to the waist to show the deep torture wound scars on his body.
The group that later was renamed The Voice of the Martyrs was organized in 1967, when his book, "Tortured for Christ," was released.