Iranians Are Converting from Islam to Christianity in Unprecedented Numbers
Iran’s Intelligence Minister admits mass conversions 'are happening right under our eyes'
The Islamic nation of Iran is one of the most dangerous countries on Earth to be a Christian, yet the country has one of the fastest-growing Christian populations in the world.
The release of a new Bible translated into the language of Iran - modern Persian - was recently announced by Elam Ministries.
On announcing the release, Elam stated that in 1979 there were an estimated 500 Christians living in Iran.
Today, the organization believes the number of Iranian Christians is in the hundreds of thousands, while some say there may now be up to 1 million secret followers of Jesus Christ.
Elam spokesman David Yeghnazar said in a statement:
“A very conservative estimate puts the number of Christians in Iran at 100,000.
"The generally-accepted estimate is 370,000. Some believe there are 700,000, some over a million.”
Senior Iranian pastors started Elam in 1990 to strengthen the church in that Muslim nation.
Persecuted Christians support group Open Doors says the Iranian government puts the official Christian population at 200,000, but their estimates are intentionally low.
Open Doors is a non-denomination ministry geared to helping Christians under persecution and puts the number of Christians in Iran at 370,000.
In 2012, the organization ranked Iran as the fifth-worst country in the world for Christian persecution.
According to Open Doors USA, as persecution against Christians intensifies in Iran, the church is not only standing strong but it’s growing.
In this Middle Eastern country where both conversions from Islam and sharing your faith are illegal, Muslims are rapidly coming to Christ—so rapidly that Iran’s government leaders are acknowledging the exponential growth of the church.
Addressing a gathering of Shia Muslim leaders, Iran’s Intelligence Minister, Mahmoud Alavi, openly admitted to summoning Christian converts for questioning, saying that mass conversions “are happening right under our eyes.”
Alavi admitted his agency is collaborating with Muslim religious seminaries to combat the perceived threat of mass conversions to Christianity across the country.
In his speech, Alavi also admitted that “these converts are ordinary people, whose jobs are selling sandwiches or similar things.”
According to Article 18’s Advocacy Director Mansour Borji, this admission represents a “huge shift” away from Iran’s usual rhetoric that converts are agents of the West who have undergone significant training to undermine national security.
“It is also interesting to see the intelligence minister admit to ‘whole families’ converting,” Borji said, noting that this is “an admission that such conversions are far from a rare event; rather they are happening en masse, and across the country.”
Alavi’s recent observations echo those of church leaders in Iran—as well as other Iranian government officials.
Reportedly, Islamic clerics are expressing serious concern about many young people converting to Christianity.
One Islamic seminary leader, Ayatollah Alavi Boroujerdi, remarked that “accurate reports indicate the youth are becoming Christians in Qom and attending house churches.”
The seventh-largest city in Iran, Qom is the country’s epicenter for Islamic studies.
What’s driving the exponential growth?
Ministries and experts say the explosive growth of Christianity in Iran has been driven by the almost palpable spiritual hunger and disillusionment with the Islamic regime and the faithfulness of believers who risk it all to share their Good News in the face of inevitable persecution.
Violence in the name of Islam has caused widespread disillusionment with the regime and has led many Iranians to question their beliefs.
Multiple reports indicate that even children of political and spiritual leaders are leaving Islam for Christianity.
Because Farsi-speaking services are not allowed, most converts gather in informal house-church meetings or receive information on Christianity via media, such as satellite TV and websites.
The illegal house-church movement—including thousands of Christians—continues to grow in size and impact as God works through transformed lives.
Church leaders in Iran believe that millions can be added to the church in the next few years.
“If we remain faithful to our calling, our conviction is that it is possible to see the nation transformed within our lifetime,” one house church leader shared.
“Because Iran is a strategic gateway nation, the growing church in Iran will impact Muslim nations across the Islamic world.”
When the Iranian revolution of 1979 established a hardline Islamic regime, the next two decades ushered in a wave of persecution that continues today.
All missionaries were kicked out, evangelism was outlawed, Bibles in the Persian or Farsi language were banned, and several pastors were killed.
Many feared the small, fledgling Iranian church wouldn’t survive.
Instead, the church, fueled by the devotion and passion of disciples, has multiplied exponentially.
Iranians have become the Muslim people most open to the gospel in the Middle East.
And they are now converting to Christianity in unprecedented numbers.