IRAN'S UNDERGROUND CHURCHES FLOURISH AMID PERSECUTION
Despite tragedy and persecution, a vibrant underground church is growing in Iran. After an earthquake devastated Bam last December, killing more than 43,000 people, Western churches sent relief to the Iranian city, opening doors for the gospel in the area.
Today Iranian churches are growing at an unprecedented rate with an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 indigenous believers in the country -- most coming out of Muslim backgrounds. Some experts, citing an unknown number of "secret" believers, say the true figure could be much higher.
"In the last 20 years more Iranians have come to Christ than in the last 14 centuries," said Iranian-born evangelist Lazarus Yeghnazar. Tom White, director of Voice of the Martyrs, said Iranians are seeking the truth. "They are hungry to learn, eager to discuss the Bible in particular Jesus," he said.
He noted that the courage and spiritual passion of Iranian believers is a key factor in the "spontaneous growth" of Iran's house-church movement. Driven underground by persecution, thousands of believers meet privately in homes, often switching locations to avoid detection.
Although violent persecution has subsided, conversion to Christianity during the last decade has resulted in beatings, imprisonment, torture and even execution.
From the news flow at Intercessors Network